So. You’re still relying on your purple Nikon coolpix camera to capture breathtaking photos of sunset cruises and nighttime concerts, but coming away with results that are lamentable—at best.
It’s okay. Really. Don’t be embarrassed, or lose hope in the art of photography, or get angry at how easy Ashton Kutcher makes it looks on the commercials.
The Fourth of July fireworks looked great so you thought you would take some killer pictures to remember them, right? You pull out your camera, (promising ‘cool pics’), aim upwards, and start snapping. In return, you get dozens of pictures of dark skies with tiny spots of red, white or blue. Flash on or flash off, the pictures just kind of suck. Cool? Hardly.
Or, you’re standing on Mt. High View in Pretty Lights Ville, USA right after dark. Perfect time to whip out the camera and capture the view the city has to offer so you can show them to grandma and Aunt Maureen later. But as hard as you try, with all the settings your camera has to offer, it’s just not quite the same.
That’s the reality of trying to photograph anything besides events like afternoon birthday parties, family reunions or office luncheons with a point-and-shoot camera. It’s just not the same.
Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras are, simply put, the big cameras that come with a neck strap, make a nice click noise when a picture is taken and can actually capture the brilliance of fireworks or the beautiful lights reflecting off the water at Mt. High View. SLR’s are better than your average point-and-shoot, yet surprisingly, not much harder to use.
Sure they may look scary, daunting, intimidating, heavy, burdensome, maybe even a bit superfluous, but trust me, SLR’s are simple and effective.
I realized my little point-and-shoot wasn’t going to cut it after taking a photography class and coming away from a concert with unspeakably awful pictures. Frustrated, I complained to my dad (Nikon extraordinaire) about how my camera wouldn’t let me manually adjust anything.
Two weeks later, right before a school trip to Egypt, I was given my first SLR. It didn’t cost much—just over $300 on sale. I read parts of the manual, got a few pointers from my dad, read a few blogs and did some shooting on my own.
I was smitten.
While nearly everyone on our trip struggled to capture lights reflecting on the Nile River at night, I adjusted a few settings and came away with a pristine, clear and colorful image.
Here’s what it really boils down to, what really sets SLR’s apart from your purple coolpix and it’s crew of various mediocre point-and-shoot colleagues: SLR’s allow the option of changing the shutter speed, the amount of time the camera spends taking the picture; and the aperture, which determines how much light is let in.
Most major camera manufacturers offer affordable, user-friendly, beginner SLR cameras and the gurus at any local camera shop can help steer you in the right direction. F.Y.I.: Buying from a store that specializes in cameras is highly suggested—they’re extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and can be a useful contact down the road. And, if you want to land a good deal, it wouldn’t hurt to be one of those rabid 4 a.m. Black Friday shoppers. Just this once.
If you’re up for it, making a more informed camera purchase, maybe spending a bit of extra money and taking a weekend to learn some new tricks, can mean that your pictures next Fourth of July won’t suck so much and you can finally show grandma and Aunt Maureen what they missed on Mt. High View.