Being Ready for the Shot, and Why Buying a DSLR Isn’t Always an Upgrage
There is an easy simplicity that gets lost when you make the switch from cellphone cameras and point and shoots and step into the world of DSLR photography. Sure, you’ll have all the bells and whistles and modes and menus to play with. And yes, your shots will be sharper, less noisy, and technically a lot better looking. But artistically speaking, it’s a real challenge to make the move to DSLRs. That’s because those bells and whistles and modes and menus vastly complicate the picture taking process. With a DSLR, it quickly becomes far more difficult to translate the fleeting moments you see into quality photographs.
Point and shoots are great. Turn the thing on and take your picture – you don’t even have to remove the lens cap. Anyone can use a point and shoot because they are inherently easy to operate: point, then shoot. DSLRs lack that simplicity. When you buy your first DSLR, you are immediately at a disadvantage because you can no longer capture the photos you want at a moment’s notice. But with a little planning and practice, you can stack the deck in your favor such that you’ll be disadvantaged no longer! The way I have my DSLR set up, I can actually take the pictures I want faster than I can with any point and shoot. I’m able to do this because I know my camera well, and I know how to get my camera ready in advance for the kinds of pictures I expect to be taking throughout the day. That way when I see a moment I want to capture, I don’t need to bury my head in menu screens. Instead, I’m pointing and shooting with my DSLR, and I’m doing it a lot better and faster than I ever could before.
How to set up your DSLR as a high quality point and shoot.
Point and shoots are always ready to take a picture. To mimic a point and shoot, you need to set up your DSLR so it’s ready to take the pictures you want to take when you’re ready to take them. For me this set up process begins before I leave my hotel room.
- Chose your lens. For daytime photography go with a versatile zoom lens. For nighttime shooting use a fast prime like the inexpensive 50mm f1.8 lens.
- Tell your DSLR how to record your images. I shoot in raw mode and I typically overexpose by 1/3rd to 2/3rds of a stop. This works well for Canon cameras, and I have this set before I start shooting. Nikons don’t need to be overexposed.
- Tell your DSLR how to autofocus. On my 60D I use either the center autofocus point and recompose, or full autofocus mode. On my 5D Mark III I use full autofocus mode. This is set before I leave my room.
- Tell your DSLR how to shoot your images. I use aperture priority mode, one shot at a time. For general daytime shooting in good light, the photojournalist standard of f8 works well as a start point. Auto ISO works well, too. Use it.
Your DSLR is now set up as a point and shoot without having to fool around with any more menus. Now you need to use your DSLR as a point and shoot.
- Walk around with the camera’s power ON and lens cap OFF. Your camera should always be ready to go. Don’t worry about “protecting” it by keeping the cap on and power off. It’s a tool, use it!
- Hold your camera in your shooting hand with the strap wrapped around your arm. The strap serves as a theft deterrent, and keeping the camera in your hand ensures it’s ready to shoot when you are.
- Minimize the time you spend looking at the LCD screen. Your picture is beautiful. Look at it when you get back to the hotel, not on the street when you could be taking more pictures.
DSLRs should always help you take better photos, not prevent you from doing so. Using these tips ensures your camera will enable you to take the pictures you want to take, faster than you ever could before.