I receive a lot of photography-related questions for my shows and through Twitter. Here is a list that cover the most frequently asked ones.
Which camera is better? X or Y?
All camera manufacturers produce good cameras these days. And every photographer has their specific needs and preferences and therefore camera that suits them best. I highly suggest that you go to a camera store and see which camera feels best in the price range that you can afford. Bring your own memory card and take home some test pictures. If you need to find out if a specific camera gives you specific features, www.dpreview.com is one of the places I typically use to look that up. But I don't get hung up on technical spec sheets. In the end what counts is that the camera feels right for you. It might also be a good idea to look what your friends have. If you go for the same system, you can swap lenses and accessories with them much easier.
Which lens to buy depends on things like the application you will use it for, the size of your wallet, your taste, the amount of weight you're willing to carry around with you, and most importantly: your creative vision and needs. I can't really tell you "get this lens and you'll be happy".
If you want to go for expensive glass, I suggest you find a place to rent that lens for a weekend first and give it a good round of testing before you go out and buy.
As a general rule of thumb, I suggest you buy the brightest glass that you can afford. E.g. the lens with the widest possible aperture. As I said, I haven’t tried every possible lens of every manufacturer, so I can’t give you specific recommendations, but in general, camera bodies are subject to be swapped out for new ones sooner or later, but you will typically keep the glass - so I personally would rather spend more on lenses.
Other than that, my preference is original lenses made by the camera manufacturer.
Nikon or Canon or Sony or Olympus or ...?
The important thing to keep in mind is that once you buy from a specific manufacturer, the more accessories and lenses you add over time, the harder it will become to switch to a different brand. Or in short: you’ll be locked to that brand for a long time. As far as I can tell, all manufacturers produce decent quality these days.
Make sure you go to a camera store and spend time with each of the manufacturers and models that you're interested in to develop a feeling for them.
Does the speed of my memory cards really matter?
No, if you consider yourself a general photographer (kids, vacations, landscapes, sunsets, food, portraits). Yes, if you mainly shoot wildlife, birds or if you're a sports photographer.
I personally never buy the fastest cards.
How many megapixels do I need?
Megapixels are one of my least worries. I've shot with 6, 10, 16, 21, 36 megapixels and I've produced large format pictures that scanned to 300 megapixels.
More resolution is nice, but not always necessary. You can print most 10 megapixel images to 8x10 or larger without visible artifacts.
More camera resolution will also produce larger files and in turn make you spend more money on faster computers and bigger hard drives.
I believe it’s safe to say that you will most likely need less megapixels than the manufacturers are trying to sell you.
Could you please review my photography?
Having others look at your photography and receiving (and providing) critique is very important, and I'm flattered by your request to review your pictures. Unfortunately that doesn't always work out due to my full schedule. This is why I have compiled this list of places where you can get and give feedback on photography:
If you still want me to take time out of my schedule to give you a personal look at your photography or your photography website, I'd be happy to offer you a paid portfolio review. Please contact me for more details.
Which filters do I need?
Under certain circumstances a polarizer can be a great help. If you shoot a lot in very bright conditions, getting an ND filter might be advised (if you know what you need it for). If you shoot a lot of landscapes, an ND Grad filter can be of great value.
You should only use filters if you really really need them though.
Reflections. Everything that sits in the light path will contribute something to the picture, be it in a positive or in a negative way. If you put a $50 protective filter (substitute UV filter, Skylight filter, Haze filter, etc.) in front of your $900 lens, each and every single one of your pictures will be degraded thanks to reflections that the filters produce between themselves and the front element of the lens. Every year around Christmas time I receive requests from people who can't understand why their shots of the Christmas tree with all its lights look so weird. What they experience is ghosting: reflections off of filters that create ghost images.
Scratch protection? Using a filter for scratch protection is so deeply engrained in many people's minds that they don't even question it anymore. Which turns it into a really easy sell for every camera salesman. They really love selling you protective filters. "You obviously don't want to buy a lens without a protective filter, right? One little scratch and your investment will be down the drain." Well, not so far. Here's a video for you to watch. The answer is actually simple: don't spoil the majority of your pictures while you could get the same or an even better level of protection using a lens hood. That's right, there are many reasons to get a lens hood, and one is that it will give your lens protection from bumps. The other reason for a using a lens hood is that it which will increase the overall contrast and clarity of each and every picture you take.
Color correction? These are a staple of film photography. We don't need color correction filters with digital photography. All color correction can be done in post processing or by setting the proper white balance before the shot.
Effect filters? Today star effects, cross filter effects, diffusion filter effects etc. can be much more effectively produced during post processing. There's no undo if you shoot with a filter and you get it wrong.
So what filters are okay? The few reasons where I agree with using filters are these:
a few Canon L lenses require a filter to complete the weather sealing.
the ND grad filter will help you control dynamics in certain scenes
the ND filter will help you shoot very bright scenes at wider open apertures
the polarizer lets you control non-metallic reflections, increase color saturation and contrast and get darker blue skies (but take it off indoors, as it also steals some light)
some specialized filters will allow you to do things that would be hard to do any other way in a single shot (example: split diopter)
What did you use to make this website?
This web site is created and maintained on a Mac using Rapidweaver as the development platform.
Other software and services used in the creation of this site: - Adobe Lightroom - Adobe Photoshop - Google spreadsheets - Autoviewer - Vimeo - YouTube - Yubby.com - Blogger.com
What do you use to create your podcasts?
I use anything that I can get my hands on to produce podcasts. Like with photography, it's not really about the equipment, and if you're willing to spend some time learning the craft, you'll be able to get good sound out of most things.
To be more specific, here are the tools that I have used in the past: