A few weeks ago we did a post about finding deals online, specifically explaining how we got a screamin’ deal on our first DSLR camera. DSLRs seem to be all the rage these days, no longer just a gadget for professional photographers (or those claiming to be). Take a photo with a plain ol’ digital camera and one with a DSLR and then compare the results. It’ll be easy to see why even your grandmother just jumped on the DSLR bandwagon.
Is It Worth It?
But they’re also a huge purchase. Even with finding an incredible deal on my Canon Rebel, Johnny and I still paid $350! But if I’m being for reals — which I am because it’s Monday and that’s how I roll on Mondays — it’s been worth every last penny. See, we (well, me, and then eventually Johnny) really wanted good photo documentation of our children. Ask 10 people the classic “Your house is on fire and you can only grab three things” hypothetical, and they’ll all use one of their precious choices for “our family’s photo albums.” So using that scenario, good photos are at the top of our “splurge-worthy” list. Thus, a DSLR.
In case you’re wondering, here’s what I started with:
Why? Well, Canon and Nikon are both equally great in my opinion, but I just happened to go the Canon route. I got a Rebel because it met all my needs. Unless you’re looking to become a professional photographer, it’ll do the job for the average Jo (my name, shortified) and then some. While the 18–55mm kit lens takes fine photos, it doesn’t have a low f/stop (the ability to create nice bokeh, aka that blurry, low-depth-of-field background). And almost all lenses with a low f/stop are very pricey, like as-much-as-the-camera-itself-or-more pricey — except the 50mm. For the quality of pictures the 50mm takes, you can’t beat the $110 price tag.
But here’s the thing: you get this shiny new DSLR, and it’s like, “Yikes! What to do??” It’s a wild, ferocious beast that you’re supposed to somehow tame and force to take pretty photos. There are suddenly a billion different buttons, an instruction manual that’s 100’s of pages long, and confusing terms like ISO, aperture, metering, and f/stop dancing around in your head. It’s enough to make you want to huddle in a corner and just pet the little monster while cooing, “Pretty camera.”
So I’ve totally been there, hence the detailed description of that hypothetical breakdown. I was kind of afraid of our camera when we first got it. Of course, there’s always the option of shooting in Auto, but I wanted to get down to the nitty gritty and learn the science behind my new toy. But how? There are plenty of pricey photography courses out there, online and otherwise. But since I was planning on using our camera for purely recreational reasons (aka, not as a professional photographer), I really didn’t want to spend more money on classes.
Learning To Use It (For Free)
First, I talked to a friend with a DSLR, and she helped me with the basics. I also read most of the instruction manual. And most importantly, I forced myself to shoot in Manual only. I mean, we went on vacation when we first got the DSLR, so all those photos were in Auto, but aside from big events, I used Manual. And I took pictures every. single. day.
BUT, my biggest help of all? My big secret to learning to use our DSLR? I watched YouTube videos! Hours of them. I couldn’t get enough. It was the same as a photography class, except I didn’t have to pay a cent. My friend recommended Fro Knows Photo (aka Jared Polin), and his videos were awesome in teaching what was most important. In fact, I became obsessed with this guy’s videos. Johnny can attest to this. I would constantly be spouting, “Fro Know this.” “Fro Know that.” (I liked to call him Fro Know instead of his actual name.) Jared Polin’s a bit of a crazy (hairy) beast himself, so he’s the perfect mentor. And I’ve included the videos, in appropriate order, that helped get me started:
And I’m not affiliated with Fro Know at all. He’s sort of a weird dude, so I don’t know if I’d want to be affiliated with him. But I just really like him. His YouTube page has lots of other great videos, too.
So that’s my limited knowledge on getting started with learning how to use a DSLR camera. If this topic doesn’t interest you in the least, thanks for letting me spill my guts about my favorite hobby. And if it does interest you, I hope what I had to say helps you figure out the wide world of taking pictures with a DSLR!
Do you have a DSLR? If so, have you learned to tame the beast and shoot in Manual? If not, would a DSLR be a splurge-worthy purchase to you?