Part II: Cameras
You’ve decided you would really like to shoot your son or daughter’s senior portraits, but other than family vacations, birthdays and the occasional flower you’ve never really tried to take pictures that are usually left up to “professionals”?
You have a pretty nifty point and shoot that the guy at Best Buy said does a LOT of stuff, but don’t have a big black fancy camera and a bag full of lenses like the pros?
OK. That’s fine.
You have a DSLR? Is it old? Oh. I’m sorry…
Old or new, if you have a DSLR, you’re good to go as well.
I don’t believe that spending all kinds of money on a digital SLR to take pictures is completely necessary. With the quality and capabilities of so many of the offerings in the point and shoot world and the ever growing presence of mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX series, Panasonic Lumixes and Nikon 1 type models, there are plenty of capable cameras to do what you need.
Honestly, I would love to shoot with a micro 4/3 or other mirrorless model instead of my heavy and bulky DSLR on many occasions, but get this: If someone is paying me to take portraits, they almost expect me to have some professional looking equipment, even if I could do as well with a tool that looks, well, “amateur.” It’s a catch-22. People expect a “photographer” to be all loaded down with camera bodies, gadgets and lenses. You don’t need to subscribe to this if you don’t have one. If you have a five megapixel or better camera you’re good to go. If your camera has the ability to work in aperture priority mode, you’re golden. If it doesn’t, we can work around that.
How do you know if your camera has that “aperture priority” thing and what is it? If it’s a DSLR, it does. Read the manual (what a cutting edge concept, eh!?!) If you have a fairly new point and shoot, again, look for the manual. If you can’t find that, google your camera model. Most manuals are available online any more.
Aperture priority is basically the ability to set how much light the lens lets in to the camera manually and have the camera compensate by selecting a proper shutter speed to get a correct exposure. It’s important because for portraits, you generally want a “soft” background – you get that background by using the lens mostly wide open. There’s lots more to that and some involved optical science, but we’ll leave that alone for now.
So you have a camera? Good. That’s all you need. Seriously. It has aperture priority mode? Better.
That’s honestly it. You want to make pictures. You have a camera. I know that seems counterintuitive given the project at hand and the marketing and stereotypes out there, but trust me. Sure, there are some things that are easier with higher end point and shoots and DSLR’s but my point here is more often than not, with some general understanding of the important stuff like light and composition, you can use what you have got.
If you have the camera, you have the second most important piece of photographic equipment. You already had the first. It’s between your ears.
Next time we’ll talk about camera modes.
Images in this post are from the respective camera makers, and I own each of the models depicted.
I never realized it, but I’ve never taken pictures of my cameras… go figure.