Apr 29, 2009

Putting on my Teaching Hat

Hello everyone! Yesterday on my poll post I got a great comment from fellow blogger Lady Ann de Borja of Visuals...

"...I would like to know what kind of light to use for someone who isn't a professional photographer and is not too expensive. What to look for when buying a camera...just to name a few."

In just a few sentences, she's hit upon some of the stuff I find hardest to answer! I almost never use artificial light, I simply prefer natural light, and so don't know a lot about studio lighting. And since everyone's camera needs are different, what I might look for in a camera might not work for you.

Me with my 15-pound camera bag on a hike in Cape Breton...

(Image credit: my hubby)

That said, I'll try to give you some tips and suggestions about these topics. It's a bit long, so click "Read more..." below to see the full post.


I always recommend that you use natural light whenever possible. I personally think it's the easiest thing to do. And hey, it's free! For product photography or still life work, you can set up a scene and background (say, some fabric or pretty paper) under a shady tree on a sunny day and you'll get nice diffuse light. Cloudy days are great for diffuse light too.

Obviously you can't always use natural light. For indoor shots, I'd say make yourself a light tent (at least for smaller items) and use whatever lighting you have on hand. The catch - you've gotta use the same *type* of lights all around. Incandescent bulbs + daylight = orange light on one side and blue light on the other. So stick with all incandescent, or all flourescent, or all daylight... you get the idea.

Third point - invest in a tripod! This is a crucial piece of equipment in low-light conditions and means you can get away with using your desk lamp instead of a high-powered professional flash setup or something.

Like I said - I do not use artificial light much. The tips above are the easy way out of the artificial light problem and I'm sure you could get even better results with a fancier light setup. If you want to go farther, I highly recommend reading through Strobist - they're a wealth of information.

Camera recommendations...

Ok, before I start I have to get one thing off my chest - megapixels DO NOT MATTER! Whew, that felt good. Honestly folks, any camera you can buy today will have way more than enough megapixels for your purposes. If you're posting online, you only need a very low resolution. If you're printing, what are the odds that you'll go bigger than an 8x10? I use a 6 megapixel Nikon D70 for almost all of my work and I've printed 34"x34" no problem.

Now - like I said above, a camera is a very personal choice and I find it very difficult to recommend one off the top of my head. I love my Nikon D70 & my Canon SX110, but they might not be the best bet for you. Do you want to lug around a huge camera bag? My D70 body, lenses, filters, etc. add up to almost 15 pounds. Likewise, will you be happy with a point and shoot that doesn't do well with "rapid fire" repeat shots? There's a decent delay between one shot and the next when using my SX110. That makes it tough to catch a good shot of a running toddler.

The thing is, when I research new cameras I look into the features I want. I almost never shoot in automatic mode, and I bought the SX110 because it has great manual control for a point & shoot. I don't really care if my cameras are user friendly, it doesn't bother me if they have a small LCD screen, etc. etc.

So - my advice is to think about the different features you need. How are you going to use the camera, what are you going to use it for? Then do some research online (I highly recommend Steve's Digicams for camera reviews) or go to your local camera shop and ask them to guide you.

I hope that was helpful!

Stay tuned - Hump Day Happiness is coming up later today!


  1. Thanks for the lighting info. I found your camera information a bit amusing: I love my Nikon D60 and Canon SX100. I would add that the Canon is amazing for a point-and-shoot, but it can't handle low light situations very well. Or at least not as well as I would like. However, it is one of the best I've ever used. One last comment - amen about megapixels. More megapixels can actually make your pictures worse! Trying to put more pixels onto the same size sensor can reduce image quality. This is especially true for low light. (Can you tell low light capabilities are important to me?)

  2. Well said, MC! And a perfect example of someone who uses their cameras for a different style - low light!

  3. thanks Diana for the info. Sorry it took me awhile to get back to you, been busy working on my own blog design...


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