Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

I want to buy my first DSLR – which camera should I get?

This blog has been about stock photography (making money from licensing your images) mainly. However, I get asked on a regular basis from people taking their first steps in photography. So I will try to answer some of the most common questions as part of a new section in this blog.

Which camera should I buy?

Smartphone, System camera or DSLR - three options to choose from

Smartphone, System camera or DSLR – three options to choose from

This is maybe the question I hear most often from people who are not yet photographers but want to make better pictures than they did in the past. There are many potential answers to this question and most of them requires to gather more information what type of images that person is trying to shoot, how much the budget is etc. Also, people answering those questions are quite often biased by what they shoot with themselves, be it a Canon or Nikon or whatever. All of them are convinced they have made the best decision, of course. 😉

However, to me the answer is pretty simple:

1. Choose between Canon, Nikon and Sony

These are the top three brands and with all the changes in technology they are most likely to survive in the long term. I wouldn’t want to invest in equipment that I might not be able to upgrade in five years.

2. Be cheap when buying a camera.

Get a model that isn’t the most current one. If you compare the cameras, you will find that technology changes from model to model are not that big. Manufacturers feel obliged to bring out a new model to each exhibition and for the Christmas sales season. A few more functions here and a button there is most of the difference. As a beginner, you should strive to learn how to use a camera first. And you can do that with a model from a year or two ago. But you will save quite some money on the older model. Money that can be spent better.

3. Invest in additional gear with the money you just saved

When you bought a camera below your original budget, you have some spare money left to invest in stuff that will help you make better images: A prime lens will make sharper and clearer images than any of the kit lenses you get with a consumer model. A 50mm lens is pretty affordable. Try to use it eventually and compare the images to what you get from the kit lens, you will easily notice a difference.

A tripod is a great investment if you are into landscape or macro photography. It allows you to shoot sharp images even if there is less light around. Likewise, a reflector is a cheap and good way to improve portraits if that is more of what you want to choose.

And most importantly: Buy a book. Go to a book store (or shop online) and find a book on the topic you are most interested in shooting. There is a lot of free information in the internet but it is time consuming and mostly covering only small parts of a topic. It is a great idea to have something in your hands that will take you from A to Z.

4. Learn how to use your – and any – camera before spending more money

The camera you just bought has a lot of features you can learn to use. And you should try to. Having your camera on Auto mode just means you assume the camera is a better photographer than you are. Is that true? Do you want it to stay this way? Then you could keep shooting with your smart phone.

Learn what aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity (ISO setting) mean and how to use them to create the image you want. Read how to set the white balance. Watch some Youtube tutorials on image editing and how to turn your images into something better than what is coming out of your camera.

This is a giant task. Don’t get frustrated quickly. It can take years and years to get better. You will make progress on the way. And it is very rewarding to look back at the images you took a few years ago and see the difference.

There are no wrong decisions

You won’t make a wrong decision buying any DSLR. You just can’t. Each of the cameras you will find are offering the option to take great images and spending a few dollars more or less won’t make a difference. You are the one to make a difference. Learn to get the best out of your camera first, it will be a lot of fun. And when you’re done with that, you’ll know which camera will be your second DSLR.

One Comment

  1. Very nice to hear about your non gadget approach to photography. People make too much of new gear and this vs that and comparing pixels in test shots. That’s why I love reading no bullshit guides like here and on kenrockwell.com.