Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cameras: Expensive versus Cheap

B.E. Interiors Photography
Point-n-Shoot shot

Have you ever thought that if you could just get that nice, fancy, expensive camera with all the great lenses that you could take some killer shots? Well, I'm gonna let you in on a secret:

You might could, but you don't need it to take great pictures!

I love photography...particularly nature and architectural shots, but let me set the record straight...I am not a professional photographer. Photography is just something I've always loved and enjoyed doing as a hobby. One thing I get really frustrated with when reading blogs is how many people seem to think and promote the idea that you have to have an expensive camera to take good pictures. The truth is, if you can see the shot in your frame, you can get it with whatever camera you have (provided it works correctly). Seriously! Donna over at Funky Junk Interiors just did a post (click and scroll down past the big star) on this and I could have hugged for it!

You can take fantastic shots with a point and shoot. The trick is to learn to "see" the shot within a frame, learn what ideal lighting is, learn when to use a flash, know the quirks of your particular camera, and know how to correct issues in a basic image editing program. I don't care how good your camera is. If you don't know how to frame a good shot or what makes good picture material, you are not going to take good pictures.

Once you've learned to see a good shot, then you have to learn to capture it. Here's a picture that I took this summer that was just wrong in so many ways. See?! EVERYONE takes bad pictures. The difference is that those of us who know how to get the good ones rarely show the bad shots:) Notice the little graph following the photo. This is called a histogram. If you learn nothing else about either your mid-line camera and photo editing, learn how to read this chart!

Underexposed and wrong light setting (what happens when you get in a hurry!).
The histogram for the above "before" image. Notice how heavy it is on the left/shadow end.
OMG! Who knew there was lattice in the background?! This image isn't perfect yet, but it's on it's way. A little warming filter, some highlight and shadow adjustment...all watching the histogram to see when I'm getting my values right. Amazing how you can save a terrible shot with photo editing...isn't it?!

"After" histogram. See how the values are more evenly distributed in the middle ranges.

My Sony Cyber Shot (cheaper mid-line that has a manual mode) that I've used for about six years doesn't have a good light meter. I've learned this over time because when I use it indoors on manual mode, the shots are always too dark, but outside they are great! So, I compensate accordingly with a diffused flash (done with white fabric or tissue over flash) and Photoshop. You won't always see that in my images because it does take more time...something I don't have a lot of:) If I'm short on time, you'll just get the image as is. If it's just aweful, I won't post it:)

Seriously, one of the best things you can learn to use on a camera/image editing software is the histogram. It will tell you how good your lighting is and if you need to correct your setting. It's also the least understood feature of cameras, according to some articles I've read.  If your camera is a true point and shoot, then take a bunch of pictures on different settings - recording which setting goes with which photo. Open them up in a photo editing program. Find the histogram and see how the values range. By looking at these, you can find the setting that will give the best results without any manipulation. Not that I'm telling you not to manipulate. It's just that the better the original is, the better it can become with an photo editing program.

When I was in college (back in the Stone Age - according to my kids), one of the projects they had us do in photography was to make a pin-hole camera with....hold on to your seats.... with FILM! Yes, those were pre-digital days. The point was to teach you to see the shot and get it in one try (and teach you some serious patience!).  You got one shot and it took anywhere from seconds to HOURS to get.


Example of a pin-hole photograph.

I'm not suggesting you do that with a digital camera, but my reason for mention it is to stress learning to "see" the shot instead of "gettin' lucky" with a gazzillion shots. I still take a ton of shots and encourage you to do so as well. But once you learn to "see" the shot, you'll end up with more than just ONE good picture out of a million.

There are several photo imaging websites out there, like Picassa, that allow you to study your point and shoot images. Try playing with them. I'm serious when I say you can take some fantastic pictures with what you have.

A SLR is great and you can do some amazing things with them, but one of my goals with this blog is to encourage you to maximize what you already have to it's full potential. Get out your manual and study up how to get the best from your current camera. Most people don't know even a quarter of what their little point and shoots are capable of! Want to learn to edit better? Just google "histogram and photography". You'll find all sorts of info and links to more great tips/tricks. It's free and there's an ton of info out there. Don't be intimidated by terms you've never heard. There are sites that make it really simple if you look.

Remember: You don't have to have a lot of money to have a beautiful home, and you don't have to have a fancy camera to get great shots. Just learn to make the most of what you have.


  1. I am so tired from working all day (and have to be up at 4am for work tomorrow) that I don't have time to focus (no pun intended) on this tonight. But I am saving it to my favorites to go back and study after this work stretch. I need SOOO much help with pictures! xo Diana

  2. Wow, I'm definitely going to look into this histogram business, I'd never heard about it! Thanks for these tips, Miss Bee, a great post!

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