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Years ago, when I was beginning to learn to use my camera, I had no idea I wanted to be a photographer. I knew I wanted beautiful pictures of my kids, but I didn’t think this thing out much further than that. I bought the camera, and just started shooting on auto. Some shots were okay, but none were stellar. And there was no consistency. As I began to read and research photography, I slowly began to learn the ropes, and found out the basics…in no particular order. Today, I’d like to share with you ALL you need to begin to learn the process of taking beautiful pictures of what you love! And hopefully you get to skip out on all of the stuff that wasted so much of my time.
So, what all do you really need?
1. A Camera (duh!)
I’ve heard over and over how the best camera is the one you have with you. That is true! But as a photographer, there have been many times when I wished I had my “big camera” with me. Having a great camera to learn to shoot in manual (being the boss of your camera instead of the other way around) is essential to taking those dreamy out of focused background images. Learn more about choosing your first DSLR here 🙂
2. A Good Lens (just one!)
And I’m not talking about the kind that come with your camera. Sorry! Those have their place in this world, but not for people learning to be the boss of their camera. Mostly, because those are more difficult to use if you aren’t shooting on Auto.
I’m going to recommend 2 lenses for starting out. Both are affordable lenses as far as lenses go. For real. Glass is not cheap, and you get what you pay for. I do not recommend 3rd party lenses, although I’ve heard those have come a long way.
First, for my fellow Nikon users, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G or the more expensive Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. The difference is the amount of light the lens can let into your camera. I have shot with both. Both are great. And for my Canon friends, either of these two are the equivalents of the Nikon lenses mentioned before….the Canon 50mm f/1.8 (for a little over $100!!!), and the Canon 50mm/ f.1.4.
Warning: Don’t buy the international version…those are always cheaper, and are considered “gray market” and the warranty is different for those lenses.
Another option (and pictured above) is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D. However, it can only be used with certain camera bodies with built in motors that work with the D lenses. Unfortunately it isn’t fully compatible with some of the lesser expensive Nikon camera bodies. So, check to make sure your camera will auto focus with this lens before making a purchase.
3. Gray Card
After getting good focus and exposure, getting correct white balance is the next best thing to improve your photos. A gray card can actually help you set your exposure too. Getting it correct in camera is the easiest way to save yourself from spending too much time in front of a computer trying to get it right. And from a portfolio of black and white images. The gray card is really one of my best friends.
I love this Opteka 5×4 gray card. It is a good size. It is inexpensive at around $8. It isn’t so small that it is difficult to use and not so big that you can’t put it in your camera bag, and take it with you everywhere. Which you should!
4. Adobe Lightroom
After uploading the images to your computer, the next step is editing! I love Adobe Lightroom for simple editing. It can be bought as its own program or as a photography bundle from Adobe CC (Creative Cloud) along with Photoshop. Anticipate your own needs. I have both, I use both, but I’m also a little old school, where I used Photoshop first and picked up Lightroom later, so for me, Photoshop is difficult to totally leave behind. I also use it for making my own logo/graphics when needed.
Learning to shoot in manual isn’t easy! There are so many variables to take into consideration, and there are so many distractions in life. It takes time and patience and practice, but if I can do it, anyone can!