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Taking Great Pictures

Everyone has a camera these days but for top results there are requirements. What's needed to produce those top results is discussed below along with ideas you may not have thought of.

If you want the best pictures possible you'll need:
Decide these issues first:
A.  How big do you want to print? ... a MOST important question!
B. Film or Digital?
C. What do you want to spend?

1. A CAMERA THAT MEETS YOUR NEEDS IN THE LARGEST FORMAT YOU WANT TO TACKLE
Digital cameras use sensors instead of film. The larger the sensor size the better it's potential of improving the final print... so you must first decide on how big you want to print? This is a MOST important question!
Film & Sensors comes in many sizes. The larger the film OR sensor the camera can hold the better for large sized prints, and there are cameras literally big enough to walk inside of, so you must first decide on how big you want to print? That is a MOST important question! Larger film requires larger equipment, so logistics are of concern. If you have to hike to where the subject is then a 4"x5" View Camera with a few lenses, tripod, film stuffs and carrying cases will probably require at least one assistant.

In the case of digital, the bigger your sensor requirements the higher price your going to pay (usually). In the case of film cameras this changes. You can buy a top quality 4" x 5" camera (that's the size of each piece of film) with everything needed for very little money since most folks are switching to digital and getting rid of their larger equipment and film cameras. Developing the film and getting high quality scans of your work is where film will hit you in the pocket, but you will have the potential to create images unattainable with smaller films or any sensor that I know to be available at this time.

Due to constant improvements in digital cameras the new models DO perform better than earlier models but just because a camera has 100 megapixels doesn't necessarily mean it's going to give you great images. Do diligent research before you spend your money and you'll be a lot happier. USUALLY the more you pay, the better the gear, but not always. Probably more than 99% of those using a shooting digital camera don't need more than 6 megapixels, so save your money for high quality lenses. (High quality lenses can increase in value!) 6 meg cameras with a good lens will produce great 10 inch or smaller prints AND if your only shooting for use on the internet you need even less. If your making prints larger than 8x10 you'll want more megapixels but it's not absolutely necessary. Sufficient results are obtainable with much less when processed properly.

2. GREAT LENSES
I often tell people "DON'T spend your hard earned cash on the newest digital cameras" (unless you MUST), but "DO spend your money on the best lenses you can afford". The only time you need to pay for a top-of-the-line digital camera is if you are a working professional and you will already know what you need before reading this.
Research forums and articles about what your trying to accomplish and you'll have a lot better idea of what you'll need.

more on this subject...
Choosing the right lens

Comments on Prime Lenses
Old School Manual Equipment

3. FILTERS
High quality filters should be used for shooting purposes and can cost a lot depending on your needs, but you should ALWAYS have a filter of some type on your lens simply to protect it and keep the dust out. You can buy cheap filters for this purpose.
Polarizer's, Gradient Neutral Density and Neutral Density filters all have a place to be used which are hard to make up for in image editing programs or make adjustments for in your camera. Special effects filters can be fun but so can Image Editing Software's.

In Black and white, Infra-Red (IR) and a few other specialized photography situations you'll use a lot more filtration, as you will when shooting film.

4. A TRIPOD SET-UP FITTING YOUR NEEDS & USE
A good tripod is worth paying extra for.

Tripods very greatly in price but almost always you'll pay for a good one. The head which goes on top of the tripod can also be pricey. I prefer HEAVY, SOLID tripods for use where it is possible. They dampen vibrations, are harder to knock over than lighter ones and feel secure for my expensive equipment. On some models you'll find nice additions to a traditional tripod like tilting columns and choices of the "feet" it uses (spikes, rubber or snowshoes), columns and more.

If you always shoot in bright light and use a small camera always hold the camera still but don't worry about a tripod, but if not, get a good one. I do carry a very light (carbon fiber) tripod with me at all times just in case I need one but I always miss the heavy ones. If you don't use a tripod get in the habit of holding your camera still for 1 full second after you've pushed the shutter release and you'll get better results. This will save some shots that otherwise would have a motion blur from moving the camera during exposure. Anything you can do to hold the camera still improves sharpness of your images.
Hang weight on your tripods, such as your camera bag to help dampen vibrations and you'll see improved results.
*Especially important on light tripods*

5. ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING
High priced lighting is not necessary to produce most great images.

Available light, being essential to produce a photograph, is sometimes inadequate for the desired results and we must get more light somehow. If just a small amount is needed something as simple as a piece of white cardboard or sheet used to reflect more light onto the subject can make the difference. For more light a mirror can be used with the sheet as a diffuser as needed. Unless you have to look professional or need something VERY powerful, any lighting is good lighting. Tape a table lamp or flash to a chair or ladder (used as light stand) and now you have studio lighting! Play around with bouncing the light off sheets or towels and now you have an umbrella and diffuser too. If using a flash or strobe unit you'll want something with off camera capabilities and variable power modes. You'll pay plenty for looks and powerful lighting but most of us can use any lighting and no one can tell the difference. I will talk more on this subject, guaranteed.

6. IMAGE EDITING SOFTWARE
If you always shoot film and never create digital scans of your images you can skip this entirely.
Image editing software is a miracle in my opinion. The things that are now possible with these awesome programs were just dreams very few years ago. Image editing software is a complete subject unto it's own but if your serious about producing the best possible images I HIGHLY recommend Adobe's Photoshop.

7. TECHNIQUE
Another subject unto it's own which I plan on discussing later in great detail. You can have the best equipment in the world but without proper technique you'll never produce the kind of images the equipment is capable of. There are tons of great reviews and forums on the internet to learn from and TECHNIQUE CAN CHANGE GOOD PHOTOGRAPHS INTO GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS.

Kert Kley

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