Price doesn't matter

My wife was tidying up her desk area the other day and plopped something on my desk saying, "I guess you don't need this anymore." It was the carryall for floppy disks I used at the newspaper I worked at around 1990. It made me think how much simpler (I didn't say better), photography was back then.

I'm teaching a class at the local arts center called "How to get the most out of your digital camera," This semester I have twelve students. Eleven of them own advanced DSLR's. Only one or two had ever used them out of the Auto mode.

In my early days of photography, and I'm only talking about 40 years ago, you had about five options: type of film, ASA ( the old ISO) of film, aperture, shutter speed and focal length. Our company recently purchased a Nikon D7000 digital camera. It has hundreds of options.

No wonder new DSLR owners are confused and intimidated. They spend hundreds of dollars or more on a DSLR system and then put it on AUTO and expect to be the next (your favorite photographer goes here). They seem to think that there are some secret settings they haven't discovered that will make better photos, instead of learning the photography basics, such as light, exposure and depth of field.

Sometimes simpler is better. The first thing I tell students in class is to read the camera manual. Most have not to that point. I tell them to find a quiet spot, and cozy up with their camera and manual. Start by learning what all the buttons do on the outside of the camera before you start looking at the menus. The camera manual itself can be intimidating. The D7000’s has 326 pages.

Most photographers I know use three modes: manual, aperture priority and shutter priority. Everything else is fine-tuning. But you still have to learn the basics, such as how the ISO, shutter speed and aperture are interrelated. But they don't really need to know how to use the intervalometer yet, just know what it is and that it’s there. The same holds true for dozens of other features.

But I really can’t blame the camera manufacturers for all these features. Every photographer uses their camera in a different manner and it’s nice to be able to pick and choose the settings for the picture you envision.

The problem I see, as it is with most Americans, is that they want the latest and best. Many of the cameras purchased will always be way in advance of the user. There are so many good, intermediate cameras that can produce awesome pictures, without breaking the bank.

Ultimately, it’s the person with the camera in their hands that makes the difference. To use a racing analogy – it’s not the car, it’s the nut behind the wheel.

Enjoy the photo, taken today. Canon G9, manual, 1/250th at f8 with 200 ISO, close-up function on.