PhotographyTips.com - the #1 guide to better conventional and digital photography Become a Member iPhone Posing GuideGuide to Posing the Female Model BookGuide to Posing the Model CD
Search
Login

Member Login

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Flickr
Connect with us on LinkedIn

SPONSORS

Sell Photos Online

FEATURED SITES


Determine your photography objectives beforehand

Know what you want before buying a camera


If you intend mainly to photograph flowers and the occasional general subject such as a family gathering, your camera needs are quite simple.
If you intend mainly to photograph flowers and the occasional general subject such as a family gathering, your camera needs are quite simple.

WHAT TYPES OF PHOTOGRAPHS DO YOU PLAN ON MAKING?

As a first-time camera buyer, you must decide what quality level to buy and what features your new camera must have. You do this by assessing your needs - which means asking yourself what kinds of pictures you plan to use the camera for - and determining what your budgetary restraints are.

YOU NEED A PLAN

Don’t just walk into a large chain store and place yourself at the mercy of a sales clerk without any idea of the camera you need. You may end up with a good camera that suits some or all of your photographic objectives, or you may not. The camera may exceed your needs, and have features and expensive options you will never use. You are better off to do a little homework first by determining an amount of money you feel you can afford to pay, and a list of the uses you plan to make of the camera. Yes, it sounds like work, but the time you spend at it is minuscule compared with the potential financial benefit and the long-term payback from knowing you made the right choice at the beginning.


PRICE - HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY OR CAN YOU AFFORD?

Some people prefer to leave the budget aside until they know first what their ideal camera will be. When they discover its price, then they have a money target. If they can pay it, great. If they don’t have the funds, they can figure out how to either accumulate the necessary money by waiting and saving or they can consider a second hand camera, or they can perhaps look at a less-than-ideal, but nonetheless good second-choice model that will meet most of their needs.

You may have a set amount in mind, say $600, and wonder what kind of camera that will get you. Do yourself a favor, and assess your needs before you rush off to check out what $600 will buy in the camera market. Your search will be narrowed within your control, not the salesperson’s, so you will be looking only at models within your price range that do what you want a camera to do.

Someone who plans to photograph wildlife in natural settings will need a more-sophisticated, feature-filled camera.
Someone who plans to photograph wildlife in natural settings will need a more-sophisticated, feature-filled camera.

Clearly determing what you wish to photograph is critical to finding the best camera for you.
Clearly determing what you wish to photograph is critical to finding the best camera for you.

ASSESSING YOUR NEEDS

Buying a camera can be compared to purchasing a bicycle. Some people want to hit the backwoods trails every weekend and careen down mountain slopes at break-neck speed; others want to ride beside their five-year old’s trainer bike on quiet paths. A bike that is perfect for one is unsuitable for the other. Sure, the casual family cyclist could ride a $6,000 mountain bike alongside his or her five-year-old, but what a waste of money and a poor use of technology. The mountain bike enthusiast, however, could never use the basic, simple family bike that belongs on placid park paths. He or she needs the advanced-design of the more costly model.

Camera selection follows the same thought process. One user may need a sturdily-built professional camera from the outset whereas another may need a modest, but serviceable, camera for quality family pictures. It is foolish to pay for features you don’t need, and equally as foolish to buy a camera that doesn’t have the features you do need. You can figure this out by creating a list of the uses you plan to make of the camera - your personal photography objectives.

SAMPLE OBJECTIVES LISTS

Your list of photography objectives might include the following:

  • family pictures at get-togethers, indoors and out, including weddings and Christmas;
  • candid shots around the house;
  • pictures while on vacation;
  • pictures of the kids as they grow and change, including their activities and birthday parties;
  • general photography when things occur and you need a camera.

Or, your list might include:

  • pictures of our home-made products for web-site advertising;
  • quality pictures of homes for real estate listings;
  • clear pictures of flowers and plants to create detailed paintings from.

Or, it may go something like this:

  • a good general purpose camera for my photography class - 100% need;
  • photojournalistic style pictures for publication in our company newsletter - 50% need;
  • artistic photographs for exhibit and sale - 10 to 15% need;
  • quality, advanced-amateur pictures as a start to a photography career - 25% need.

Notice that the last list above has percentages associated with each objective. These indicate how much importance each of the objectives has in relation to the others, and it is obvious on this particular list that the camera must be suitable for a photography class and should also provide pictures good enough for publication. Percentage-importance listing (or a similar system, such as 9 out of 10, 3 out of 10 etc., that emphasizes your main and secondary uses) is a great way to weight your objectives, helping to narrow your search for the best camera for you.


ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

There is more to consider than just your photography objectives and your budget. You may need a camera that fits in a pocket or purse so you can take it with you wherever you go. Your camera may need to be shock-resistant and durable if, for example, you plan to take it skiing or rock climbing. Water-resistance may be important to you, especially if you plan to take photographs at the beach or pool. Consider all your expected uses of a camera before heading out to buy one so that you don't end up with the wrong type. If you aren't sure what camera characteristics are desirable for an activity that you take part in, ask others who may have experience taking pictures while enjoying that activity.

Everyone is different, and everyone can be expected to have different objectives. There is no one camera that meets everyone’s needs and price range, however there will be one that meets your needs once you have identified what they are, and it will hopefully be within your price range. So, be honest with yourself – write down what you want a camera to do and what kinds of pictures you realistically want to take. Be thorough. Your list will go a long way in determining what kind of camera you need to achieve your photography objectives.

A good quality digital camera meets this young family's objectives of family and travel photos.
A good quality digital camera meets this young family's objectives of family and travel photos.

This photographer is happy with her simple-to-operate, convenient-to-carry, point-and-shoot camera.
This photographer is happy with her simple-to-operate, convenient-to-carry, point-and-shoot camera.

USING YOUR LIST OF OBJECTIVES TO BUY A CAMERA

Salespeople are not used to someone explicitly telling them what they want. It leaves little room for selling them something they don’t need. Your list of objectives will provide you with a strong platform to begin your camera search. Any camera feature that does not serve to meet your needs as spelled out in your objectives is an extraneous feature and an added expense that you know you can do without, no matter how enticing it seems at the time it is being described to you. This is where the words, “Thank you, but no” come into play.

Very likely, the camera you finally end up with will have an additional feature or two that you don’t need, because they happen to come with the camera that has all the features you do need, so you have little choice but to accept them as a trophy of war. Who knows, they may make your photography a little more convenient.


Further information...

Buying the right digital camera for you
Related topics...

Film sizes

Buying a 35 mm camera

Buying a used camera