Cheap shots: Photography for beginners on a budget

Cheap shots: Photography for beginners on a budget

July 14th, 2009 by Brittney McKenna in Entertainment

A common misconception among beginners to digital single-lens reflex photography is that high-quality photos come only from high-end equipment. Use these tricks of the trade from photography experts to save money without sacrificing quality.

* Choose your investments.

Spend your money on the equipment that matters, and make sure it is a good fit for your needs. An inexpensive or moderately-priced DSLR body with higher-quality accessories can yield great results.

"The most advantageous advice I could give is to spend your money on lenses," said Matt Dunmore of Matt Dunmore Photography. "These days, with technology the way it is, most of the camera bodies are going to give you pretty good results. I'm speaking of digital SLR, like a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D40. Those kinds of cameras are going to give you good results no matter what, but the lenses you use make the big difference."

Test the equipment in person rather than blindly purchasing online, advises Mike Daniel, owner of Chattanooga's Superior Camera store.

"The cameras that you can actually hold in your hands and test are a far cry better than trying to seek one out on the Internet where you don't actually get to hold it and try it out," he said.


* Aperture: the size of the lens opening, expressed as f-number, such as f/2 or f/8.

* DSLR: a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera with a digital image recording device

* ISO: measures of the sensitivity of the image sensor; a higher ISO requires less light to take an image (a higher ISO also means more visual noise, though)

* Noise: the digital equivalent of film grain, usually in the form of unwanted specks or color artifacts

* Shutter speed: the amount of time the shutter is open

* Don't fear the word "used."

"Used" is not a four-letter word when it comes to photo equipment, if purchased with proper precautions.

"I think that all equipment, if it is available used, would be a great opportunity to save money," Mr. Daniel said. "There really isn't anything to worry about as long as that item has not been professionally used."

Professionally used equipment has the potential to be overused. Look for equipment used by an amateur instead.

The experts advise asking questions, testing the equipment before buying and checking to see if a warranty is offered.

"If you deal with someone that is reputable, they will help you with the item and they will stand behind it with a warranty if it belongs to them," Mr. Daniel said.

* Know your equipment inside and out.

If your shots don't come out like you wanted, don't rush out and buy new equipment. One free upgrade you can make to photos immediately is learning to adjust your camera's settings to suit your environment.

Read your manual and learn how your equipment works. "The biggest problem for beginners is that they won't use the owner's manual," said Doug Barnette of Doug Barnette Photography. "There are so many new functions on digital cameras these days. I'm always discovering something new about my digital camera."

Two settings Mr. Barnette recommends taking particular note of are ISO and aperture. "Digital cameras tend to have a lot of unusual apertures," he said.

Mr. Dunmore suggests turning off the camera's automatic functions.

"Go fully manual and just really learn what the different functions do and how they operate together and how one affects the other," Mr. Dunmore said. "From there you can easily move into a situation where you can manipulate one aspect of what you're doing to affect the whole image."

Practice makes perfect," he said. "The more shots you take, the better your photos will be."