A Learning Experience

This weekend I borrowed my friend Ryan‘s camera to test the SLR waters again. While I absolutely love my H5 I have been toying with the idea of purchasing an SLR to push myself over the edge into the black (money) hole that is the hobby I so lovingly call (along with billions of other people…) photography. I had very good experience this weekend as Rachel and I attended Corey and Maggie’s wedding and I used Ryan’s camera while we were there. Through that experience I learned some very valuable lessons, some good and some bad.

The first lesson I learned was holy crap it’s fast! I could fire off several shots in the time it takes my camera to take one. Digital photography makes it super easy to take a bunch of photos and figure out the choice ones later and this made it even easier. This is great for situations like weddings since there is always inevitably someone closing their eyes at any given time.

The next lesson I learned is a harsh one although it turned out ok in the end. Check your settings! I had been playing the previous night with low light settings and had subsequently had the ISO setting at 800. I had forgotten all about this and shot the entire wedding and after-ceremony photos at this same setting. It wasn’t until I went to modify the ISO setting after going inside that I realized this. If I had done this on my H5 it would have been suicide, the photos would have been grainy beyond belief and would have required lots of post-processing which would have in turn dulled the photographs dramatically. Luckily the SLR handled the higher ISO setting just fine. It was slightly more grainy than I would have liked but none the less the photos were not ruined as I thought they might have been

I also learned something about photography in general, more closely tied to the profession than the hobby though. I noticed that I was taking shots of random little things that were happening like private hugs, tears etc that the real photographer wasn’t capturing. At first I wondered why this was and then I realized that they had a lot of stuff on their plate and even more to coordinate. Because they were staging and placing everyone, it left the other would-be photographers to do their stuff. I talked to one of the other people there (whom I thought was working with the hired photographer) and he told me that he much prefers going to weddings where he is simply the ‘friend photographer’ as apposed to the ‘hired photographer’ so that he is left alone to get his shots right instead of setting up poses. This allows for many more real and candid shots which I believe come out much nicer anyway. The lesson here? If you’re a photographer hired for a wedding, be sure to have 1 or 2 (at least) other photographers there at least during the formal portrait sessions.

Don’t Trust the Average Meter. I learned the hard way that the average meter is not the way to go, instead trust your instincts and keep it on ‘spot metering.’

I also learned that If I go down this path (which I fully believe I will now) I need three things right out the door.

  1. A camera body I recently came across a new canon, the 40D which I believed was my perfect camera (were I to go SLR). However; some other companies have also recently released new camera body’s that are in the range I’m looking for such as Sony and Nikon. I’ll need to do some more research before I decide on my camera body now, although I’m still leaning towards the Canon 40D.
  2. A flash which can be aimed – I can’t begin to list the number of times during the wedding (the reception especially) that I wanted to use the flash to add some light to a dark scene, but wanted to keep the ambient light and not add the harsh glare-tones that come with the built in flash.
  3. A high(ish) zoom lens – The lens that comes with the 40D kit is 28mm-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS. I’m not sure if this will be enough or not so I’ll have to play with it In store first. I do know that the 18-55mm lens I was using this weekend simply didn’t provide enough range for me. I realize that you get better results by adding multiple lenses to your arsenal and for some things this may be perfectly ok however for my preferred style of photography, and the randomness that comes along with weddings, it simply doesn’t work. It may come down to something like the 28-300mm Canon (which will increase the initial cost of this little venture quite a bit).

All in all I’d say a successful adventure and some good lessons learned. I’ve determined that I could definitely improve my photography with the addition of an SLR, now comes the hard part of researching and finally deciding.

2 thoughts on “A Learning Experience

  1. Glad you had fun. My next purchase is a new lens as well, the 18mm on the kits lens is great, but the 55mm end is quite lacking. Currently I’m looking at the 70-300mm IS, the lens you linked (28-300) is a super hot lens, the ability to shoot everything with that one lens is sweet.

    One other thing I’d like to point out is that there is no IS with the kit lens I have, and it looks like whether you go with the kit lens or the 28-300, you will have IS right away which will be very helpful.

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  2. Yeah the only problem with the 28-300mm lens is that its minimum focus length is 2.8ft so I’d need to get a macro lens too. But I think having a macro lens and the 28-300 would pretty much complete what I’d like to do for now, and the macro wouldn’t even be necessary right away just a nicety.

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