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Read This Before Buying Your First DSLR Camera!

I received a few comments and questions on my blog post from last week about where to begin as a photographer.  People seem to want to know where to start when it comes to taking images they perceive as "professional." Obviously there are dozens of things that go into the images of a professional photographer but there are a few characteristics that I feel most people pick out when viewing one.  These things are the lighting, contrast, color, sharpness, and background blur.  So the question remains, which camera do I buy to make my images look like that?  The answer, not so simple, but this is how I started and I'm sure this story will assist you in your decision making.  So here it is...

When I first decided that I was going to invest in a camera on a higher level then my iPhone or a point and shoot, I did a little research online, but I mostly looked around to see what cameras other people had.  My uncle happened to have a Nikon D5000.  I played around with it one day when we were over his house and thought to myself, "this thing is awesome!"  I thought the pictures popping up on the back of the screen were incredible compared to what I was always used to.  I wanted to take better pictures and I figured this was the perfect way to go.

I took a trip to my local Best Buy, played around with the camera, browsed some other models and spoke with the sales associate for a little while before making my choice.  I didn't know much about DSLR's and hung on every word the kid in the blue shirt said.  He works there, he must know what he is talking about! (looking back now of course - I laugh at myself because no, just because he works at Best Buy, does NOT mean he knows what he is talking about, but that is for another discussion).  Anyways, back to buying my first camera.  I purchased the Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm kit lens (the one that comes with the camera) and was ready to take the best pictures I could imagine and started photographing EVERYTHING!

I did this for about 6 months, taking it to family gatherings and doing mini "photo shoots" with a couple of my friends.  I soon realized that the images I wanted to take, and the images I was actually taking didn't match.  In my mind, I saw this amazing portrait with the background blurred into creamy deliciousness and the subject's piercing eyes that were tack sharp staring through your soul as you view the images.  This was not what I was getting.  Sure the picture was much better then the one I shot on my iPhone but it wasn't enough for me.

Then the answer finally revealed itself.  My brother-in-law was in town, who is also a photographer.  He told me that if I was going to invest in image quality, the first thing I needed to do was to go and buy a 50mm lens.  So there I was again, in Best Buy, wanting to purchase a 50mm lens.  I ended up buying a Nikon 50mm f/1.8g.  I anxiously attached it to my D5000.  WOW! A world of difference in an instant.  Finally I was getting closer to what was in my mind.  Little did I know it was 50mm x 1.5 due to the crop factor of the camera, so really it was about a 75mm focal length.  Which I thought was a little tight, so I found myself backing up more then I usually would, but the photos were coming out fantastic.  The amount of light coming into the lens, color, contrast, and sharpness were all great!  I was also starting to get that background blur I was looking for!

I would say at this point, most people who are into photography as a hobby and not wanting to get paid for their services probably stop.  Considering this is a couple years later and the D5000 is discontinued, there are newer cameras out I would recommend. The Nikon D3300, which is the entry level DSLR for Nikon would be PLENTY sufficient when paired with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8g for portraits. The Canon equivalent would be the Canon Eos T3i and the "nifty fifty" Canon 50mm f/1.8 ii lens. For something a little wider, easier to walk around with I would suggest a Nikon 35mm f/1.8g or the Canon 35mm f/2 is.  This will give you the look and feel of a 50mm focal length on your crop sensor camera, which is perfect for everyday photography.  If you wanted something even wider you would have to spend a little more money and you could pick up a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or even the pricey but AMAZING Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Lens. both of which come in Nikon and Canon mounts!  I would also pick up a 32gig SD card and maybe an extra battery, along with a case to carry your shiny new camera in.

At this point you would be at an investment of around $1000 - $1500.  I know initially it seems like a lot of money, but purchasing a camera/lens combination like this could last you years and will consistently produced quality images every time.  I see no need for a consumer who is not getting paid for their work to purchase anything more then this, ie. full frame camera & more expensive lenses.  Of course, just because you buy this equipment does not make you an expert on using it.  Auto mode is great if you want the camera to make all the decisions for you, but at some point I would recommend trying to get out of auto.  You are investing this money into your photography, spend the time learning about it.  A great guide for this can be found at for a price of about $70, but you can also learn SO MUCH on youtube for free at FroKnowsPhoto.

You can see my advice on learning how to educate yourself in photography HERE, which is a link to another blog post about where to begin! My next post will about about making the transition from a crop sensor camera to full frame and why.  Stay tuned!

I would love any feedback or comments that you guys have.