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How well do you know your camera?

So you have your camera and you’ve been happily snapping away. But how much do you REALLY know about your camera’s key functions? Take our quiz and find out!

( The quiz was designed to cover key functions which you may find across a range of most popular DSLR and bridge cameras. In some cameras, some of the functions may be hiding under a different name or variations. Sorry we can’t include them all)

How well do you know your camera? Does your camera have no secrets from you or do you know how to make it do exactly what you want it to? Do you know your way around all your buttons and dials, or are the number appearing on your screen filling you with dread? Take our quiz to find out!

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50mm that will transform your children’s photos

This is a blog post I contributed to the fantastic BritMums community.

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I get a lot of questions on which camera to buy from our students. And yes, this is undoubtedly an important choice, especially when you’re switching from compact to an SLR, but when students contemplate going for a higher shelf model ( with a more substantial price tag ) I want to tell them – save your money! Buy an extra lens instead! It will have a vastly greater impact on how your photos turn out!

Your kit lens and my favourite lens

I want to tell you about a lens that I think should be the upgrade to most of your camera kits. It’s my favourite lens too : a 50mm prime lens with aperture F1.8

Ok, decoding from ‘photo-speak’ to human.

If you bought an entry level SLR, chances are it came with what we call a “kit lens”. On its barrel, you should be able to find some numbers, most likely ranging from 18 to 55. This is a zoom lens and the numbers listed tell us about its focal range (stay with me – we’re nearly through with the jargon). I could go into a longer explanation on what focal length stands for but it’s pretty complicated and honestly, that’s what wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focal_length) is for. What you do need to know about focal lengths, is that they will produce different views of your subject. 

 

Zoom lens range

OK, a little experiment:

When you twist your lens down to its least zoomed out self (18mm in the case of a kit lens) and look through the visor at say, your room, you’ll see that you are getting a rather wide view of the room. Actually wider than your eye could take if you were looking without the camera ( you’ll probably need to look left and right to get the same range). The room might also look larger and deeper than it really is ( distances between objects will look exaggerated – favourite trick of all estate agents!). If you try and take a head and shoulders portrait at that focal length , you’ll probably find that your subject’s face is a bit stretched out and looking slightly odd – far from flattering.

Now twist the lens all the way to its other extreme ( 55mm in the case of your kit lens). Look at the very same scene you tried shooting at 18mm. Your field of view is much narrower now and the room is looking kinda smaller. In fact is’s probably looking very close to it’s ‘normal’ self both in terms of comparative distances between objects and in terms of how they look. If you tried to take the same head and shoulders portrait, your subject would look pretty normal too.

That’s why we call the 50mm or 55mm focal length a “standard” – what you see with your bare eyes is what you get through the camera. This makes it perfect for portraits or all round family shots. And it’s also why I would heartily, heartily recommend that your next lens should be a 50mm prime lens.

Prime lens – and why it’s so great

When we say prime lens, we mean that it will not zoom in an out – it will remain the one focal length – 50 mm ( you can get prime lenses in other focal lengths but that’s not the issue here). You can of course adjust the sharpness but if you want the photo to be more of a close-up or a wider scene, your legs will have to do the work instead of the zoom. But since you now know that zooming in and out ( and effectively switching between focal lengths) will have a dramatic effect on the way your photos look, you won’t mind, will you?  The benefits you get instead are great though.

1) you will quickly notice that the quality of your shots is vastly better – everything will seem crisper, sharper, just better defined.

2) you are likely to get a lens with aperture starting from F1.8 which means  you can achieve really dramatic blur in the background and separation between what’s sharp and what’s not in your picture. Think about all those dreamy portraits with twinkly light spots (bokeh) in the background or detail shots of your little ones – tiny feet all sharp whilst the rest of the body is not etc… Also, with the very wide aperture it will bring in a lot of light in all at once which should help you in tricky light situations.

3) it’s a very light lens – much lighter, and often shorter than your kit lens – that’s always a benefit when you’re having to lug around all the baby bits and the camera on top of that

4) it’s pretty inexpensive – for a 50mm f1.8 lens for Canon or Nikon, you’re likely to spend no more than about £70 – £80. I have been reliably told that this is a Santa friendly price tag. For other camera models, you may need to spend a little more – probably between £125 – £200 though you can pick up bargains on ebay occasionally. And yes, you could potentially get the same aperture on a zoom lens, but you may have to fork out £700-£800 instead on that.

Recommended lenses

Our favourite prime lenses for Nikon and Canon are those two:

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II Lens

Nikon AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Lens

You can of course buy the more expensive, pro versions of these lenses but if you’re only just starting your photographic adventure, these will last you for a long time before you start contemplating an upgrade.

And below, just a few examples of what this lens can help you achieve, especially with kids photography:

Your camera’s best friend

Your camera’s best friend is your camera bag. It needs to do just one job – keep the camera, the lens ( or lenses) and other accessories safe and snug and resistant to bangs, bashes, drops and biscuit crumbs. And for most part, this is where the camera producers have stopped when it comes to making them and the vast majority of camera bags are black, nylon and 10 shades of ugly. Recognise this ? black camera bag

Luckily, with increasing numbers of female photographers, I’m seeing more and more brands embracing the style as well as functionality and there have been some gorgeous designs coming out from companies like Epiphanie, JoTotes or Cheeky Lime. Their camera bags look like stylish purses and handbags with the added benefit of being designed to fit the camera in. I tend to leave their websites open on my hubby’s laptops and tablets around the time of my birthday or Christmas but the hints remain unanswered as yet 🙁

 

Here are a few beauties I’ve had my eye on for a while now – no black monstrosities in sight! These are sold by a UK firm Cosy Cameras who specialise in feminine camera bags (this BTW is a completely honest endorsement – I am receiving not a penny or for this!)

palermo-almond-frontT ketti-chevron-frontT Epiphanie Lola Red FrontT cheeky lime frontT

The downside to their beauty is as with everything – their price. Though some are more affordable than others, on the whole expect to pay from around £90 upwards.

For the more budget conscious of us, you may want to hack your way to a cool camera bag. I would recommend buying a padded, separate camera insert which you can then pop into another bag that you already own. These are altogether more affordable – you can pick one up from around £7-£10. I would recommend getting one that fits snuggly inside the bag you want to use – you don’t want it knocking about too much. Depending on how your bag closes, you may also want to get one that has an additional flap or a draw-string top to keep it safe from the elements ( the elements being potentially your kids, pets, squished raisins and the aforementioned biscuit crumbs).

baginsert3 camera bag insert1 bag insert 4

 

So there you go – no reason at all not to give your camera a stylish home! And with a great bag, there’s simply no excuse not to go out and shoot more!

Enjoy!

Ania x