Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best Digital SLR for Beginners

How to choose a digital SLR camera for beginners can be a seemingly very difficult question due to the vast choice available. There are some fantastic cameras in this range and you will be able to get a high quality digital SLR for under £500. Although I typically favour Pentax cameras it's hard to ignore the Nikon D3000 when choosing a DSLR for a beginner.

The Nikon D3000 replaces the earlier entry level Nikon D60. The design is similar and it's based around the same 10.2MP DX format CCD sensor but Nikon have raised the spec of the D3000 to equal that of many higher end digital SLRs. An example is Nikon's market leading EXPEED image processing technology which opens up new creative channels and options. There is also a very innovative onboard auto sensor cleaning system to ensure no issues with dust.

What really makes the Nikon D3000 ideal as a digital SLR for a beginer is the intelligent Guide Mode. When using Guide Mode you are prompted by a menu driven system which helps you make decisions about composition etc and then adjusts settings to capture the picture you require. This really can help you make the leap from producing simple amateur like shots to those a pro would capture. I feel Guide Mode will not only ensure even the novice produces great pictures but it will help you to learn about photography along the way.

Other features of the D3000 include Scene Recognition which optimises settings according to composition and Picture Control which customises images before shooting. These all make the camera a fantastic creative tool for beginner or more advanced user alike. A 3 inch display screen and improved focussing system with 11 AF points are further features to make the Nikon D3000 my recommended DSLR for under £500.

So what are the alternatives? The Olympus E520 - aruably better in low light - has to be a contender and does the Canon EOS 450D and the Sony A3330. As always, when choosing a DSLR always go to a store and handle one first but the design and handling of the D3000 is without fault.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Choose The Best Digital SLR Camera for Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is of course photography of people. Which digital camera you choose for portraits depends very much on the type of people and situation.

If you are photographing children you will need a digital SLR with certain features to ensure the best results. Kids can move quickly so your camera will need to cope! Multi point auto focus, face recognition and anti-shake will all help to ensure sharp pictures. The ability to take multiple shots in succession will also be a very useful features when considering the best digital camera for photographing children.

A digital SLR camera may be your first choice. Many of the features I’ve described like multi point focus are now standard in most DSLRs. Don’t forget digital point and shoot cameras as the quality of lenses and overall images is excellent and they may be the ideal tool for the job.

For more formal portraits I would certainly choose a digital SLR camera. Ideally mount the camera on a tripod and pay close attention to framing and composition. Using a tripod enables you to almost forget the camera and engage with your subject. For me, capturing people is all about the subject’s expression.

The ability to make creative decisions by using manual settings on a DL|R is key. For example, you may want to open the aperture and use very selective focussing to highlight features of the person’s face. Lighting is another key consideration and if you are using a digital SLR camera for portraits you can over-ride meter readings and deliberately over or under expose the image. For example, you may want to create a mean and moody look with dark tones and shadows. For a portrait of a child a ‘high key’ effect will normally be appropriate.

To truly capture a person in a photograph may be as simple as photographing as a single expression you recognise uniquely to them. This is another reason why digital cameras are ideal for portrait photography – we can take hundreds of shots and delete any we don’t want later. If the subject has blinked, looked away or simply doesn’t have the expression you want you can just delete the shots

As always my advice is don’t get too hung about your equipment. Choose the right camera for the job and one you are familiar with. This way you can focus on capturing the subject and producing a portrait to be proud of.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Choose a Memory Card for your Digital SLR Camera

For me one of the best advantages of a digital SLR camera over a traditonal film type is the number of shots we can capture. In the old days (!) we would get at best 36 shots on a 35mm or incredibly only 10-12 shots on a medium format camera. Digital SLR cameras and memory cards have revolutionised photography!

I can remember photographing weddings and of course having to stop and re-load film - often at dififcult moments! If we choose the right memory card for our digital SLR camera we can take literally hundreds of shots.

Personally I never use anything smaller than a 1GB memory card. Of course formats of cards vary between cameras and you need to ensure you buy the right memory card for your particular digital SLR. Formats can be confusing to newcomers - SD, micro SD, SSD, compact flash and SDHC! Not only does using a large capacity memory card mean we can shoot hundreds of shots, we can shoot in the highest resolution our camera offers to ensure the best quality. If you want to blow up your best shots this is essential.

You can buy memory cards for your digital SLR so cheaply there's no need to scrimp on quality in your pictures. Compare prices of memory cards online to get the best deal. It's a mortal sin to me to go out on a photographic session wihtout packing enough high capacity memory cards in your bag!

In addition to brand names like Kodak and Fuji you will find cheaper memory cards from the likes of Sandisk and Lexar. It's worth checking any reviews but don't be put off by these cheaper alternatives for your digital SLR camera.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Landscape Photography with a Digital SLR Camera

Landscape photography has to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding forms of the art. It can also be incredibly relaxing as it usually involves patience, long walks and time in the fresh air. Digital SLR cameras bring a whole new dimension to the art.

Whether it's autumn time and the landscape is influenced by the fading heat of summer or winter with it's bleaker colder tones a digital SLR camera is the ideal tool for landscape photography. I always recommend use of a tripod as it adds a further dimension to this form of photography. Before the advent of digital a tripod was often needed to ensure sharp images in low light. Digital cameras with their flexible ISO speeds overcome this but I feel using a tripod makes the photographer more considered in composition and this is one of the keys of landscape photography.

Iconic images like landscapes shrouded in mist or rays of sunlight breaking through trees are all more accessible with digital SLR cameras. The flexibility of film speed, the ISO ratings, range of shutter speeds and ability to adjust images all help. Ideally you should shoot landscapes in the RAW format format when using your digital SLR for landscape photography. This captures a huge amount of data and gives you vastly more creative control. Even if you have under or over-exposed an image you can produce a perfect picture from it in RAW format.

Autumn is my favourite time of year for landscape photography and the colours and textures can be amazing. Images of leaves backlit by sunlight, close ups of beautiful autumnal leaves and a vast range of other images lend themselves perfectly to landscape photography with a digital SLR. If you haven't used yours for this yet plan a trip and get out into the countryside.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Choose a Lens for your Digital SLR Camera

Once you've tackled the question of how to choose the right digital SLR camera one of your next considerations will be about the lens or lenses you will need. Most digital SLRs will come complete with a 18-55mm zoom and personally I feel this covers the vast majority of your digital photography needs. In old 35mm camera terms this lens is equivalent to a 35mm to 70mm.

The standard digital SLR zoom is perfect for general photography and I would also say for portraits and landscapes. At the 18mm focal length this is ideal for capturing sweeping landscapes and scenery. Zooming to the other end the lens is ideal for flattering portraits and also allows us to 'blur' the background for more professional portraits. Use the wide angle carefully for portraits! If you are too close to your subject their nose will be exagerated and prominent and they will look like a digital caricature!

The next standard digital SLR lens is the 55mm-300mm. This is an excellent long range zoom and perfect for action and nature photography. A lens with a wide aperature is important to ensure it can cope in low light situations.

My advice when you consider how to choose a lens for for your digital SLR camera is quality not quantity. Don't be fooled by the guys you see walking around with gadget bags stuffed with lenses and a huge zoom swinging from their neck. It's the size that matters it's what you do with it! I would rather have a crytsal sharp single lens like my beloved Pentax 18-55mm then a bag full of telephoto lenses.

Should you need a lens for something more specific, say you are attending a sporting event, you should consider rent or hire of a lens. Don't buy lenses you will rare use and have them gathering dust! If you rent or hire a digital SLR lens you can get the feel of it and decide how often you will actually use it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How To Choose a Digital SLR Camera

The vast array and choice available can make how to choose a digital SLR camera a daunting decision. Don’t be overwhelmed as by following some logical steps it’s actually quite easy to find your ideal digital SLR camera.

The key step is to think about the use of your camera and the type of photography you want it for. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about megapixels, shooting modes and the merits of Nikon versus Canon before you consider this!

Many of us may simply want a general use digital SLR and this is fine, but the decision needs to be made from the start. If you do want the camera for something more specialised like nature or action photography the next step is to think about features. For the latter you will need fast shutter speeds and the ability to take multiple shots in repetition. If you simply want to capture shots of your family on days out your requirements will be different.

Price is inevitably a decision when choosing your camera. Prices have come down at an incredibly fast rate since the first digital SLR cameras came out and a you can buy a very decent one fairly cheap. Again by being clear on the type of photography you will use the camera for you can avoid unnecessary expense. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a package or bundle with additional lenses or accessories you won’t use. And do you really need 7 action modes or will one suffice!?

Many of the features we would look for in a digital camera have actually become fairly standard in recent years. For example, image stabilisation which ensures pictures are ‘camera shake’ free is now standard on most digital SLRs. Similarly multi point auto-focus which helps to avoid the camera being fooled into focussing off the main subject is to be found on most. When digital SLRs first came out I worked for a wedding photographer and half of his pictures were of a crystal sharp background with a fuzzy bride and groom in the foreground!

A decent camera shop should of course be able to help when I comes to how to choose a digital SLR camera. If you do go this route don’t be oversold and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Of course many of us now want to buy a camera online and if you follow my advice here you will be in a good position to do this. You may want to go to a store and touch and feel the camera before ordering online and I would recommend this. If you are armed with information about the price of your chosen camera online you may find you can negotiate the price and walk away with it from the store.

Only you will know what’s the best digital camera for you at the end of the day. Think about what you will use it for, have a budget in mind and if there are specific features you must have you can narrow down your choices. Compare prices online and when you think you’ve found your ideal camera visit a local store and ask to hold one and see a demonstration.

I’ve been an enthusiastic photographer for 25 years but the advent of digital SLR cameras has given me a completely new lease of life. Choose the right camera and you will share my passion and sense of satisfaction for many years to come.