It's been about a year since I bought my Nikon D3100 and unfortunately, about that same length of time since I've last blogged. The title, as it suggests, is meant to address both issues. I've learned a LOT over the past year, though I wouldn't go as far as to call myself an expert...at least, not yet. A year ago, it would have taken me a minute to play with the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings to get an ideal picture of whatever was before me. Now, adjusting these settings based on the current situation is almost second nature. If it's really bright outside and I'm trying to take landscape photos, for example, I know to start with a shutter speed of 1/500-1/1000, maintain a low ISO, and go from there. Of course, a good photographer will be able to adjust these on the fly as the need arises...I think I'm at the point now where I can safely say that I'm there.
My current dilemma is that I feel that I've outgrown my camera. The Nikon D3100 is an entry-level DSR but make no mistake, it has served me incredibly well. I'd recommend one to any newly minted photographer, though the image sensor and lack of auto-focus on the body is something with which to be aware. With regard to the former, it's a DX, meaning that your lens ranges are greater than what you'd actually expect. If you're using a 50mm lens, for example, you will have to stand a few feet further back than someone using a full frame camera. I believe the conversion is 1.5x (50mm lens = 75mm viewing range), but I'd be lying if I said that I understood the concept fully. On the latter, the auto-focus, the body is not equipped with a motor. If you're intent on using auto-focus, then you'll need to make sure that the lenses you buy come with one (they are generally more expensive).
My other dilemma is that I often miss shots because I'm constantly changing lenses. My current "bag of tricks" includes the 18-55mm kit lens, the 55-300mm zoom lens, and a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. When I'm at the park and want to take landscapes or nature shots, the kit lens does me well as it can zoom out to 18mm (not accounting for the crop factor). However, if a bird lands on a faraway branch, I'd have to switch out to the 55-300mm in order to zoom in far enough to get it...by then it would have flown away. I'm very much considering the 18-200mm or the 18-300mm Nikon lens...though they tend to be expensive ($600-$1000 new). Once I save up enough get one, I think I'll be less frustrated and be able to focus more on capturing the moment as opposed to switching out lenses to meet the occasion.
Becoming intimately familiar with Photoshop is also a big help, though I can't claim to know everything there is to know about the program. The biggest photo saver has been the ability to apply a mask to a second layer and allowing parts of the original layer to bleed through. I won't delve into specifics here, but it allows me to brighten or reduce the brightness of only part of a picture...very effective when dealing with outdoor photos with a blown-out sky. The clone stamp tool has also helped me to remove people and unwanted objects from photos altogether, though it takes time and finesse. Having just purchased a portable green screen kit with lighting umbrellas, I'm anxious to try out photoshopping people into various backgrounds.
I will say this...being a photographer isn't as easy as it originally sounded. Anyone can take a picture, but capturing a moment and touching it up with the right tools takes experience and time. Now I know why some professionals charge what they do. I myself am still working out a price sheet but am close to turning the key and turning my services into something marketable. It's been a frustrating year with regard to being a photographer, but it was also equally as informative and rewarding. I honestly can't wait to upgrade my camera (currently looking at the D7100) and buy a new all-purpose lens (18-200mm seems to be ideal financially, though I want the 18-300mm) so that I can step up my game a bit.
In the meantime, check out my official website and Facebook page below for the newest additions to my album:
The original article was posted on 8/13/14, here: