What Camera Should I Buy?

The number one question I get asked the most by aspiring photographer is, what camera should I buy? A lot of people get bogged down when it comes to selecting a camera to buy. So much so, that it delays the process of learning photography.

So what camera should you buy?

The answer is, I don’t know! I don’t know what brand or model you should go for. I don’t know if Canon > Nikon or vice versa. I don’t know any more than a quick google search on what camera should I buy in 2018/2019. But here’s my advice to you;

  • Don’t buy a camera. Use the one you already own. These days, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between a photograph taken by our phone and a photograph taken by a dslr

  • Buy the camera you can afford, right now. You can always sell and upgrade your gear in the future, once you’ve figured out your style and needs.

  • Buy a used camera if you’re on a budget. Its easier to re-sell a used camera for near the same price you bought it for when it’s time to upgrade.

  • Rent or borrow a camera from a friend/store. If you’re not sure that photography is for you. Its best not to fully invest in it. There’s nothing worse than an expensive camera collecting dust on your shelf.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t spend more time and energy researching gear than you do researching/working on new ideas.

Ideas, perspective and execution makes a good photographer. It’s never the gear.

Here are all the cameras I’ve owned in the past 10 yrs with a short description of why I bought them:

  • Casio Exilim EX-Z1000

  • Nikon D90

  • Nikon D610

  • Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

  • Sony A7–3

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000

About ten years ago, I bought my first point and shoot camera; The Casio Exilim EX-Z1000.

All I knew about the camera before purchase, was that it offers a whooping 10 mega-pixels in resolution. Mega-pixels was all I cared about! I thought that the higher the mega-pixels, the better the camera. I don’t remember how much the camera cost, but I do remember that it was the most mega-pixels my budget could buy.

I loved my Casio Exilim. I had no reason to upgrade other than wanting a professional look. Somehow I thought, the bigger the camera, the more the respect. I wanted people to put some respec’ on my name (#birdmanvoice).

Nikon D90

Two years later, I bought my first DSLR; Nikon D90.

All I knew about the camera before purchase, was that Jarry Jartan used it for his photography. I admired his work. I thought that my work would be as good as his, if only I had a similar camera.

I had no experience operating a dslr. The first two photoshoots I did, produced blurry and grainy photographs. I chose not to learn how to use my new camera and reverted back to the point and shoot camera I was more comfortable with. It was not until a year passed, that I decided to finally read the dslr manual and give it another shot.

Nikon D610

Five years later, I bought my second DSLR; Nikon D610.

The reason I made this purchase was because it had a high ISO performance (Performs well in low light conditions). I had noticed that I did a lot of indoor photography in poor lighting conditions, and wanted a camera that would produce quality images making use of natural light only.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Two years later, I bought a used black magic pocket cinema camera (video camera).

The reason I made this purchase was because I needed an entry level professional video camera, it was small enough to fit in my pocket, and that it took amazing video. I was inspired by the likes of Sam Kolder, Jordan Taylor and Matt Komo and the stories they told using video format and thought it was a good idea to start learning video.

The lack of autofocus on the black magic made it very hard for me to produce in focus video whenever I added movements to my shots. I then decided to sell the camera for an extra 10 dollars than what I bought it for(call me the flip king) and continued to use my Nikon D610 for video.

Sony A7 III

A year later, I bought my first mirrorless camera; Sony A7 III.

The reason for this upgrade was strictly because I needed a camera with better video capabilities (including autofocus) and wanted to switch to mirrorless. It was a challenge selling all my Nikon lenses to make the switch, but I managed.

I was still happy with the image quality produced by my Nikon D610 and so I made sure that didn’t give up on resolution (same resolution) and high ISO performance (slightly higher than Nikon D610).

I’ve seen so many photographers spend too much of their time researching gear, and making excuses about how their work isn’t as great because of lack thereof. I hope that you’re inspired to make quicker decisions on what gear to buy and to focus more on your craft than researching for the next latest and greatest.

As a reminder, don’t spend more time and energy researching gear than you do researching/working on new ideas.

Ideas, perspective and execution makes a good photographer. It’s never the gear.

How club photography made me a better photographer

On how I stumbled into photography, I talked about how unprepared I was on my first night as a club photographer, which ultimately led to me bombing that night. I also talk about how i decided to hit the books and learn the tricks of the trade, which then helped me take better club photos. But here’s the thing. See, no matter how prepared I could have been for my first club gig, I still think I would have done a terrible/mediocre job. This is because, club photography must be the toughest kind of photography there is. From having to navigate through a packed scene, to directing your subjects over loud music and dealing with drunk and rude individuals. You can already see why working in these conditions makes other types of photography seem like a breeze.

The three things i learnt as a club photographer which made me a better all around photographer!

Numero uno: Club photography helps you learn/master your camera faster.

In a club setting, you literally have a few seconds to take a photo. This also includes directing your subjects and having them in place. If that photo is no good, you at most have another 2 to 3 seconds to adjust your camera settings to retake the photo. Your recent settings best do the job, because after one retry, it starts to look unprofessional and like a photoshoot. Having to adjust camera settings in such a short period of time, helps you learn the ins and outs of your camera, making you more comfortable with your equipments.

Numero dos: Club photography helps you understand the impact of light on photographs quicker.

Lighting is almost never the same throughout the club, and at times, constantly changing. Photography being all about light, lacking the control of it, makes it very difficult. When one has no control of what the light would look like next, external or camera light meters become useless. You are forced to read ambient light with your own eyes and make the necessary adjustments on your camera. This is a skill that comes with practice, and the club scene allows you to do that.

Numero tres: Club photography helps you learn how to be aware of moments as they happen, and capture them.

Given that you only get one or two shots per person or group, timing is everything. You wont have the luxury of shooting in burst mode and firing multiple flashes to make sure you capture every moment. This forces you to be aware of the environment and your subject as you take your photos. You become more poised as you direct your subjects, and wait for the distractions of people passing by or talking to simmer down, before you take the photos. This will help you take better quality photos, and fix what needs to be fixed during the photoshoot and not in post when its too late.

So, where do you go from here?

It’s hard asking for a job that you lack experience for. So my advice is to contact all the clubs you like, and if that don’t work, contact the clubs you don’t like as well. Due to the lack of portfolio, you probably should volunteer to cover the first night for free, and let the club manager decide whether they would like to keep you as their club photographer or not. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out, that just means, there’s still alot to learn :). Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or wish for advice!

How I stumbled upon photography

It all started during my last year of high-school at Columbia International College. This was around the same time facebook started popping. A dear friend of mine named Aya Ulan used to post beautiful, colorful pictures on her facebook. The kind that in today’s age, you’d ask for what filter she used. At the time, filters weren’t really a thing for most of the general public. So my question towards her, was

What camera did you use to take your photos?

My thoughts were, if I had the same camera she used to take her pictures, I too would have the same results. To my surprise, it had nothing to do with the camera, but everything to do with photoshop’s magic. For those that use photoshop, what Aya simply showed me, was how to use the color balance adjustment tool to tone my pictures. Up until that point, I had no idea that such a powerful software like photoshop existed. This made me curious. I wanted to know what else I could do with photoshop! I wasn’t just going to stop there!

Aya & I at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain

Aya & I at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain

Through online tutorials, I quickly fell in love with photo manipulation. I think I learnt a great deal on navigating around photoshop by doing this. My process was, I’d come up with an idea, then quickly browse through my/friend’s facebook photos looking for one that compliments my idea. I’d then, learn through tutorials the tools i needed to execute the idea and spend about a day, upto three editing the photo. I’d immediately post it after its done and observe the likes and comments pouring in :). Shortly after, friends started begging me to edit their pictures, for they too craved the likes and comments that came with it. Whether the praises were on my profile or theirs, it all fueled me to keep releasing new work. Piece after piece, I’d pick up something new or get faster with editing.

At some point, I started having ideas that lacked a photo to go with for editing. Thats when I decided to invest on a small, cheap point and shoot camera. Not to mention, I was tired of crediting someone else for having taken the photo and wanted to fully own the photo myself. I then started using my small camera to take the photographs that I needed to execute on my ideas. This is how I slowly started getting into photography. Below is a photo manipulation I made for a dear friend of mine named Arsalan. I photographed a series of portraits in different poses with the idea that I was going to transform them from a raging animal to a calm human being.

arsalan-turns-into-lion.jpeg

Time passed, and I decided to get fancy. I asked my mom to buy me a DSLR camera for my birthday, which she did(I love you mum!).

How did I decide which camera to buy, you ask?

I, like many of you!, asked a friend of mine named Jarry Jartan what camera he used, simply because he took amazing photos. I figured, If I get the same camera and lenses he had, it would transform my photography for the better! Boy was I wrong!

Anyways, here I was with a Nikon D90 ready to dominate! I never was the type to read manuals on how to use any piece of gadget I bought. Till today, I’d rather figure it out on my own through trial and error. Not knowing the difference between shooting manual or auto, my camera was on manual mode and most photos I took were out of focus! I also had ISO-sensitivity on, therefore some photos came out with alot of grain at higher ISO. Needless to say, the pictures I took with my D90 were way shittier than my point and shoot, so I quickly switched back to my tiny camera(Oh no you didn’t #withthatattitudevoice).

A year went by and I hadn’t touched my Nikon D90. I thought to myself, if I wasn’t going to use it, I might as well sell it! After some contemplating, I decided to learn how to use my DSLR instead of selling it. In the midst of trying to learn how to use my camera, I discovered the auto feature and thats what I relied upon when taking pictures of friends, up until I started doing club photography.

How did I get into club photography?

A couple friends of mine from university were club promoters and decided to take a chance on me as one of their nightlife photographer. I was a total amateur, with zero experience in event or club photography. I can’t thank Matt Goulet enough for that opportunity. Especially because I totally bombed the first night and he was kind enough to let me go at it another night.

Screwing up my first gig made me realize that I can’t rely on auto settings to always take the pictures I wanted, especially when I’m also using an external flash light that adds its own complexity to the mix. I was so disappointed with myself, and knew that I wasn’t going to get that many chances if I didn’t produce better results.

For the next couple of days, I did my research on club photography, read tones of articles online on what are the optimal camera settings, flash settings, etc for different scenarios. (I think i’ll do a separate blog post and talk about how club photography made me a better photographer). Continuous online learning helped me get better and better, night after night.

 Nightlife Photography for Hype Productions

 Nightlife Photography for Hype Productions

Moving on, fast forward another year or two, during my vacation/visit back home in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania. I got contacted by a friend of mine that does fashion designs, Doreen Estanzia. She took notice of my pictures and asked if I were interested in a collaboration with her. I quickly said yes, because the idea of adding that missing fashion element to my photographs sounded amazing. This was my first shoot where it wasn’t just me and a friend (model). We had designer clothes, a make up artist and two gorgeous friends of mine (models). It was super fun doing this shoot, and most importantly, I learned that such collaborations only elevate my work to different levels.

 Pauline wearing Eskado Bird in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania

 Pauline wearing Eskado Bird in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania

Since then, I’ve always worked on getting better and better, so that I can attract collaboration with better brands, models, wardrobe stylist, hair & make up artist.

Thank you! for reading this article. If you have any questions or comments, am all ears!