Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, and I'm always on the hunt for ways to develop my skills. They're far from perfect, but I've learned a thing or two along the way, especially since I started this little blog. When I shared my nine favorite Outdoor Photography Tips back in April, I got a lot of great feedback and some questions about what type of photography equipment I use. So today I thought I'd share a little more about what's in my camera bag along with a few tips and tricks. This will be especially helpful if you're interested in improving your indoor photography skills. Warning: this post may get a little technical...
(Side note: as I was putting together this little round up of my equipment, I noticed something - it's all black! For a hobby that's all about creativity, there equipment sure is boring to look at :). I tried to at least make the title and numbers interesting so we'd have some color in this post - ha!)
1. The Camera.
I use a Canon Digital Rebel XTi. It's a great starter DSLR camera. I got mine about five years ago and it's still going strong. Canon comes out with a new Digital Rebel model each year, so check on what the latest and greatest is before you buy. This camera can operate in full manual mode and you can change out the lens so you have the maximum amount of options and flexibility. I know this is scary, but I've said it before: your photography will improve if you learn how to shoot in "M"! Practice, practice, practice. If you make yourself learn (read your manual and/or take a class - see more suggestions about that in this post), it'll pay dividends later. I'm preaching to myself here...I have to remind myself all the time because my skills are by no means perfect!
2. The Kit Lens.
My camera came with what they call a "kit" lens. It's an 18-55mm lens that's of ok quality, and gets the job done in most circumstances. It works well when you've got plenty of natural light, but performs noticeably worse in low light or in interiors with no natural light. There are ways to improve your low light and interior photos (without buying a brand new, pricey lens), and I'll get to that with equipment pieces 4 and 5.
3. The Fixed (or Prime) Lens.
Last year, I added a new lens to my camera bag. It's a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. This is an inexpensive lens that many bloggers swear by as their "go to" lens. At $125, it's a steal, and I would highly suggest it if you're ready to add another lens to your repertoire. The trick with this lens is it's a prime lens, which, in layman's terms means it doesn't zoom. You have to physically move your body to get closer or further away from what you're shooting. This takes some getting used to, but the abilities of the lens more than make up for that small inconvenience.
The major advantage of this lens is it's ability to shoot with a really wide aperture (low f-stop). That's what that f/1.8 number is in the lens's title. This gives you the ability to keep your subject in sharp focus and the background super blurry, as well as shoot in lower light conditions. The lower the f-stop (wider aperture), the blurrier your background and the less light you need for a good shot. I shot many of my cherry blossom shots with a super low f-stop.
4. The Wireless Remote.
I just got one of these a couple of months ago and combined with my tripod, it's one of the best purchases I've made to improve my indoor and low light photography. Why is that? Well, it's because there's a phenomenon called "camera shake" that can cause major problems (i.e. blurry or less sharp photos) when you're in low/no light situations. Camera shake comes from the combination of unsteady hands and a slow shutter speed.
In order to have a sharp photo, your shutter speed must be 1/60th of a second or faster (good rule of thumb to remember). When you're outside or have plenty of natural light, that's not a problem, but in low light or no natural light situations, you have to slow down your shutter speed to allow enough light into the camera to get a bright (well exposed) photo. The problem with that is our human hands aren't steady enough to hold the camera still and press the "go" button at a setting slower than 1/60th of a second. This leads to camera shake. You have two options to fix that:
a) Turn on your flash (no good for interior/home photos!).
b) Get yourself a wireless remote and a steady surface.
By using a wireless remote and a steady surface, you don't have to touch the camera at all and you can make the shutter speed as sloooow as you need. Once you set up your shot on that steady surface, all you have to do is point that remote at your camera and it'll take the photo for you. Boom. No camera shake. Your steady surface can be a stool/chair/box/etc. or you can invest in a tripod, which leads me to equipment piece numero cinco...
5. The Tripod.
I bought this Targus tripod at Walmart recently, and love it. It gives you a mobile steady surface that helps get rid of that pesky camera shake. When I started researching tripods, I quickly realized you can spend hundreds of dollars on one, which was no good for this budget-conscious gal. I settled on this particular Targus model, which is one step up from their cheapest model and is around $30 - very budget friendly. Let me just tell you, the cheapest one is cheap for a reason (I tried it out and promptly returned it). Do yourself a favor and spend the extra $10 on this guy. I'm still learning how to use it well, but it's really helping me improve my interior photography, which is a vital part of this little blog!
So those are the five things I keep in my camera bag. I think I'll wrap it up there for today. This post ended up being much longer (and more techical, sorry!) than I anticipated. Just a disclaimer: I do not claim to be a professional photographer. These are just things I've learned from experience along the way and hope they'll be helpful to some other amateur photographers and bloggers out there who are looking to invest in photography equipment or improve skills. Please let me know if you've got any questions on this stuff! I'm more than happy to put in my two cents.
For my other posts on photography head on over to:
Playing with Bokeh
Washington D.C.'s Cherry Blossoms
9 Outdoor Photography Tips
Hope y'all have fabulous weeks!
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