After a year of high tension, BoomerCafé is offering up not just fresh stories, but some of our “best of” pieces from the past.
This story originally published in January, 2021. Thanks to cellphones, we’re all photographers now. But how good can cellphone photos actually be? If the pictures you take give you some satisfaction, just imagine how much better they could be. BoomerCafé’s co-founder and publisher David Henderson has always been an enthusiast— among other things, images are his domain on BoomerCafé— so his advice is good advice if you want to step up what you shoot.
If there ever were a time to take up photography as a hobby (or profession), I believe it’s now. We’ve seen a coming together of all the elements for photography, and it’s exciting to watch: a proliferation of excellent cameras of all sizes and prices; computers with excellent screens for editing and viewing; photo editing software ranging in price from free to reasonable; and, a global online society captivated by imaginative, creative images.
It all spells… fun!
The spark for this story came to me when a friend asked for some ideas about taking up photography as a hobby. I’ve loved taking photos for decades… ever since my teenage years… and love it when others get excited about it too.
Let’s begin with cameras. While there are many excellent digital cameras available, I prefer Fujifilm’s “X” series for many reasons. They are lightweight, which is a huge advantage when traveling. Fuji cameras are beautifully crafted and use a great image sensor called “APS-C” for spectacular images.
I use the Fujifilm X-T2. Even though it debuted only a few years ago, it’s a classic. I would not be hesitant to suggest buying a used X-T2 (or any other camera) from BHPhoto.com or KEH.com, two online companies where experts inspect cameras, and offer a guarantee.
I strongly suggest window-shopping online and reading a variety of camera reviews before selecting a brand. It will save headaches and money down the road.
Alik Griffith, a professional photographer in Japan, is also a Fuji user and offers a couple of practical tips:
You don’t need the latest and greatest new camera. Save a ton of money and buy the previous generation or even a used version. As people, we are temped to wait until we have the best stuff or the perfect setup before we even start on a new hobby. That’s no longer necessary with today’s high quality cameras.
Don’t load up on big heavy gear that’s difficult to lug around. Having smaller and lighter gear will make the process more fun and you’ll likely bring your camera along a lot more.
Brand name lenses, like Fuji- or Canon-made, have outstanding quality and auto-focus but they are staggeringly expensive. If your budget permits Fuji lenses, use them. But, there’s a fun alternative for a whole lot less money. Check out auto-focus lenses by Tokina and Viltrox that earn outstanding ranks for quality. Also, take a look at lenses from Meike, Samyang, and 7Artisans. They are manual focus, but that’s easy to learn. And, they range in price from $59 to $249. Quality and sharpness is stunning.
Protect your camera and lenses with a good camera bag. Personally, I like Think Tank camera bags, but there are others just as good.
Now the most important part: learn about “RAW” digital images, which means, images that capture all the data without compressing it. JPG, which you probably know from the photos you take on your cellphone, is a compressed format of digital photo, and because of that, there are some limitations in quality. RAW, on the other hand, is an uncompressed photo where the Red, Blue, and Green color channels are separated to ultimately produce the best possible photo quality. So, regardless on what digital camera you get, make sure it takes both the standard JPG and RAW photos.
It may sound crazy to those who understand, but I have my Fuji X-T2 cameras set to record both RAW and JPG images simultaneously. That equals a whopping 60MG for a single picture. Quality is the reward.
Camera memory cards today have huge capacity ,so it’s easy to instantly snap a photo in both JPG and RAW. I suggest buying 64GB Sandisk, Transcend, or Lexar cards for about $18 each.
It may sound mundane but also learn about battery life of any camera you select. If you are out for a day of photography, you will want a camera that takes at least 300 photos per battery charge. But thankfully, the price of spare batteries, like memory cards, has become reasonable.
I download and store all photos, organized by day and location, on a main external hard drive connected to my computer. The cost of Western Digital, Seagate, and G-Technology external storage drives has become reasonable.
Many photographers these days use mobile apps to edit photos. Lightroom Mobile Darkroom is top notch, if your budget permits. I personally use the Snapseed app on my phone and tablet. Best of all, it’s free. On my computer, I use ON1 Photo RAW or Luminar to fine tune images. Both programs are affordable, easy-to-learn, and fun.
Once you become a digital photography enthusiast, there are many places online to display images, such as smugmug.com, Flickr.com, and 500px.com.
The best thing for me about photography is the activity. Whether standing on a street corner as a “street photographer” or exploring a dense forest or hiking mountains or simply snapping pictures of airplanes taking off from a nearby airport… you are active. And, just as good, having fun.