Gear envy is something that doesn’t go away for some people, I used to be that way too. The need to constantly upgrade your camera is typically a symptom of a much larger issue: the desire for better image quality. For the most part, you can elminate the need for a new camera body with a simple rethinking of the way you use your current camera.
How to get the most out of your current camera?
If you’ve read me on social media, on this blog, or really anywhere else you know I’m a big proponent of the fact that most cameras (even iPhones) are amazing imaging tools vs. what we had available to us just a few short years ago.
So basically what I’m saying in the simplest terms are: you probably have a camera that’s good enough and capable enough of creating some magic — the only thing lacking now is some imagination and skill.
Learn Your Camera’s Shortcomings
All cameras have weaknesses. The cheaper cameras usually have weaknesses in a few areas:
Low Light Sensitivity – Usually, a camera on the lower end of the spectrum is not going to be as good in low light. Depending on what you are wanting to shoot, this can be a big problem or not a problem at all. For storms I think it’s basically in the middle, for the most part you won’t have an issue in most every situation with most every camera.
Helpful Features – Items like focus peaking, zebras, etc. are must haves for video pros, but a lower level camera won’t have those sorts of things. They help the shooting process become easier, but aren’t fully essential.
Zoom Focal Lengths – Some camcorders you can’t change this, interchangeable lens cameras you can. But knowing what lenses you own is critical to knowing how to shoot whatever it is you are shooting. For instance, if you are wanting to shoot structure but don’t own a super wide angle lens, you probably don’t want to be very close to storms approaching you.
In short, learning what your camera can’t do will set you on a path to learning what your camera CAN do well.
Getting to know your camera will mean the difference between shooting great material with what some ‘pros’ may see as a camera beneath them or just shooting average material.
There are a few ways to ensure you get the most out of your camera outside of simply knowing what it can’t do.
Shoot in Raw – For photos, shoot in RAW. That opens up your camera’s full possibilities. It’s about to be 2016, this is no longer a debate.
Shoot Fully Manual – Learn how to shoot fully manual. That includes manual focus and manual exposure. This will allow you to maximize your lens sharpness, your depth of field, and so much more.
Don’t Just Start Shooting, Read the Manual – Another ‘manual’ tip. Read your camera’s manual to discover oftentimes well hidden features. Mastering every aspect of your camera’s feature set will make shooting easier and oftentimes enhance your image quality by enabling important tools like an on-screen histogram (read: its magical).
Learn Everything You Can About Photo Composition – Perhaps most important is when you are actually shooting images, learn how to frame up your photos in ways that make them instantly appealing. Technical things like noise and even slight mistakes in exposure go away quickly if the framing is on point and the subject interesting. Speaking of…
Shoot Great Skies – There’s a whole book which could be written on how to do this, but some skies are better than others and will lead to instantly better scenes. The best way to put this is that finding the best skies is an art form in and of itself, and sometimes nature makes the capturing great visuals quite easy.
All in All Go Shoot
The best way to become a great photographer or videographer is to simply go shoot the world around you. I oftentimes take photo trips at least a couple of times a month and I shoot dozens to hundreds of images.
These trips have helped me refine my craft and work to creating better imagery. If you want to take better photos, the best way to do that is to take more photos and then study why some images look great and others don’t.