In response to a recent small flurry of questions about the equipment I use, here’s a quick romp through my favourite kit and the reasons I like it. I should begin by saying that I am completely unqualified to offer anything other than a personal opinion – I do not own so much as a Brownie badge in photography or paper craft, and am baffled by most things digital (I am awaiting eagerly the time that Harry hits his technological stride at about 6yrs old and can fix and demystify everything for me…). Still, they’re the bits and bobs I rely on, so read on if your interest is piqued. Where I’ve linked to stockists, it’s primarily for information, and I’ve chosen them fairly randomly; if you’re looking to buy I’d shop around for the best deal.
My camera, which tolerates a great amount of abuse, was a Canon 450d – I chose it 7yrs ago because when debating the question of Canon vs Nikon, I was repeatedly told that Canon was more intuitive for amateurs (the sales assistants obviously sensed my limitations within moments). Whether or not this is true, I love my camera and it’s been reliable and awesome from Day 1. For Christmas 2012, my wonderful husband gave me the upgraded 600d; but the single biggest change to my photos came much later when I invested in a 50mm fixed lens with a very low f/stop; it allows you to create a very shallow depth of field so that people and objects really leap out of the frame and the background melts away in a lovely blur, as in the pics above. The effect is called ‘bokeh’ and you can read much more about it, with some other good lens recommendations, here. These lenses don’t come cheap – they can be more than the camera itself – but if Great Aunt Susan dies peacefully in her sleep and leaves you a vast legacy, I’d suggest popping one on your shopping list.
1. Canon EOS 450D/600D, 2. Canon 50mm lens, entry level or pro, 3. I have one of these wrist-straps and it’s invaluable when juggling a camera, a child and an ice-cream etc.. and 4. An inexpensive but super-useful lens cleaning brush
My camera came with a free DSLR bag, but I soon got sick of lugging it everywhere in addition to a nappy bag or handbag (sometimes all 3; when combined with the sartorial devastation caused by new motherhood, I’m surprised that people didn’t toss coins at me as I shuffled through the park..). I looked at stylish camera bags but the loveliest of these tended to run into £100s. Then I realised that I was trying to find a camera bag that looked as good as a handbag, and common-sense struck; after some thought, I trimmed all the exterior pockets and flap off the camera bag and now simply tuck it into whatever handbag or tote I’m using that day; it looks much cooler and lessens the risk of me leaving bags behind wherever I go. And it’s a great way of converting a nappy/diaper bag once you no longer need it too. Amazon has DSLR bags in its ‘basics’ range for under £10.
I do a lot of paper crafts on the blog, and often have printables to download like these superhero cuffs. A common question is how to get the same vibrancy of colour when using a regular home printer. My printer is an Epson Photosmart 1400 (now replaced by the 1500 below which is the same with a few extra bells and whistles). I wanted a printer that would print in large format, and it does – beautifully – though it takes up a fair amount of desktop space and the ink cartridges are expensive. Epson inks are repeatedly described in the creative community as having the greatest colour intensity, and they certainly seem to deliver the goods.
Here’s the thing though; the biggest difference I see is in the paper I use; basic copy paper produces an acceptable but rather dull print-out as you see below left, whereas choosing professional-grade paper (I use HP matte) produces terrific vibrancy without changing any of the settings – the straightforward like-for-like comparison shows you the difference. The paper is more expensive, as you’d expect – but still much cheaper than upgrading your printer. I use it for craft projects and then switch to basic paper when printing emails etc.
So there we have it; my kitbag preferences and passions, for what they’re worth. If you have other favourites or have had different experiences, do feel free t0 share in the comments below. I’m also starting to think about a my-first-camera for Harry who is becoming fascinated with both sides of the lens; my inclination is to charge up my old pocket-sized Sony Cybershot and encourage him to have a play, but I’d love to hear if you’ve helped to grow a child’s enthusiasm for taking photos; any tips or hints? I look at the dedicated plastic ‘kids’ cameras and recoil slightly at what seem to be inflated prices mostly for the character branding - but I could be completely misguided. All advice welcome!
Have a great week…