Photography on a phone is simple…and quite good these days. You take the photo. It may not need editing at all. You hit a button or two to either “edit” it in an app or to just post it on Instagram or wherever…and you are done. The photo stays in your phone or goes up to your cloud storage…and, if you are really organized, maybe you catalog it somehow so you can find it again and show it to people when you want to do so. What we often see is that those photos stay unorganized and it takes people quite a long time to find them so they can show us the photo. The downside of all this, other than the organization issue, is that phone photography is limited as to the quality of the image and the lenses available to use. All of that is changing rapidly and increasingly, phone photography is a great option for most photographers.
But phone photography sometimes leads people down the path of “I really want to become a more professional photographer” and so they buy a fancy camera and a lens or two. I love that…but it is a slippery path and I want to warn you a bit about the journey you might be starting.
I can make a case that all you really need is a good digital camera body, a 16-35 mm lens for landscape, a 24-70mm zoom for portraits and a small zoom lens like a 70-200 mm lens to get a bit of a telephoto capability, as well as a tripod…and you are good to go. Those are the basic items you need to get started..almost…and I will come to the “almost” in just a moment. I would highly suggest that you also get at least two memory cards for the camera of at least 64GB each (I like the 128GB cards…and I do not buy the cheap ones) and a second backup fully-charged-at-all-times battery (and not a cheap knockoff battery…get the factory one). Nothing worse than hiking ten miles with your camera gear to find out your memory card is full with images you do not want to delete or your battery is dead. Be prepared…extra card and extra battery.
Brand…lots of good choices. If it were me, I would stick with Canon, Sony and Nikon and throw in Sigma lenses as an option. And don’t be afraid to buy them as Refurbished from the factory…they will probably be brand new and you buy them at a discount WITH a warranty.
Scary story…we were recently in Africa…best trip of our life, but remote as heck and very expensive to get to and for the safari. One of the other guests wanted to make absolute sure she would have great equipment, so she bought (actually rented) two cheap digital cameras…not Canon, not Sony, not Nikon. They started off bad and got worse. They took bad images and then they both broke. All the rest of us shoot high end gear and we all had a hard time helping her with her substandard equipment. She ended up shooting the trip on her phone. Buy good equipment or stick with he phone…things are cheap for a reason.
The “Almost” is the thing people either forget or do not know about…you must EDIT your digital images that you take with your new fancy camera. If you do not plan to edit those photos because you don’t know how and are unwilling to learn….or you feel “I am a purist and will only show the image as it comes out of the camera”…you have made a horrible mistake in buying the camera. Take it back and get your money back and work on your phone photography skills…and you will still get some really nice shots.
I will get into RAW vs JPG in another blog…but professionals ALL shoot in RAW. Jpg or Jpeg (they are the same) is another type of image your camera can take and it will “edit” the photo a bit based on how the camera feels it should look…and leave you with what I call an average looking image that is also left much less robust for further editing. The point here is you MUST edit your digital photos from these fancy cameras or you are completely wasting your time.
Which brings me to the warning I mentioned earlier…not only must you learn to use the camera (I am going to talk you out of ever-ever-ever shooting in Auto in a later post) but you MUST learn to use Lightroom and Photoshop. That means a monthly subscription to those programs. That means a good computer and an outside hard drive to both edit and store your images. It also means you have to learn how to use them. They are super simple to use…with a little bit of instruction…but so amazingly complex that few (certainly including me) will ever fully master them.
Conclusion…there is more to high end photography than just a good camera. You have to learn how to use the cameras’ fantastic capabilities. You must also edit the images you take. Both of those take time and repetition to bring to a high level. This is also why I did not become a professional photographer until I had retired from my real job…I did not have the time for it. And…it is addictive…you will end up loving the process and the time spent…but it will eventually turn you into a pack horse carrying all the equipment all around the world and a bit of a computer nerd. There…you are fully warned. Now…if you want to proceed, I will begin to work on the next article.