One of the thoughts that come to a new camera owner’s mind right after taking the plunge is “What Should I Upgrade / Buy Next?” – Is there a need to do so?
The first thing you should upgrade after getting your camera, is YOURSELF! Upgrading yourself means to gain understanding in photography, not just the technical matters such as controlling your camera but also the various artistic elements involved.
If you have the “my gear is not enough” thought then you’d better stop dwelling on it. It doesn’t make sense to say that your spanking new toy that just cost you a few grand take nice photos.
Have a look at my ShutterStock page – at the time of this article, most of the photos were taken with Entry-level DSLR, specifically the Canon EOS 350D / 500D / 550D. Most of the photos are taken with Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II and 50mm f1.4. To have photos listed in ShutterStock, this means it has to attain an acceptable level in of quality in terms of composition and detail. So don’t worry about your Entry-level DSLR body, it’s all good. The image below was taken with a Canon EOS 550D with the EF-S 18-55 IS kit lens.
Feeling better a bit? I hope so, don’t underestimate your gear!
My suggestion to all newbies is to stick to the kit lens (this refers to whatever lens that comes with the camera you purchased) and get the hang of it. Learn how to compose, perhaps start by understanding the Rule of Thirds and how it helps composition. Learn how to use shapes and angles add to the composition.
I’m saying that you should aim to be the next Yervant but I think it’s good for everyone to at least learn up a little on composition. Slight improvement over the photos taken is better than no improvement, right? 🙂
That said, you can’t progress without getting some understanding on the tool you’re using. Try understanding how the shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together for exposure (how bright / dark your photos turn out).
Also get to know how lenses work, how to read the focal length and available widest aperture. Eventually you’ll understand which lens suits you.
I would suggest allocating some funds to attend workshops, seminars or talks or whatever that’s available. It’ll really broaden your horizons in photography. In fact if you look around, there are plenty of talks that are FREE. I am unable to list them all here but I share them when I can over on facebook, do find me there. KLPF 2010 is starting coming Friday, there’s quite some talks going on there. There’s also a talk by Jimin Lai, free event organized by WPPM.
If talks aren’t your thing, then there are many other things you could opt to purchase. You could buy books and magazines to further your knowledge and understanding.
Spending isn’t necessary though, there are plenty of websites around that gives you pointers on photography.
Towards A Better Purchase
It’s not uncommon to see newbies asking questions like “I want to buy a new lens, what lens is good for me?” on the forum and the response given were along the lines of “What do you intend to shoot?” and “What is your budget?”
The newbie question is an obvious sign that the newbie does not know enough yet, so the newbie should hold off any purchase for now, and only decide what to buy when there’s sufficient understanding. Sound familiar? If you thought YES then it’s good that you’re aware of it now. 🙄 There’s no reason to spend yet another RM 10,000 over your already RM 3,000 purchase unless you have deep pockets and want to feel good.
One must understand that every product out there has a purpose, and varies in price range to cater to the market. So what do you like to shoot? Portraits of people (or your pet)? Sports? Birds? Scenery? Everything you see can be photographed. 🙂 It’s just that you need to figure out that part first, you’ll have a better idea on what should be your next acquisition after doing so.
Bear in mind that your next purchase or upgrade isn’t necessarily a lens, it could be a new body or a flash unit. It could be anything else or it could be nothing at all if skill is the limitation. Based on my experience, most people I come by are upgrading because they think their gear is not enough but in actual fact it’s their skill that’s lacking.
Put it simple, there’s no reason to spend more to shoot the same lousy photo. What you get is just higher-quality lousy photo.
OK, What Else?
You could buy a tripod if you like to shoot scenery. Get a bag if you haven’t got one already. Always shooting in lowlight? You might want to consider getting a flash unit. As you can see, there’s plenty of other things out there to buy – it just depends on what you need (or want) and how deep (or uncontrolled) is your pocket.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy anything, in the end it boils down to that single point – the first thing you should upgrade is YOURSELF because it not only helps you take better photos, it also helps you know better what to buy. Once you know your stuff well enough, knowing what to buy next is not difficult. The only difficult part is when you have a set budget and can only choose one of the multiple equally good options.
That said, some things you just have to buy to experience, like say an ultra-wide angle lens or a prime lens. It’s not something you get the FEEL just by trying it at a shop. 🙂 Lastly – if you feel like plopping down RM 15,000 as a beginner – go ahead as the money is yours, I am only sharing my advising based on my point of view.