Nikon have hopefully changed the world this year with the introduction of a new camera design. There’s a great Nikon Df review over at the Art of Photography that explains this in great detail. If you haven’t seen it yet, this new Nikon sports a retro design recalling classic 35mm cameras like the Nikon FM, FE, F3 etc. But updated as a digital camera featuring the sensor from the Nikon flagship D4. In many ways, I think this camera is going to be a game changer.
In the late 90’s, Japanese camera companies Canon and Nikon (and a few others) literally spent billions of dollars getting digital camera technology down to the consumer level. They made it amazing and affordable. And it was competitive. For years, camera companies boasted tons of “features” always lead by the almighty megapixel count. They boasted menus and settings. This is all great, but we’ve gotten to a point today where megapixels don’t mean much anymore – all new cameras have a high enough resolution. And we’ve gotten to a point where settings don’t matter – real photographers need real useful features.
The Nikon Df, I believe, is the first camera to represent this shift. The concept with this camera design is to use buttons and dials like the cameras used to have – to assign commonly used settings. ISO is now controlled with a dial. Bracketing is now adjustable from the face of the camera – not buried in a menu. And the size of the whole thing is finally ergonomic and fits in the hand. Its a camera designed to be used by photographers.
Scott Kelby is one of the top instructors out there for all things related to digital photography. He’s got a great training program and if you’re interested in learning how to dig deep into using your camera or how to make your images look great in Photoshop or Lightroom – Scott is your man.
I found this video recently and absolutely love it. He makes the point that design and software are two completely different things. Its amazing how the human tendency is to just learn tools.
I think creativity is a strange beast. Its hard and takes a lot of work and time. I think people tend to be lazy and that’s why they take the route of learning software over being creative. Scott does a great job of explaining that in this video without coming off arrogantly. Great stuff.
In this post, I want to talk about what it takes to “go pro” in photography. We’re going to talk about equipment, building a photography portfolio website and what it takes to be competitive in the field.
So you’ve decided its time to go pro. You’re going to try and make your living as a photographer. There is a romantic notion of flying around the world with your camera and having clients and art lovers complement your work and pay you money for the pictures you take. While this can happen – lets take a look at where you need to start.
As a professional, photography is no longer just a hobby – its now a business and you’re going to have to treat it like that. This means you’ll need to figure out how much money every year you need to make. Of that money, how much needs to be spent on equipment and how much do you need to live on. Since we’re talking about equipment, lets look at the first mindset. You need to be practical. This doesn’t mean go out and buy the top of the line DSLR and most expensive lenses. This means you need to buy gear using your brain. What can you afford that will do the job? Most professionals have middle line cameras as they are the most reliable at the lowest cost. They are also smart about purchasing lenses. You need to buy the lenses you’ll be using regularly and rent the special use gear. In this day and age you can get just about anything as a rental. In fact, I even know a photographer who owns several lenses and rents everything else – even bodies. This is a smart way to use good equipment and not go broke in the process.
You will need to look at the things that you don’t have a choice of spending money on. You will be paying taxes, and lots of them if you’re self employed. You’ll need insurance. Not just personal insurance, but many places won’t allow you to do a photo shoot if you don’t carry liability for property and location. Its not terribly expensive actually, but you will need to have it.
Then there’s business cards and your website. You’ll need to be working hard at promoting yourself. Both of these things can be done at low cost so be smart and efficient. There’s a great tutorial here on how you can quickly and easily get a professional photography website up and running:
One of the most popular techniques people try to learn in photography is how to use depth of field. Depth of field is an easy concept to understand. It basically involves how much of your image you want to be in focus. When shooting landscapes, you probably want a really wide depth of field because you want everything in the image to be in focus. But when you’re shooting something like a portrait, you might want to use a shallow depth of field so only maybe a foot or two of the focus point is actually in focus. This is nice because you can focus in on your subject and then the background becomes blurry. This is a nice way to bring attention to the person you are photographing and at the same time ad some separation from the background so its not distracting.
Depth of field is controlled in the camera’s lens. Its dependent on the aperture setting. Larger apertures create a very shallow depth of field while small apertures tend to make everything in focus. This is a simple result of the optics in a lens and how they work. This can also create problems as larger apertures let more light in and smaller apertures let less light in.
As a result, smaller apertures will be difficult in low light so you might consider a tripod if this is the effect you wish to achieve. Larger apertures are hard to do in bright light (such as an outdoors setting). To compensate for this, you can use a Neutral Density filter. ND filters are great because they cut the light down without effecting the color or contrast. Its basically like putting on sunglasses. This will allow you to still shoot beautiful images outdoors with those wonderful blurry backgrounds.
You can see more information about the optical effect here: