It’s only been over a year that I’ve been getting email, messages and comments about photography, the camera equipment I use and tips on improving photos. I definitely have learned a lot over the past year and a half and am still constantly learning new modes, features and tips to improve my photography. Today I’m sharing the camera equipment I use and how I saved a bit of money by buying used. Plus there are some tips thrown in there on improving the quality of your photos.
The first camera I ever used (and still have, and still use it for non-business related stuff) was a point and shoot camera. It was the Nikon Cooplix S6300. It has a lot of great features and I was able to adjust exposure, bur after a year I was ready to upgrade to a DSLR or digital SLR camera.
I will start off with the DSLR camera I used to use (from Sept. 2013 -December 2014). My first DSLR camera I bought was a Nikon D60 body. I bought the camera body (with on lenses) from my neighbor. She had upgraded and was not longer using it so after borrowing the camera to try/test I purchased it for $100. She kept the kit lens since she still had a newer Nikon DSLR camera and I purchases a kit lens off of Amazon for right around $100. At that point I did not know enough about lenses or DSLR cameras in general to buy anything other than the kit lens. So, for $200 I was set up with a nice DSLR camera. I definitely recommend buying a used model from someone you know or trust off a local Facebook Buy-Sell-Trade group. I have seen numerous well-prices, quality camera on the group in my area for right around $200-$300 that work but are just a bit older (5 years or so).
I loved the Nikon D60 but after about a year of using it (even learning how to somewhat shoot in manual mode) I just wasn’t as happy with the auto adjustments it would do. The camera still auto adjusts white balance in manual mode unless you switch it out of that yourself. It didn’t have the best ISO capabilities, and the biggest problem was it was not compatible with a lot of the lenses I had considered purchasing (because of the age of the camera, which was around 7-8 years old). So, I began looking without a very serious intention of buying. I was seeing what was out there and what a new camera would cost me.
The Camera Equipment I use currently:
I checked the Costco coupon book each month to see what cameras were on sale and in December I found the Nikon D3300 with a coupon for $250 off. It came as a package with the D3300 body, the new collapsable kit lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G II (VR), a Nikon zoom lens AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm 1:4-5.6 G ED (VR), 16GB memory card (I also use a 32GB memory card I purchased off of amazon), and Wireless Mobile Adapter (WU-1a) that lets you take photos using your phone so you can see a live view of what the camera sees and use your phone as a remote/download the photos to your phone, and a case to carry everything. Of course it also came with a USB plug, charger and battery. It was a great deal so I bought it the day after Christmas and my mom paid for $200 as part of a Christmas present. Plus it’s a tax right off. These are the things always going through my head 🙂 It’s also really well priced on Amazon and you can also find refurbished items there as well.
**As a side note, the newer collapsable kit lens (18-55mm) 1:3.5-5.6G II is better quality than the original/regular 18-55mm kit lens I had with my D60.
My new D3300 had more features, like the ability to take videos (check out the how to strip furniture video here) and more focus points which may be one of my favorite things. The camera has 11 focus points whereas my Nikon D60 only had 3. The screen is easier to read and the layout is better. There are also buttons on the camera body to change the ISO which my last camera did not have. Plus it works with all Nikon lenses and my D60 was not compatible with all lenses.
I used the camera for a few weeks but with our dreary and often dull Seattle weather light is very limited a good part of the year. So, I wanted to get a lens with higher aperture setting (lower f-stop number) because they are great for low light photos. I heard great things about the Nikon 50mm lens, but that specific lens is better for portrait photos outside where photographers have the room and space to move around. In our house I would not be able to get the whole piece in the shot with a lens that is fixed in a 50mm position. Instead I went with the AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1:1.8G lens.
This lens is also a fixed lens, but the 35mm isn’t as ‘zoomed’ in. Someone was selling their Nikon camera body and a few lenses all together on our local buy-sell-trade Facebook group and I inquired about just the 35mm lens he had. I paint $100 just for the 35mm lens and it was SO worth it. The lens is great for all kinds of photos (indoor photos of furniture, or even our dog 🙂 ) It’s especially great in low light.
The largest aperture is a f/1.8 which is where you get a shallow depth of field and that pretty background blur. The lower the aperture number (like f/1.8) the wider the opening, which allows more light that comes in. Because of the larger aperture capabilities this lens is great for low light settings. This diagram might help understand aperture.
ISO has to do with light sensitivity (higher = more light sensitive). The lower the ISO, like 100 or 200, the less noise you will have in a photo, the higher you go, like 1000 or 3600 the more noise there will be. But at the same time lower ISO’s mean darker photos and raising the ISO helps to brighten and adjust the brightness. I shoot around 100-400 ISO maybe 800 if I really need it, but by keeping a lower ISO and changing other controls like aperture and shutter speed I can still get a well lit photo with little noise.
Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter stays open for to let light in (this is different than aperture which is how wide the opening is). Aperture and shutter speed are inversely related. If the aperture is larger (f/2) the shutter speed will be shorter/faster since more light is being let in my the aperture size. If the aperture is smaller like f/22 then the shutter speed will need to be longer, like 3′ (3 seconds).
This diagram on Pinterest helps you understand ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.
Editing photos with Lightroom
In January of 2014 I purchased Adobe Lightroom. It has now been over a year and I still love this program. I purchased the program paying the full purchase price (I did get the student discount since I’m in college), but what most people do is pay the $9.99 a month and get access to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I started out using the free 30 day trial (which you can find on that link above if you scroll down). I used it for the full 30 days and then had to buy it since it was easy to use and made a huge difference in my photos. I have a Lightroom post coming later with more details on how I use the program and the adjustments/features I use most.
- Buying a more expensive camera does not mean your photos will turn out better. Just because one camera is $500 and one is $1000 does not mean one will totally improve your photos. Yes there are some new technologies and features the help, but good photos have a lot to do with the photographer (you). I didn’t have to spend $1000 or more to get a good camera. I got a beginner camera body and it works great for me! Plus it helps that I am offsetting some of the cost by selling my old DSLR for $200 and the portion my parents paid for.
- Learn how to use your camera and manually adjust the settings. First just try to under stand ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. If you can get a grasp on that your photos should improve.
- Invest is good lenses, but save money where you can. Buy a good low-light lens like the 35mm lens I use. You don’t have to buy it new, but you can. Try your local Buy-Sell-Trade FB group.
- Invest in Lightroom or another editing program. I highly recommend Adobe Lightroom. I am constantly learning new adjustments to make and it’s been over a year of using it multiple times a week.