Should I Have an SLR Camera?
Professional photographer Rich Wagner here, again. It seems everyone who knows I’m a photographer asks me for a recommendation about what kind of camera to buy. And if you’re planning on coming to a photo workshop, you probably want to know what kind of camera to bring. Let me say right up front that if you’re planning on coming to our Ultimate Money-Making Photo Workshop this year, ANY digital camera of any size or cost will do. I don’t care if you paid $49.95 or $4995 for it. Most of what you’ll learn at the workshop you can do with any camera of any size. After the workshop, you may want to get a different one, but at that point, you’ll know why you want to do it and it will be money well-spent. Now, there are two main kinds of digital camera you can consider: A small point-and-shoot, or a larger Single Lens Reflex, or “SLR.” Here’s a quick run-down of the pros and cons for each: SLR – PROS ** You can sell your photos for more uses. SLR cameras have bigger light sensors than point-and-shoots, which leads to bigger file sizes and better-quality images. (Bigger images sell for more in stock photography, make bigger enlargements in fine art and prints, and make better full-page spreads in magazines.) ** You can take better pictures in poor conditions. If you want to shoot in low-light situations, an SLR camera will give you a finer grain, cleaner result at high ISOs (we’ll go over what that means in New Orleans). ** You have more flexibility inside with an SLR. If you want to do portrait work and studio work, an SLR can trigger (or “talk to”) the studio lights. ** An SLR is more versatile, since you can change lenses. You can use macro lenses that will let you take a full-size image of a fly’s eyeball from a quarter of an inch away… or you can use long telephoto lenses that will let you take a picture of a fly on an elephant from a quarter of a mile away. ** You can capture movement more easily. An SLR camera is good for action photography, sports, birding, etc. That’s because it has a quick response time with auto focus and exposure control. SLR – CONS ** They’re heavy. With sturdy construction and large lenses, SLRs tend to weigh a lot and can be a pain, literally and figuratively, to carry around all day. ** They’re noticeable. It’s tough to be inconspicuous with a big SLR camera around your neck. Don’t try to shoot the local motorcycle gang without asking permission from all concerned. ** They require more “stuff.” SLRs are bulky and demand higher maintenance than point-and-shoots. You’ll need a large, padded camera bag; lens cover; and a number of accessories, like lens cloths, large batteries, and more. ** SLRs can be expensive. Depending on what you want to do with your photos, you may or may not need an SLR at this point. Though it’s often money well spent, an SLR camera can cost 10 times more than a point-and-shoot. In almost all cases, particularly in SLRs, the more you spend, the more rugged and weather resistant the camera. The more expensive ones will also focus faster and take more frames in a burst. POINT-AND-SHOOT – PROS ** The price is right… if you don’t need large file sizes. If you’ll only ever look at your photos on a computer and email them to Aunt Martha, a decent point-and-shoot will get you images comparable to that which the most expensive SLR provides. And if the largest print you’ll ever want to make is 8×10 or smaller, there will be little, if any, discernable difference in quality between a point-and-shoot and an SLR. ** Point-and-shoots are discreet. You can go “street shooting” and take a lot of photos of people without anyone yelling at you. ** They’re light. You can just slip a point-and-shoot in your pocket and carry it with you at all times… so you’ll always get the shot. POINT-AND-SHOOT – CONS ** Limited use of your photos. Typically, point-and-shoots have much smaller light sensors than SLR cameras, so you can’t enlarge your photos as much, and sometimes you’ll get digital “artifacting” (another thing we’ll go over at our March workshop). Images shot with a point-and-shoot sell for less in stock photography (some agencies won’t even accept them), and magazines can’t print as large an image from a point-and-shoot photo, so an editor may not be able to use your shots. ** Poor quality in low light. While point-and-shoot image quality can be very good with plenty of light, at low ISOs (again, we’ll be learning more about ISO and camera settings in New Orleans), low light situations may not give you as fine a shot as you can get with an SLR. So now that you have the quick run-down on the differences between point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs, here’s something they both have in common: You can learn how to take great photos with either one. It’s like asking: Smart car or VW Eurovan? There’s a good case to be made for owning both. But only you can decide which one is right for you. But most importantly… no matter what you choose, pick up your camera and start taking pictures. It will get you more involved in the world around you and give you a different outlook on life. Instead of hurrying from one place to the next, you’ll be interested in the journey. And isn’t that what life is all about? Happy shooting! — Rich Rich Wagner Professional Photographer and Guest Editor, The Right Way to Travel P.S. Here’s my last tip. It’s an honest suggestion: Come to a workshop and spend a few days with us. You’ll leave with a feeling for the kind of photography that interests you, a new set of skills, and a broader view of the possibilities available to you… Armed with that perspective, you’ll have a much better sense for what kind of camera you need. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. 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