With the “bang for the buck” you can get with today’s camera technology, there’s absolutely no reason not to jump into photography right now. It’s a really enjoyable, fulfilling and family-friendly activity.
Beyond what you can do with your smartphone, taking great photos begins with your camera choice. I recommend something that allows you to change lenses and that has a variety of compatible lenses available.
There are two main camera options today: DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) or Mirrorless. The two are getting more similar all the time, but the major difference remains that the DSLR has a mirror that bounces light up to an optical viewfinder. Generally, shooting through the optical viewfinder allows for faster focus and more rapid shots. Both cameras have a LCD screen or electronic viewfinder that can also be used to preview and focus shots (this is your only viewfinder on mirrorless cameras). Mirrorless cameras also have the advantage of being smaller and lighter since they don’t need to make room for the mirror.
In my opinion, the recently released Nikon D3300 gives you the best of both worlds. You get the optical viewfinder in a small and very light package. In fact, I am absolutely blown away by what you can get for under $500 today. The D3300 came with an 18-55mm lens and a package that included an SD card, extra battery, WiFi adapter (for sending shots directly to your phone, tablet, laptop etc.) and a carrying case. Less than $500.
What you need to know to take great shots: for the most part, nothing. There are automatic modes that make it extremely easy to take beautiful photos. However, if you’re like me, you’ll want to start tweaking things. With most good cameras, you can shoot manually, buy new lenses or attach professional microphones for video recording. I am by no means a pro photographer, but here’s some useful info.
Aperture (f-stop): Controls the lens opening for letting light through. Larger opening (lower “f” number) = more light.
Shutter speed: How long the shutter is open. Open longer = more light.
ISO: The camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Higher ISO = more light.
For example, the cover photo was shot with an aperture of f/3.2, a shutter speed of 1/250ths of a second and an ISO set at 800. If you can get a handle on these three things, you’re ready to get tweaky. Just be aware that slower shutter speeds will mean a higher chance of blurriness (you may need a tripod) and higher ISO settings will mean more noise or grain introduced into the photos.
That’s about it — you’re ready to start your amateur photography career! Let me know what I missed; share your photography tips in the comments.