The 5 Ws of photography
Outlining your photographic needs is a task to be taken seriously. It would be great if you could do this before you buy your first camera, but most people can’t. You’ll probably buy a camera or two before you begin to fully understand what your photographic profile is. There are five aspects of your personality and photographic tastes that should be considered when creating a description of your needs. Until you can comfortably answer all five questions, you won’t know for sure what you want from a camera or photography system.
When will you be taking photos? Will you be exposing the film in low light conditions, such as early morning or late at night? Wildlife and nature photographers often work in these dark conditions. Will you be using your camera during special events, such as school games, ball games, or similar situations? If you want, you should assess the needs that are specific to your uses. For example, the built-in flash on a point-and-shoot camera may not be powerful enough to illuminate your subject from a distance. Are you dedicated enough to be in the rain or snow with your camera? If so, you should look for equipment that is made to withstand the rigors of inclement weather.
When you use your camera is related to the type of camera you should buy. If you’re an impromptu photographer who responds to photo opportunities on short notice, you need a system that’s lightweight and easy to use. This could be the case for parents who want to record magical moments with their children at the most unexpected moments. On the other hand, if you are going to do your shots in a studio, you can opt for a more complete equipment.
Where will you do most of your photography? The simple answers are in or out. But, this is not enough of a breakdown. Let’s start with interior photography. Is your home the main location for your photography sessions? If so, you’ll be dealing with incandescent lighting that will require the use of an electronic flash or filter to retain the true colors on the color film. If the camera you buy does not accept filters, this may be a problem for you. Most simple cameras don’t allow the use of filters, but they overcome this hurdle by offering a built-in flash.
Indoor photography in large buildings can be too demanding for small flash rigs and short focal length lenses. While a pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera may work well on a museum tour, it won’t produce satisfactory results in a sports arena. The key to success with short lenses and small flashes is getting closer to your subject.
Many people like to photograph flowers and other montages in makeshift studios. If your interests are along these lines, consider purchasing a component system that allows you total flexibility. A fixed on-camera flash is rarely a good option for any type of studio photography.
Outdoor photography can be very demanding for both the photographer and the camera. There are many situations where using the camera outdoors will result in disappointing images. How many times have you seen people taking pictures on the beach? Would you believe that most of the photographs taken will have poor and irregular exposures? They are going to. The bright background fools the camera’s light meter and makes subjects look darker than they should. Light reflecting off sand or snow will fool the best in-camera meter unless a spot metering system is used.
A photographer standing in the sun shooting a subject in the shade will get poor exposures. People feel that electronic flash is rarely needed when taking pictures in good available sunlight. Not so. Natural light often casts shadows on a subject. If the subject happens to be a person, this may result in one side of the person’s face being too dark. Fill flash should be used to light a subject evenly when there are shadows. A full flash will be overwhelming and create a harsh effect. If you expect to do a lot of work outdoors, you should consider getting a flash system where you can adjust the power of the flash.
Why are you taking photos? Most people take pictures to commemorate trips and family members. If you want to go to a zoo and come back with a selection of images that will remind you of the animals you saw, almost any camera will do the job. But, if you have aspirations of seeing your zoo photos on the cover of a magazine one day, you’ll need to invest in some serious component kit. Getting a close up of Uncle Fred and the big trout he just caught is easy. Framing a grizzly bear’s eye in the viewfinder isn’t that easy.
When you ask yourself why you want to take photos, you open the door for more questions. Is your goal to have a camera around the house for when the kids do something cute, or are you looking for a hobby you can grow with? A point-and-shoot kit is all you need to take quick family photos. If you want to develop a serious hobby around your passion for photography, a component system is in your future.
Who will you take photos of? Are your subjects going to be fast-moving children or laid-back adults? Will you be taking group photos at family reunions and similar gatherings? Are you going to punch in your press pass and go on a celeb photo hunt? Define who your subjects will be before committing heavily to any type of camera system.
What are you going to photograph? People are a frequent subject for photographers. Any decent camera can handle the requirements of people photography. Landscapes are a popular subject for outdoor photographers. If you like this type of work, you’ll need a component system with a variety of lenses. Maybe your idea of fun is crawling through the woods looking for weird insects to photograph. If this is the case, you’ll want a component system that can handle macro lenses and bellows.
The subject you will be looking for with your camera often dictates your needs. It is unreasonable to think that you can take quality wildlife photos with a pocket camera and lens. It is also not rational to consider the use of a large format camera to record the movements of butterflies. While a view camera works well for photographing the Grand Canyon, it’s a bit tricky to set up for home photos.
It’s hard to find a camera that works well for all needs. However, few people experience the desire to do all aspects of photography. Once you define what you want to achieve with your camera, deciding which camera to buy will be much easier.