Let’s Talk Photography, Part 1: Taking the Plunge

photography - taking the plunge

NOTE: This post was originally published on the blog “Simply Horse Crazy”, by Mary Coleman, on August 24th, 2013. She also took many of the photos included, except where credited otherwise. Huge thanks to Mary for letting us repost her series here!

I’ve been promising a post on photography for quite awhile now, but it’s taken me a little while to commit to such a task. This is going to be a series of posts in several parts, starting with the very basics and working its way for me to eventually talk about some tips when it comes to photographing horses. I’ll try my very best to make sure this makes sense and is easy to follow. As a disclaimer, I’m not a professional and I learn new things every day. I’m simply doing this because:

1) I’ve been asked quite a few times to do so and

2) I enjoy photography and can definitely cover at least the basics. Fair enough?

With that covered, let’s begin, shall we?

photography - taking the plunge

PAS vs. dSLR

If you aren’t particularly familiar with cameras, then you may be thinking “PAS? dSLR? Huh?! What is she talking about?!”

It’s cool, don’t freak…it’s fairly simple, and I’ll explain.

In the most basic sense, in the world of film-less photography (I did once take a class on film photography…it was fun but a whole heck of a lot of work!), if you own a camera you either own what is called a “Point-and-shoot (PAS)” or a “digital single lens reflex (dSLR)“. Technically, there are also “ultra-zoom” cameras out there, but they are basically point-and-shoots with a few extra bells and whistles…some people consider them “in between” PAS and dSLR, but I’m not a huge fan.

So what exactly is the difference?

Well, the big difference is in how you view your picture before and as you are taking it. If PAS cameras have a viewfinder (many new models don’t, you just look at the screen to take the shot), you are simply looking out a little window through the body of the camera. This gives you a mostly-accurate idea of what your picture is going to look like.

dSLR cameras are a whole different ballgame, because when you look through the viewfinder it’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kinda deal (assuming you know how to work your camera and you adjusted settings correctly). Light travels through the lens and bounces off a mirror which is reflected off a piece of glass and a prism inside the camera. When the shutter is pressed, the mirror flips and the sensor records the image (or in the case of film photography, the film records the image).

PAS cameras are fully automatic. There are no settings to adjust, except for maybe turning the flash off or not and adjusting the zoom.

dSLR cameras made today have both fully automatic and fully manual options (and even options somewhere in between). If your camera is on auto, then things like shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc. are adjusted by the camera. If your camera is on Manual or on a semi-manual setting, then all those things (or some of them) are adjusted by you. Don’t have a clue what any of those things are? You’ll be happy to know I plan on covering each one (and more!).

My Preferences

My camera is always on Manual…I’m not sure I’ve actually ever used the automatic option on my camera! I think manual is way more fun, and there’s no way I could get the pictures I want on an automatic mode.

I was pretty surprised to find out that there are a number of people out there with nice dSLR cameras who have never taken their camera OFF auto, simply because they don’t know how to use it. If you are one of these people, don’t feel bad! Learning how to use a dSLR can be daunting if you don’t have help. That’s where these posts are going to come in…the goal is to get people playing with their cameras.


What Kind of Camera is Right for Me?

That depends a lot on what you want the camera for. If you just want something to carry around, perhaps to capture moments on a family vacation or the occasional happenings of a birthday party, then you may only want a PAS camera. They are good for those sorts of casual uses.

On the other hand, if you are serious about getting into photography, and want to use your camera as a medium for art (and a whole lot of fun) then take the plunge and buy a dSLR. It’s worth it, I swear.


I won’t get into the whole Canon vs. Nikon debate, because quite frankly, neither is superior, it’s just a personal preference. Also, don’t forget that their are other brands (Sony, Olympus, Pentax), Canon and Nikon just dominate the market.

I’m a Canon girl myself. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T3i and we are the best of friends. But pre-2013, I was often found carrying my mom’s Sony A100 around (because she falls into that group of “auto-only” people). It was a good camera, just an older one.

Personally, I love my camera. It’s more of an entry-level model, but it’s perfect for me right now. Someday I’ll retire my beloved Rebel and purchase a professional model, but that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Choosing a camera is a completely personal choice, so don’t let others “bully” you into a brand. Do your homework and choose the brand and model that is right for you.

But Remember

Still, the camera you choose is only half of the equation. The BIG thing about DSLR cameras is that they have removable lens, in many varieties…but we’ll maybe get into all that a bit later. For the time being we’re going to assume that you have your camera and you have a lens (whatever type it may be), now you just want to understand how to use them.

I’ll get started with that in my next post. 🙂

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