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Old 08-26-2012, 02:45 PM   #1
Maddie2
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Camera Selection Help - Senior Pictures

Hello everyone. I am a novice when it comes to taking photos, but I do love to do it. We have a son who will be a senior this year and I am thinking about purchasing a better camera so that I can take his outdoor photos on my own. I figure why pay someone $500 or more to take pictures I can take - and then I have that $500 to upgrade my camera! I am thinking it would be good to buy something I can add to as time goes by (lenses, etc). I am not tech savvy, so keep that in mind.

We live in a picturesque area near some beautiful lakes - especially gorgeous when the trees start to change colors. I've taken Christmas card photos of the family in the past and have received some good comments from card receivers. So, I am thinking, I CAN DO this! His outdoor senior photos will mostly be used in collage form on his announcement.

We will likely take him to an area photographer for a few indoor shots though, so there will still be a photography expense.

I currently have two Kodak Z612's. They no longer make them, but you can google it to see what it is. From an ebay explanation:

The 6-megapixel KODAK EASYSHARE Z612 Zoom Digital Camera is a compact camera boasting a 12X SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON optical zoom lens with Kodak's image stabilization technology for sharp shots and steady videos. The camera's easy-to-use performance features include a 2.5" display, PASM modes, auto-image enhance, on-camera cropping, histogram and advanced video designed to help aspirational photographers take better pictures with sharper detail.The EASYSHARE Z612 camera records TV-quality video, up to 30 frames per second (fps) using advanced MPEG-4 compression. Built-in image stabilization technology reduces on-screen shaking from unintentional hand and camera movement. The camera also offers an optical zoom feature for video including auto focus. And it is simple to select any frame in a video, then save and print it as a "freeze frame" still picture in just seconds.

I love this camera and use it often. I bought the first one new in 2004 for $280 and then a used one a couple of years ago for around $100. The first one is "mine" and the other is shared among other family members. It might be good enough for what I want to do, and if you think so, please let me know. I wouldn't mind saving that $500 for a vacation .... oh, yeah, then there's college for DS too...

TIA!


Addition: While I love the camera I have, if I bought a new camera, I would like something that would allow me to take good photos of our kids from a distance. They are in band and when they perform on a football field, my little camera does not take good shots from the stands. I want to be able to see their faces and hands, not just their bodies. How much of a zoom do you need for that? Thanks!

Last edited by Maddie2; 08-26-2012 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 02:53 PM   #2
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I would get an entry level DSLR from Nikon or Canon with a 85mm f1.8 lens.
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:32 PM   #3
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From what I can see, your camera has a 35-420mm equivilent lens. There are a few bridge cameras with 750mm+ equivilents that would get you twice as close.

I'm thinking more of night time photography with band on a field, then low light would be more important and the Panasonic FZ-200 wih a bright fixed aperature f/2.8 zoom would do better overall despite a more limited zoom range.

As far as senior pictures, I'm not so sure. 90% of photography is skill and the rest is equipment. Although as much as I think the $650 Sony RX100 is, I would still immediately fire a photographer that only showed up with one at my child's wedding. Unless your child is so blown away at a few pictures of them from a few years ago, and just wants more updated ones, I would not DIY.

Since this is a Disney forum, why not do a photopass session at one of the resorts
http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/digit...tos.htm#resort
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:41 PM   #4
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For the football field the 70-200m F4 zoom would be nice or simply something in the 200mm or higher range....
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:45 PM   #5
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There is a lot more to getting great pictures than what camera you use. It's like getting a haircut. Sure, I can use scissors but if I cut my own hair it's going to look like I took a weedeater to it because I don't have the knowledge and experience to do it. I'm not saying you shouldn't shoot the senior pictures yourself, it can be a lot of fun. I'm just saying you won't get professional results just because you use a certain camera. The camera is just a tool, the photographer gets the shot.


As far as what camera.... make a list of features you want. dpreview.com is a great place to go for information on various models. You can't go wrong with any DSLR on the market right now, and there some mirrorless and advanced point & shoots that are nearly as capable as entry level DSLRs.
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SplashMo View Post
For the football field the 70-200m F4 zoom would be nice or simply something in the 200mm or higher range....
From what I can see, the OP's camera is a fairly respectable 420mm f/4.8 at full zoom. But it does have the small (12x smaller than APSc PnS) sensor.
A crop DSLr would only be like a 320mm equivilent. Although the DSLr would be much more "cropable"
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hakepb View Post
From what I can see, the OP's camera is a fairly respectable 420mm f/4.8 at full zoom. But it does have the small (12x smaller than APSc PnS) sensor.
A crop DSLr would only be like a 320mm equivilent. Although the DSLr would be much more "cropable"
The super zooms out right now stomp DSLR's in terms of reach unless you have several thousand to spend on lenses.
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:37 PM   #8
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If you want the ability to add lenses as time goes by, you need a dslr or mirrorless. Such cameras will also give you a lot of reach in terms of landscape photography.
But without spending a lot of extra money on an extra lens, you won't get great zoom out of the box.
The best compact cameras are very capable all around, but overall quality is often inverse to zoom. Some compacts have amazing super zoom, but they are not the best overall performing cameras. The superior quality cameras often have more limited zoom capability.

To the extent that Zoom is very important to you, you may need 200-300 mm zoom.

If you have the money to invest, your best bet would probably be a mirrorless or dslr, with the standard included lens, and then also a zoom lens. (a70-200mm addon)
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Old 08-26-2012, 05:34 PM   #9
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For portrait work I like to use a DSLR with 85mm f1.8 lens. My second choice would be the much more expensive 70-200mm f2.8. And my third choice would be a 50mm f1.8.

It would be expensive but I would perhaps prefer the 85mm f1.4 ...

These are all DSLR lenses. The SONY NEX-5 mirrorless is also a great camera but the 70mm lens is very expensive...

I am considering the SONY NEX-5 with the 18-55 lens to complinment my DSLR with the 85mm f1.8. Then I would not need to change lenses...

For portraits you could also use the SONY NEX-5 with 18-55 lens. The background will not blur much if at all... However it will take excellent pictures if the background is nice....

For pictures take them outside during the first or last hour of day light. This is a time called the golden hour and gives you the simplist lighting scenario. Inside pictures under inside lighting are hard to get right...

for information presented in a very straight forward manner see www.kenrockwell.com
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Old 08-26-2012, 06:32 PM   #10
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Thank you all for your recommendations. I can't say that I completely understand some of the language - but I think I'll figure it out once I start doing a bit more research and shopping. I really appreciate each of you taking the time to respond.

DS and I are going out to a nearby lake tomorrow to do some test shots with my existing camera. We'll see how that goes and go from there. There is a particular place that will be really gorgeous come mid-October or so - beautiful trees reflecting on a lake, railroad tracks, some old buildings and an area with falls. We've taken some there before and been really pleased - usually around 5pm or so in the fall. Beautiful skies/semi-sunset, etc. For now, we'll do a trial run. As PP said, "simplest lighting scenarios" - will be my best bet, and getting DS out the door at sunrise is not likely. School starts Tuesday and he'll want that last day of sleeping in.

As I mentioned, we will most likely go to a photographer for indoor photos. My DH does have a studio at his workplace that we could use (he does in-house corporate video and knows lighting), so we might try that - but I still think we'll need to go to a professional for some. We'll see.

Another PP mentioned that photography is only 10% equipment - which makes me actually feel better about the process. I come from a creative background and my experience is that if you take 'enough' photos, you're bound to get some good ones. If not, keep trying (as long as your subject cooperates).

As far as the band photos go, I will either need a different camera - or just find a parent who has a good camera and ask them/pay them to take some of our kids. Might be easier for now.

BTW, gave DS a haircut yesterday and he loves it. I'm not a stylist, but have been doing his hair for about a year.

Thanks again!
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Old 08-26-2012, 08:08 PM   #11
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You want to look for even shade. Watch out for shade that has some light coming through. The light will be blotchy on the picture. Also look for racoon eyes where the eyes are not visible do to dark shadows. You may need to stay and take pictures for two hours to get the timing right... Currently for Seattle the 6:00-6:30 time frame is working well....

The SONY NEX 5 with the 18-55 is an excellent every day camera. Also is the Canon S95 or S100 which is smaller but still very capable...
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Old 08-27-2012, 12:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maddie2 View Post
Another PP mentioned that photography is only 10% equipment - which makes me actually feel better about the process. I come from a creative background and my experience is that if you take 'enough' photos, you're bound to get some good ones. If not, keep trying (as long as your subject cooperates).
Yes, but unlike many other creative fields photography has a lot of science in it. And then there's the editing that is an integral part of photography. You need both the tech and the art to make a great photograph. Not that you can't get lucky once in a while without one, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

Keep in mind a lot of this advice comes from the perspective of those writing it. Some of us are or have been profesional photographers. And like I said, you're not going to get high quaity professional images without some know how no matter what camera you use. But you may not need that to make you happy anyway. I've seen senior pictures shot by parents that make me cringe because of the glaring technical mistakes but the parents who took them think they are the greatest pictures ever. All they see is thier kid and not that the focus is off here or the exposure is wonky there. It's all subjective.
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Old 08-27-2012, 11:49 AM   #13
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I've seen senior pictures shot by parents that make me cringe because of the glaring technical mistakes but the parents who took them think they are the greatest pictures ever.
And that's what it is all about really. Getting the pics that you like and enjoy is what photography is all about.

I think that it's a great idea that you want to invest in a camera. When picking your camera, there are many good options to choose from. Nikon, Canon, Sony etc all have great selections. Like others have said, read some reviews to decide what you want based on what you are looking for. Then head to a store to pick up and play with those cameras to see what feels best in your hands.

Unless you want to be a professional photographer and want to get paid, don't worry too much about every in and out, post processing, picking up tons of lenses right off. You will be surprised how much of an improvement a DSLR is over the point and shoot that you have just on the auto settings and right out of the camera. The lens that comes with the camera and a 50mm or 85mm "prime" as stated previously should be enough for your needs. You can invest in a "good" zoom later on.

If you get a prime lens (50mm f1.8), indoor photo's will improve as well.
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:03 AM   #14
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Just adding my 2 cents...

If you want to get into photography, by all means, do it. It can be a great activity.

But don't do it to avoid paying for professional senior pictures. You'll end up spending a lot more than $500 anyway on equipment, if you really get into it. And if you want the same caliber of senior photos you'd get from a pro, you're talking about investing a ton of time to get up to speed quickly, too.

The thing about photography is it's not about the gear... except that particular pieces of equipment are used to achieve particular results. If you're not sure what gear to use when, it doesn't matter how good your equipment is. On the other hand, if you ARE knowledgeable enough to know what bits of equipment you need to get certain results.... you're probably going to want to spend way more than $500 to get those results.

Like that blurred background? Need a lens with a wide aperture. Want to make sure your son's nose doesn't get overemphasized and look too big in the pics? Need a telephoto. Catchlights in the eyes? Off-camera flash or reflector or positioning in a way that natural light "catches" the eyes. Fill in harsh shadows? Off-camera flash or reflector. Oh, and maybe a gel for that flash, too, to match the color temperature of the sunset light. And then of course an editing program, to pull it all together in post-processing.....

Not trying to discourage you at all. Just trying to point out--there is a LOT to learn. It's highly unlikely you'll get the same caliber shots yourself as a pro. Maybe that it is okay with you and your son! If so, that is fine. Just be realistic about the fact that they're not going to be the same. If you're both okay with that, no biggie.
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Old 08-28-2012, 09:15 AM   #15
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Maybe that it is okay with you and your son! If so, that is fine.
You know what? It is. And, I think a lot of people are realizing the same thing. As wonderful as professional photos are, spending so much just isn't in the equation with college costs looming. Just trying to save where we can and DS doesn't really care. He'd probably be fine with not doing them at all, but I'm not.

As I mentioned, it has always been in the plan to go to a photographer for some indoor shots and these are the photos that will go in the yearbook, give to the grandparents, etc.

The photos I will take will be used primarily in the announcement/invitation in collage form. So, think of a 4x6 card with 3 photos and the Open House time, address, etc. None of the photos will be very big.

I had 2 semesters of photography in college and though it was years ago and cameras have changed, I have at least a clue of what I'm getting myself into.

It'll all work out just fine. Thanks again for your thoughts!
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