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When something just clicks

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Thinking of taking your photography to the next level? In the first of a series of articles on taking great photos, professional photographer PAULA BEEZHOLD gives her insights on how she learned her way around a camera and what to look for before making your first camera investment.

Someone once asked a famous artist how long it takes him to complete a painting. Thirty years, he replied. The logic is simple ‚ for him to be able to produce the standard of work he’s producing, he has had to hone his skills over a period of thirty years. The same applies to any profession in any industry and it most definitely applies to the field of photography. Luckily you don’t have to have thirty years of experience to enjoy the picturesque world of cameras and lighting, f-stops and apertures, shutter speeds and ISOs. Your reason for investing in something more serious like a DSLR camera, could range from wanting to take quality happy snaps at family events to wanting to generate an income as a professional photographer. Your pocket will determine how much money you can put into it. Your goal will determine how much time, effort, experimenting and passion you’re willing to put into it. You’ll find that Goal trumps Pocket. The best equipment can’t make up for a lack of imagination, skill or sloppy editing. Humble, passionate beginnings, however, do have a way of growing and eventually paying for those wonderfully fancy toys. Personally I’ve been taking pictures long before I’ve even held a camera. Our very existence in this physical realm is one big visual experience. I grew up with pictures all around me ‚ playing freely with colours and creating compositions in my mind. The first time I could ask my dad for a present from one of his overseas trips, I asked for a camera. It was a point-and-shoot Minolta and I ran rolls and rolls of film through it. My love for photos, though, didn’t develop into something more until much later in my life. During one of my journalism jobs I had to take portraits of corporate clients. It was my first encounter with a DSLR and it was wonderful. Consuming. Exhilarating. But it was only when a good friend of mine threw down a promotional flyer on the coffee table and said, ‚Look. You CAN afford a ‚proper’ camera‚ , that something clicked. And it has been clicking since.

It’s a new world ‚ be brave

Encountering a new world can be daunting and overwhelming, but with enough persistence and perspiration you can navigate your way through the unfamiliar territory and conquer it bit by bit. There are loads of books, online tutorials and inspiration out there. Find it, learn from it and adapt it to suit your own personal style and taste. Do your homework thoroughly before thinking of buying either a camera or a specific lens. And do this before you walk into a shop and start talking to a salesman. You should have a clear idea of what type of photography you want to do (people, wildlife, macro, etc.), what type of equipment you need for it and how much you’re willing to spend. The salesman should be able to guide you in terms of prioritising and advise you on different alternatives. I didn’t know much when buying my first camera, but the same friend who threw down the flyer is a former press photographer and a die-hard techie. Quality differences, he explained, are more apparent in entry-level cameras and therefore it is really important to read reviews and compare different models. The more high-end you go, the more it becomes a case of either or. We decided on the Nikon D60 back then and I haven’t looked back for a moment. The two photos here were taken with my D60 and an 18-55mm kit lens. Check out articles like this one from Ken Rockwell, a photographer who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to all the tech stuff. If you’re serious about doing your homework on cameras and lenses ‚ make his site your homepage. Also check out Brian Koping’s articles on How to buy a digital camera on the Gadget website. So, if you’ve been taking pictures your whole life, maybe it’s time to get yourself a camera. Paula Beezhold is a location photographer who specialises in wedding and portrait photography. Visit her website at www.paulabphotography.co.za or contact her on 072 238 7804 to book a shoot.

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