Do you need a fancy camera to take better photos? Yes and No.
Although more expensive gear can definitely help you take better and sharper photos, you don’t need to always spend big bucks to take and capture great photos.
In today’s world, everyone's a photographer and artist. The camera lens systems in our phones have advanced tremendously year after year and the plethora of apps can make editing photos as simple as a click of a button.
To be a better photographer start with your phone and some great apps to make your photos stand out. 99% of the amazing photos you see on Social Media are either heavily edited or manipulated with Photoshop.
Tips to make & take photos
The Rule of Thirds & framing the shot
Framing a shot is very important. One of the most important “rules” of photography is the Rule of Thirds to create a well balanced and interesting photo. Do you have to use this rule every time? No. Does it help? Yes.
The basic idea is to make your photo into a tic tac toe board of 9 squares. The four intersections are the most important parts of the image and your subject should be lined up in those frames. Your eye will naturally be drawn more to the subject of the photo this way.
The first mistake that can ruin a photo is taking photos in the middle of the day and half of the subjects face or body is covered in shade and the other part is under a harsh light. The middle of the day usually means the sun is either a focal point of the sky or it is creating harsh lights and shadows on your subject.
Hopefully you have heard of Golden Hour. If not, the Golden Hour is the hour right after sunrise or right before sunset where the light is redder and softer due to the sun’s position in the sky. This naturally provides better lighting for photos or even selfies. Many people aren’t taking photos at 6AM so the Golden Hour before Sunset is ideal.
Plan to adventure out for sunrise every once in a while. You will be surprised how great the light is and you will enjoy some amazing views. I would much rather sleep in but every now and then I get out for a morning golden hour and get some of my best and favorite photos.
Apps / Editing Software
There are so many easy and simple apps that offer great ways to manipulate your photos to make them stand out. If you have an Iphone, you can edit any photo you take including preset filters or changing the settings in the light, color, or B&W modules.
If you want to up your game even more I would suggest Adobe Lightroom which has a free version for your phone. Adobe makes some of the premiere apps that many photographers use (i.e the full paid version of Lightroom and Photoshop). The free version has some limitations but there are still many settings that you can use to manipulate the photo to make it look better. The app also has presets which can be used to quickly apply a certain look to a photo.
Camera Phone: Most people already have a new phone so you already have a quick and easy camera that can capture what you need.
GoPro or DJI Osmo Action: These are very portable cameras that are great for adventures. They are rugged, waterproof, and very portable. NOTE: These are wide angle lenses capturing a very wide view so if the subject of the photo isn’t very close then it will appear much smaller in the image making it not look as good. That is why they are so good with selfie sticks. If you are trying to get an action shot like following someone skiing or skateboarding then you will want to be very close to the subject to make the photo look better.
These camera have more control than your typical phone camera to let you play with the manual settings, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. I will dive in to that more in the next blog as that is a little more advanced.
DSLR/Mirrorless Cameras: The bulky cameras that you grew up with are DSLR cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflective Camera). The newer technology trend is now for Mirrorless Cameras. If you are looking for a nice camera I would suggest the Mirrorless Camera system. Sony products were the first and best cameras to really use this technology but a lot of the other camera companies are now jumping on to this system. A great starter camera is the Sony A6000 or A6300.
Lenses: [CAUTION- THIS CAN BE CONFUSING]
Camera lenses are just as important if not more important to the camera body. Lenses typically will increase in cost if you want a zoom lens vs a wide angle lens. They will also increase in cost if you want a lens that can take better photos in darker situations.
A great beginner camera is the Sony A6000 with their two kit lenses the 16-50mm and 55-210mm lens. The mm numbers are the focal length of the lens. A great place to buy these are online at BHphoto or Adorama (TAX FREE!)
Some lenses that are just one focal length, i.e. a 50mm lens will not zoom in or out. These are called prime lenses.Great Wide Angle Lenses that let you capture a large landscape usually go from 12mm-36mm. The 20-85mm range are great for a wide angle lens to a short zoom good for landscape and portrait photography. The zoom lenses typically start around 70/100mm and continue through 200mm and up.
Another thing to consider is the aperture, or variable aperture of a lens. The Sony 16-50mm lens is a f/3.5-f/5.6 and the 55-210mm lens is a f/4.5-f/6.3. As you zoom in on the lens and get to the larger end of the focal length, the aperture of the lens changes. So as you zoom in to 50mm or 210mm you are really using a lens that is f/5.6 and f/6.3 on the two lenses respectively. When you aren’t zoomed in you are using f/3.5 and f/4.5 lenses respectively. Basically, as you zoom in, the camera compensates and the photo gets darker. That means if you are shooting in a manual setting, you will have to compensate with the aperture of the lens changing by brightening the image - i.e. increasing the ISO or lowering the aperture on the camera body. This isn’t a game changer but if will just take longer to dial in the settings to make the photo look better as you zoom in or out. There are tons of great youtube videos that will help explain this! If you need a recommendation I can send you some great links. I will explain more about manual settings in a future blog. Feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions in the meantime.
There are cameras that have a steady aperture lens so as you zoom in the image doesn’t get darker but that makes the lens more expensive. These lenses are great because you can change the zoom quicker and not have to worry about changing settings. This is also better if you’re capturing video as you zoom in or out. For starters, the lenses I recommended are great. If you have a bigger budget then I would recommend just buying the Sony A6000 Camera Body and getting a lens like the F/4 18-105mm. This doesn’t have the zoom like the 70-210mm but it is a much better overall lens.