Nov 28, 2011

Buying your first DSLR | Atlanta GA Photography Teacher

So you are going to take the plunge and buy your first "big" camera. It's an exciting step, but there's so many choices out there, how to you decide what to buy? Here are my tips on buying your first DSLR.

Decide on a budget. Photography equipment is expensive and generally, the better the equipment, the more expensive. So, make sure you have a price point before looking. It will help narrow down your choices. I also like the website DPReview which helps you compare features of different cameras:

Don't sweat the features. Cameras nowadays are so filled with features, it makes it hard to decide what is important and what is not. I tend not to worry too much about them except for the number of focus points (more is better), the frames per second (again--the more the better), the megapixels (12 or more is great), and how far up the ISO goes (the greater the number, the better). I will also see if lenses I'm interested in are compatible with the camera body.

Buy a brand you recognize. Most semi-professional to professional photographers buy either Canon or Nikon. There are other brands out there, but I always go with something that will be around when I want to upgrade or add new lenses. It's a good idea to ask around and see what brand your friends have. Then, you can borrow equipment from them and visa versa. My aunt and I both own Nikons. It's been fun to work with her equipment whenever I visit. Once you've decided on a brand, you usually stick to it. Lenses and accessories are not interchangeable between different brands of cameras.

Be wary of "kit" lenses (and kits in general). Kits are bundles that often include the camera body, 1 or 2 lenses (also called "kit" or "stock" lenses), a bag, sometimes a DVD or other accessories all for one price. Usually the kit lenses aren't the greatest. They take okay pictures and are good for the beginner, but after a while, you realize that kit lenses don't give you that nice blurry background. Plus, they can't take nice pictures in low light (like indoors, at a gym, at twilight, etc.). Then again, it's nice to have a couple lenses that zoom and cover both close and far away objects, even if they don't do a great job in low light. I started out with a kit and it was good to start on, but I quickly learned I had to upgrade my lenses to get better pictures. I haven't used my kit lenses in years. (Oh, and I got rid of most of the other stuff in the kit too.)

Consider a prime lens. Most photographers will spend more on lenses than they will on camera bodies. Unfortunately, pro lenses are really pricey, but there are a few nice lenses that aren't that expensive and can be used to make wonderful pictures. These lenses fall in the prime lens category. That means they don't zoom; they just have one focal length. So, if you want to "zoom in" with a prime lens, you've got to move in closer to your subject. To "zoom out," you have to move backwards. That's the down side. The plus side is that you can make the lens opening open very wide to get those blurry backgrounds and to take pictures in low light. 

A great starter prime lens is the 50 mm f/1.8 lens. It's the first prime lens I bought. Other good prime lenses are the 85 mm f/1.8 (a telephoto lens) and the 35 f/1.8 mm (more of a wide-angle lens). I also have the 28 mm f/1.8 lens. Be aware that if you buy the Nikon prime lenses, the auto focus on certain prime lenses doesn't work with certain DSLRs, so double check the compatibility before you buy.

Try it out first. If you can borrow or rent the camera and lens you are interested in, then you'll know whether or not you really want to buy it. My favorite place to rent is Aperturent. I love their service and the quality of their equipment. If you are in Atlanta, you can pick up your orders locally! They also ship all over the country.

Learn your camera. Buying a DSLR is an investment, but it's not worth a lot if you don't learn how to use it. One of the first things I did when I was learning photography was to take a workshop. I also read (and still read) a ton of books, blogs, and websites about photography. I offer both photography workshops and lessons if you are in the Atlanta area. If you aren't, you may want to look into my online mentoring package

Marchet's DSLR Essentials List
If I were to put together my own kit, this is what I would choose for a beginning photographer. (It's also a great list if you are looking to buy a gift for someone who has the camera, but doesn't have all the necessary accessories.)

  • 1 DSLR camera body. (The body usually comes with the battery and battery charger.) 
  • 2 memory cards (I like the 8 and 16 GB cards the best.)
  • 1 lens cleaning cloth (like the one you get for eyeglasses) and cleaning solution (found in most camera cleaning kits)
  • Local camera shop like PPR Atlanta (The people are usually very knowledgeable and you can try out the camera in the store before you buy it.)

Favorite places to buy camera equipment
Once you've decided what to buy, you have to figure out where to buy. Sometimes you can get a deal by buying used equipment. I bought my first pro camera from another photographer, and it's been great. I also look at buying a older model to save money. My favorite spots to get camera gear are listed below. Most of them also have used equipment for sale that include a seller's warranty (something you won't get off of Craigslist).

Nov 24, 2011

Want to Learn Photography? | Atlanta GA Photography Workshops

I am pleased to announce a three Photo Workshops this January--two for adults, and one just for teens. This is perfect for a Christmas gift for that budding photographer in your family--especially if it's you. I'll even email you a certificate to print out if you decide to give it as a gift. Click here for more details.

Nov 18, 2011

Urban Family Portraits in the Cold | Roswell GA Family Photographer

I shoot either in the morning or the afternoon in order to take advantage of the best light. But it's chilly those times, and so I tell my clients to come prepared with warm outfits and coats/blankets to wrap in with in between shots. Such was the case with this shoot. The kids were such good sports, taking on and off coats, wrapping up in the old purple quilt I brought while I shot individual portraits, and jumping up in down to stay warm. The temporary discomfort paid off--we created some amazing portraits that I am super proud of!

Nov 14, 2011

The Photographer | Themed Children's Photography in Alpharetta GA

Lately, I've been itching to try themed shoots. The shoots on Reverie--a photography inspiration blog--just make me drool. I've also had an idea of putting together a calendar featuring my little guy in different themes for each month. Well, whether or not that gets done, I had fun coming up with a concept for a themed shoot for the fall. This is my first attempt with my son, who posed in clothing inspired by Ansel Adams, the famous photographer.  

I love how the above photograph mimics the feel of this one:

My boy tried to imitate Ansel Adams' beard with his hand!

Nov 11, 2011

Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents | Roswell GA Extended Family Photographer

Every once and a while, I feel like I'm the recipient of miracles -- like the weather for this extended family shoot a couple weeks ago. All week, the weather had been beautiful, but the forecast for Friday (our day of the shoot) was predicted rainy; it fluctuated from a 30% to a 100% chance of rain. We ended up making tentative for a Saturday shoot if we were rained out--though I was running a half marathon Saturday morning and we would have had to be in a separate location that afternoon.

Then, Friday came. The weather was holding, but I knew it would be pushing our luck if we waited until our originally planned time. So, on very short notice, everyone dressed in their coordinating clothes, and I found a babysitter who could take my son at the last minute. We did the shoot. It was a lot of people, a lot of kids. But it worked. And just as I was finishing up the last portrait, we felt the first raindrops falling down. I'm so grateful the heavens held back enough for us to capture these family pictures.

And yes, I did run the next morning, all 13.1 miles. What a weekend for blessings!


Nov 7, 2011

Photog in the Fall | Milton GA Headshot Photographer

After my own family's photo shoot with fellow photographer Stacey Johnson, I couldn't help taking over with the camera for a few more photos -- of the photographer. "I want to put these on my Facebook page, so I can show my friends, 'See. It's fall!' " There you go Stacey! Love ya girl.

Oh, and scroll down, you'll see a sneak peek from my family's shoot. Stacey shot the photos with my equipment, and I took the images home to edit! Just the way any photographer would like it.