The one thing I know about shooting with new equipment is to always do a test roll first, just so that you can have a baseline, or to learn things that you wouldn't see unless you were shooting. The worst time to find out something is wrong is when you're on a shoot for a paying client.
“Sometimes the camera is something you could hide behind in dealing with difficult situations and through the camera you can express yourself and how you feel. Difficulties strengthen the mind just as labor does the body.” ~Elizabeth "Tex" Williams
I often get asked one of two questions:
- What kind of camera should I buy/bring while on vacation?
- How do I take great shots while I'm on vacation?
1. What camera should you buy/bring.
Well here's the truth. The best camera for vacation is the camera that you have with you. Honestly, that could be your iPhone, a point and shoot, or even a high end DSLR. The actual camera doesn't matter as much as the experience that you are enjoying while you are on your vacation.
For ME that breaks down into two categories. Quality and Functionality. When it comes to quality, MOST digital cameras on the market today will give you GREAT images. So really, I look for functional differences.
These are the things that I would look for.
- Easy for me to carry around (accessible)
- Can fit in a pocket or a small bag (size)
- Can get banged around and wet (durability)
- If lost/stolen, it's not the end of the world (affordability)
For point and shoot cameras, my two recommendations are the Nikon AW130 and the Fuji Finepix XP90 which are both under $500 and will give great images. They can even go underwater. For those that want a little more control, and willing to invest a little more, look at that Nikon AW1 Series. These are just my suggestions based on what is on the market at the time of this post.
2. How to take better photos.
The above images (unedited) were taken in Dubai with a SONY NEX-6, now replaced with the PHENOMENAL SONY a6300. These photos are pretty much the same photos I took, straight out of camera. Most are done with a 16mm f/2.8 or the 50mm f/1.8 E-Mount Lens. When it comes to to travel photos on vacation, here are some tips.
- EXPERIENCE FIRST, PHOTOS SECOND. Remember it's best to have an experience to remember and then a photo to bring you back to THAT memory.
- Pay attention to your lighting. Some times of day are far better than others. Morning skies in most places of the world, have more clouds than evening sky. The clouds can provide a dynamic contrast to your subject(s). When photographing food, I prefer for my lighting to be coming slightly from behind so that I can see shadows to the front and give the food a more appealing texture.
- Go to extremes. I prefer very wide, or very tight. so usually I am photographing with a wide lens like a 16mm or something that has a tighter perspective or can give a macro effect.
#BONUS when possible, with outdoor shots, consider using a Circular Polarizer Filter on your lenses to reduce glare and reflections.
One last thing. Remember HAVE FUN! You're on vacation...not work!
On the closing days of the Wedding Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) Trade Show, I was fortunate enough to attend a 6 hour Master Class with international wedding photographer Mike Colon. Mike is a photographer based out of Newport Beach California, who's work has graced many international magazines, clientele ranges from Usher to Mel Gibson, and extracurricular activities include Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With a list of accolades that would tower taller than his 6' 2" frame, he is probably one of the most humble photographers I have met. I was really looking forward to his class. I won't go too much into the details of what was taught, but I will highlight a few things.
Sponsored by Sony, the class was about being able to dial in your mirrorless camera for weddings. I am currently a Nikon shooter, but I have always had interest in mirrorless cameras, because of the minimal footprint of gear compared to the regular DSLRs from Canon and Nikon.
Going into the class, I already had reservations about mirrorless systems mainly because of the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) lag and the huge battery drain. I felt that Mike would offer a unique perspective, because while now a Sony Artisan, he was once a Nikon shooter as well. I can understand now, why he made "the switch."
The first couple of hours of the class were classroom lecture to go over the menus and custom buttons on the Sony A7 series, which is Sony's professional line of mirrorless cameras. A camera that is feature rich, but button sparse.
I HATE MENUS, and the Sony has LOTS of them. I did enjoy the layout of the menus though. Mike walked us through each menu, and showed us what he did on wedding day to make it easier for him. Those who have photographed weddings, know that there is so much going on the day of the wedding, that if you are wasting time looking at menus, you might miss something important. After the lecture portion it was time to move on to the practical part of the class.
We went to the Sony PRO lounge where, we were provided with kits containing the new Sony A7RII Mirrorless camera. I was fortunate to have a 90mm f/2.8 G lens in my kit as well. (All images on this post are shot with the A7RII and are only adjusted for crop and color balance.) the other lens in the kit was the 55mm.
The practical portion reminded me of being in school where as soon as you went into the lab you forgot everything in the lecture. I was ready to throw the A7RII in the MGM Grand pool, but a few moments more the camera started to actually make sense. One of the cool things that Mike showed us was the focus tracking that the A7RII provides. I will say it blew my mind. While there were some missteps, it is a pretty reliable feature, able to track the models' movements with ease.
We had two beautiful models, although, I wish that we would have had a model "couple" to simulate more along the moments of a wedding. Nonetheless it was great to have such beautiful models. Thank you to 24 Seven Productions who provided the models and to Sony.
I see mirrorless in my future, and this class helped me move closer to that point. I loved the knowledge and hands on training that I got from the class. I learned a lot and would recommend to any photographer out there who attends WPPI in the future to take advantage of booking at least one Master Class or Plus Class. You wont regret it.
Right now we have the most access to information and knowledge than ever before. If I want to know about the inverse square law, I can look at my phone and say "Ok Google, explain inverse square law to me" and BOOM, thousands of links come up. If I want to know about guide numbers, BOOM, Google strikes again and tells me. Not only can I know more, it costs LESS to even start in the game, because we have the best technology available than ever before, with an extremely low barrier to entry.