Let me start first by acknowledging that I am a collector. My first instinct when I get into something is to get everything right away and then find ways to get even more. When I read comics as a teen I didn’t want just a few, I wanted them all. When I started playing guitar I didn’t want just one, I wanted as many as I could get my hands on along with all the effects pedals and fancy accessories possible.
I feel like I have grown past that urge to collect a bit as I’ve gotten older but this lingered with me a bit when I started thinking about trying my hand at photography. I talked to a lot of people that told me all the cool things to buy, which DSLR body was the best, which lens would make my photos amazing, what flash I should get for indoor photos and on and on. After all that I made a very intentional decision to start simple.
First of all, buying your first camera and any accompanying gear is REALLY nerve racking. What if I spend too much? What if I don’t spend enough? What If I find out I don’t even like taking photos with a big DSLR?! Because of this I decided to simplify what I was looking for to one basic use case. I’m a dad and I wanted to capture nice photos of my kids that were better than my iPhone could take (that’s not to say that I don’t still love my iPhone camera and use it all the time, because i do). I really liked the way DSLR’s create depth of field. This helped me focus in on what type of camera and lens to buy and whose advice to listen to. I was no longer interested in figuring out what setup the photographer from national geographic used or the super pro mega photographer who took glossy studio portraits. That’s not to say that these people don’t have awesome set-ups, its just not what I was looking for.
Focused now on photographing my kids and family I heard there was little difference in what DSLR body you get but it really is up to the lens to determine how your photos look. Taking this advice I landed on the Canon EOS Rebel T3i . This camera was somewhere at the bottom of the spectrum of DSLRs but was still able to do what I wanted. The two features that sold me on this model over the t2i and the t3 was that it does full 1080p video which I figured would come in handy and It also has an articulating screen so you can swing it out if you are shooting at different angles (this has proven to be a handy feature when shooting low to the ground).
Now to the lens. This was the fun/scary part. Do I just go with the kit lens that comes with the camera or do I start with a different lens? what the heck do different lenses even do? Does it really matter that much? After reading up for weeks on lenses I ended up opting not to get the kit lens but instead I bought a Canon 50mm prime lens which is a fixed focal length lens (means it doesn’t zoom).
After reading about this lens I got super excited for a few reasons. #1: Almost every pro I read about has this lens in their bag and raved about how awesome it was. #2: It is actually one of the cheapest lenses you can buy ( usually around $100). #3: I really like the idea of constraining myself to a fixed focal length. I thought it would be a really nice challenge to figure out how to set up a nice shot without relying on zoom. This constraint would help me focus on one thing at a time.
Here’ another good article regarding the 50MM Prime lens.
here are a few sample shots I’ve taken with this set up.
and you can see more on my flickr page.
as always, happy shooting and I hope this might inspire you to go take some sweet photos!