, , , , , , , , , , ,

(The above photo was taken with a Canon SL1, processed with Lightroom and then split toning was used to create the aqua water color.)

While it may be true that the mindset is the most important thing to a creative photographer, that does not mean we do not have to explore the basics. For every new thing constructed must be built upon a solid foundation. With that in mind, let’s begin with the tools needed for this path of photography.

I remember when I was a young man, one of my many step fathers telling me something that was actually of value. He said, “For every job, it is important to use the right tool. The right tool will not only save you time, it will save you frustration.” He was a carpenter and this line of reasoning, I suppose every carpenter uses, is very sound advice.

But how exactly does this common sense advice apply to photography? (You might ask if you were sitting next to me and actually cared) It is applied by the decision you make now. You must decide, first and foremost, what kind of photos you would like to take. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but really think about it and you will likely find it is much harder than it sounds.

There are many kinds of photos and many kinds of cameras, that each excel at their own thing. For an example, let’s say you wanted really detailed, almost hyper-real, photos. You would not use a Diana camera. More than likely you would be looking at purchasing a full frame or cropped sensor DSLR for taking those photos. Perhaps now you can see how important it is to have the right tool for the job.

I, personally, could never decide upon a specific type of photo. I wanted to have every tool in my box. It cost me over $3000 to do that. I would not recommend this path for everyone. Many photographers focus on one kind of photography and it seems to work for most of them. You must do what makes you happy, because in the end, it may be only yourself who is finding enjoyment in your creativity. You cannot expect everyone to like everything you do. It is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation. All art is subjective and photography is definitely an art form.

So I challenge you today to go look at photos. Not just briefly but take your time, really explore the photos you see and decide which ones you really, really love. When you have found something you love, then begins the work of finding the right tools.

Do your research. Find a tool (camera) that you are comfortable with. Whether it is a cell phone or a DSLR, it must be comfortable to use. When I say comfortable, I am not speaking of the technical knowledge you will have to learn to use it. Every camera, even a cell phone, requires knowledge to use it properly. When I speak of comfortable, I am speaking viscerally. It must feel good in your hands. This is why I use a Canon SL1 DSLR to shoot with. It is one of the smallest DSLRs made and I have small hands. After you have researched cameras, nailed down a few you are interested in, and have hand-tested a few to find your tool, then you will be ready for the next step in the process.

To help you get started, here are some general guidelines for the types of tools (cameras) and what each is best at shooting.

(The above photo was taken with a Canon SL1. It was processed in Color Effects Pro 4 using ND filter, Pro Contrast filter, Detail Extractor filter, and Tonal Contrast filter. It was then taken into Affinity Photo, where the shadows and hightlights were dodged and burned to create even more contrast.)

Highly detailed: Full frame or cropped sensor DSLR–Modern day DSLRs are pretty expensive, but they have the most flexibility. You can take a shot, taken with a DSLR camera, and do almost anything to it with the right software. If you like that idea, then this is the path for you.

(The above photo was taken with a Diana F+ camera. The film was scanned and it was enhanced slightly in Lightroom to boost only saturation.)

Classic: Less detail, more feel-an old SLR film camera, a TLR, or toy camera–Technically speaking, the less detailed part is a misnomer of sorts. Old film cameras do contain as much or more information in the film than modern DSLRs, however, the cost of a scanner to retrieve all that information is out of reach for the average photographer. So because of that limitation, scanned film will USUALLY have less information after scanning than a typical DSLR. What film cameras do excel at, is feeling. The light fall off of film cameras cannot be matched by a DSLR or any software we have created to date. Yes, we can come close and for most people that may be enough. If you want the real deal though and know the difference, this is the best path to take for those wanting genuine feel.

(The above photo was taken with an I-phone 7+. It was processed directly on the phone using Photo Toaster)

Convenience: a cell phone–Carrying around a camera may not work for some. The best shot is always the one taken. It is never the one missed. There are some very good cell phone cameras out there today. Most have decent sized photos (12 MP) and get highly accurate, if not incredibly detailed photos. There are compromises when choosing this route. You won’t have the detail of a DSLR, nor the feel of a film camera, but you should never miss a picture. Some cell phones even allow you to shoot in RAW and that gives you more flexibility. Obviously, the most important aspect in a cell phone camera, is being comfortable so you will want to use it and take advantage of the fact, that you always have it.

(The above photo was taken with an Instax Mini 90 instant camera. It was then scanned at 1200 DPI to create a larger photo and that is all that was done to it.)

Instant Gratification: An instant film camera–These kinds of cameras have come a long way since the 80s but are still like any film camera. There is no fixing film and that is especially true of instant cameras. While the picture clarity is better and there are more options on modern day instant cameras, they lack simple things like image stabilization and auto focus. Taking a good photo with an instant camera can be satisfying and a challenge. Yet, some people like the forethought required in capturing a truly great instant photo. With affordable scanners that can scan at 1200 dps, now we can make photos of these instant pictures that are of acceptable size for viewing (8 x 10).

I will briefly go into generic cameras, such as head cams, super zooms, or point and shoot. While they do have their place and I myself have a nice super zoom, they are more of a supplemental nature. In other words, you don’t need them to begin down the path of creative photography. Head cams are great if you want to swim underwater or do daring feats. Super zooms are great if you want to shoot strictly wildlife and are certainly a much cheaper alternative to a DSLR lens that costs $1200 or more. Point and Shoot cameras do pretty much the same thing as a cell phone camera, and do not always fit as easily into your pocket. However, they are a cheaper alternative to modern cell phones, for sure. I am not saying don’t get any of these. I already said you should be comfortable with what you shoot with. I am saying none of these types of cameras have a particular strength that is needed to accomplish any kind of photography. Thus, you must find if these cameras will help you in your end goal of shooting creatively. Indeed money is always a concern, but if you look at any camera, you should see it as an investment into your happiness. I cannot put a price tag on that, can you?

In the next chapter we will discuss the software side of tools. So go out there, check out some photos, and find what kind of pictures you want to do. Go do your research! Go get a camera that fits your needs, and lastly, learn everything you can about that camera. Read the manual front to back, and back to front. Know your camera like you know the back of your hand (Does anyone really know the back of their hand? Where do these stupid sayings come from?). When you have done these things, you will be ready for Chapter 2.

In the meantime, you can check my gallery of photos, to help you decide which kind of photos you want to take. Here is the link- http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jb-thomas

Have a great day and I hope to see you for the next Chapter!

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7