digital photography tools


Like sewing tools, digital photography tools are easy to come by.  Harder though, is to make the choice about which tool will suit you best.  It's important to remind the aspiring photographer that it's important to acquire the basics, the best that you can afford in terms of lens', cameras, gear and software.  There is ultimately nothing that will guarantee a great photograph.  Though tools will make your job easier, it ultimately boils down to know how.  Practice what you learn and you will hone your skill.  Always seek out a new equipment and you are avoiding the work that will make you a better photographer.



Nikon and Canon are believed by many amateurs and professionals alike to be the top cameras on the market today and to be about equivalent, give or take some slight variations.  Though there are many out there who choose cameras with lesser names but that have also been around for many years and are also capable of producing great photos.  My college photography teacher swore by his Pentax camera but he also used a Nikon.  Whatever brand you choose:

  • Buy the newest model you can afford
  • Go for the full frame sensor but don't worry too much if you can't afford it.  Beautiful photographs can be captured with crop sensors too.
  • Worry more about what lens you get over what type of camera but make sure you can get the full advantage of your lens' on your camera and vice versa by choosing the newest versions of each


Canon EF 50mm 1.2L prime lens

Canon EF 50mm 1.2L prime lens

Canon EF 100mm 2.8L prime lens

Canon EF 100mm 2.8L prime lens


Choosing a lens is at least if not more important than choosing the camera body.  The kit lens that typically comes with a camera is not a desirable lens that you would ever choose to buy individually. My recommendation is to buy a camera body and choose which lens best suits your subject matter.  It will cost you a little more but at the same time when you buy the camera body and kit lens package you are in fact paying for the kit lens, a lens that won't do your photographs any favors.  

There are so many lens' out there it can be hard to decide which lens will meet your needs.  There are a few considerations.

Fixed or prime lens' do not zoom.  But they are used by more professionals than the average amateur.  They simply require the photographer to move in relation to her subject.  And personally I feel like I have more control over my scene and subject this way.  However, the nature photographer might have cause to be far away from their subject and photograph up close at the same time, when photographing a bear for example in the wild.  I tend to shoot products, objects and children.

50MM lens' are considered to be very close to real life in terms of the images they produce.  Though there are a variety of qualities of lens' generally the more expensive the lens the better the quality.  Better quality lens' have more glass in the lens as well as better quality glass and this can also make better lens' heavier.  And the better lens' generally produce a more beautiful bokeh. Bokeh refers to the blur of the background. Better quality lens' have a rounder and softer bokeh and lesser quality (but still perfectly adequate and attractive othewise) lens' have a sharper less blended blur.

85mm lens' are considered ideal portrait lens' because they allow the photographer to be at the ideal distance while still framing the subject nicely, without the distortion that can occur when a zoom lens is either too close or too far away from the focus.  

Honestly, I purchased my 100mm macro lens because I wanted good quality macro lens.  The focal distance didn't matter so much to me, though I did want to go with what was recommended and better macro photos come from longer lens'.

35mm lens' and below are considered wide lens' and are great for getting group shots and nature photos where capturing a wider view of a view for example would make a better image.


A lens with a f1.2 aperture means that it will have a very shallow depth of field (or a small radius of focus).  This is great when you would like to highlight your subject and blur the background and not when you need a greater depth for nature shots or shots where a few people or objects are at different depths and need to all be in focus.  Check out the image of my daughter. Just this morning I took a picture of my 2 year old's fuzzy bed hair and was able to completely eliminate some of the cluttered background of my house just by choosing an f1.2 aperture. However, notice that the edge of her face and back of her head are blurry also.  It's always a challenge when taking pictures of children because the photographer often needs to act quickly. It's not always easy for me to get my focus precisely arranged before my child is off and running again.  So, while f1.2 will blur the background in actuality it blurs everything at a very short radius from the focal point.  Focusing on her eye would have brought the face into focus and been a better photograph.  Although f1.2 blurs very strongly, f1.4, 1.6, 1.8 and 2 are still low enough to generally produce a nice blur. Experiment with your cameras settings to see what you can come up with.  


Contrary to amateur opinion, shooting in manual mode does not mean you are a real photographer.  Actually, the priority modes, aperture priority, shutter priority and program mode are used by professionals and amateurs alike.  These modes prioritize a particular setting and keep it at wherever you set it and adjust the other complimentary settings (shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together to produce correct exposure) automatically (though some cameras don't adjust ISO automatically meaning the photographer needs to set ISO manually as needed) to produce a correct exposure.  


The shutter speed refers to the length of time the shutter is open to expose the sensor to the light outside the camera. Shutter speeds under 200 don't capture motion and if your shutter speed dips below the length of your lens even your hand movements and breathing can cause blur.  However 200 will not capture fast motion so when I want to guarantee a sharp motion shot I go above 500 and often higher depending on the motion I want to capture, how sharp I want it and how fast the subject is moving.


ISO refers to the sensitivity of your sensor.  It's another control option the photographer has at their disposal to manipulate the light exposure in their camera.  The three controls of aperture, shutter speed and ISO can be adjusted as a triad to get the perfect light exposure and stop motion for your photograph.  Sensitivity generally ranges from 100 to 1600 though more expensive and newer cameras are increasing this range both under 100 and above 1600 without compromising quality.  Some cameras allow ISO to be adjusted up to 25000 and some still higher.  Though there is still a grainy quality when using ISO at really high numbers there are adjustments that can be done in post production and sometimes we have to sacrifice image quality to get the image at all.  Newer and more expensive cameras are offering automatic ISO adjustment in addition to the manual option.  Automatic mode greatly decreases the time it takes to get the settings right to get a great photograph.  Where quick work is necessary, when photographing little people, pets and animals, is when I value this feature the most.


external flash

The external flash or speedlight gives greater and broader light to your subject.  I highly recommend using one.  There's a lot of talk on the internet about whether a generic flash or a flash designed for your camera is best and honestly, though I chose the brand name model, many amateur's who produce beautiful and effective images, are completely satisfied with their generic versions. 



Knowing how to light your subject might be the single most important aspect of getting a great photograph whether using the sun outdoors or creating your own light indoors.  There is too much to explain here but a few general ideas to keep in mind are:


Direct   sun     light

  • Direct sun light produces a dramatic difference between the highlights and the shadows in the photograph


  • If you can fine some shade it makes for a good diffused lighting source


diffused external   & window light

  • I enhanced the window light with an external light through a translucent panel which gave more definition to the light

Direct window light

  • Window light can be a very effective light because shadows are appreciable but not to dramatic

pure diffused window light

  • Diffused light, light that passes through a translucent panel can produce a soft very even glowing light


  • Bounced light from a speedlight works best off a white ceiling or wall.  You can experiment with which directions to point your flash for various lighting emphasis on your subject.  But it creates a softer illumination than pointing the speedlight directly at the subject (by the same token a harsh light be it sun or an indoor light that is pointed directly at the subject will be harsh and produce strong shadow and sometimes this is desirable and okay and sometimes not - you be the judge!).

post production software

While there