You have a lot of love and passion for photography, and you are constantly clicking with whatever you have — your iPhone camera, your film camera, your point and shoot, etc.
You are browsing the Internet, most probably Flickr, Facebook, or DeviantArt, and you notice some sharp, well-executed photographs.
On checking the EXIF data of the available image, you come to find out that the image was shot using a DSLR.
After this, you start checking the DSLR prices on Amazon or any other online website and decide it is time you buy yourself a DSLR camera and produce great shots yourself; but the real question is — do you actually need one?
I have been into photography for the last 6-7 years and had only recently bought my own DSLR around a year ago. I noticed that many people start their passion for photography with a DSLR (usually a medium-end one).
I’m not sure that it’s something that you should begin with since I believe that getting a DSLR requires some pondering.
Here are some of the things you should consider before emptying your pockets for a DSLR.
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1. Type of Photography
One of the first things to consider when buying a DSLR is the type of photography you practiced. Whether you mostly shoot weddings, or family events, school events, or just at random, the kind of photography dramatically influences the type of camera to use for the purpose.
For example, using the idea of wedding photography, a photographer may be required to film videos as well. Carrying an extra HD video camera would just increase the bulk and hassle. It would be much wiser to use a DSLR that supports HD video recording — such as the Canon EOS 5D MKII and Nikon alternative D700.
Another consideration to be taken into account is the camera’s weight, which includes all the accessories. If a person is a wedding photographer or a travel photographer, they may have assistants carrying the accessories, and thus weight may not be the prime problem.
However, if you are a photojournalist or a war-photojournalist, you would be on the move always. Carrying bulky items would not be the most intelligent, let alone a safe thing to do.
On the other hand, if you photograph family events and take thousands of images every day, do you need an SLR?
I would rather spend on a good Point-and-Shoot camera than spend on an expensive DSLR if the only purpose of my camera is to take photographs of family events and snapshots as I go out with family, friends, relatives, and so on.
2. Professional or Hobbyist
If you are a professional photographer, do you have to have a DSLR? No.
True, being a professional requires you to have equipment worthy of the task at hand, but just because you are a professional does not mean you must work only on the DSLR. In fact, many professionals still rely on 35mm film cameras, albeit the good ones.
How about if you are new to photography, or have just started it, and have caught the photo-bug while indulging in it, do you need the DSLR? The answer is yet again, no.
If you are a professional photographer and want to move into the “digital” age, get yourself a full-frame sensor DSLR camera. Remember, your camera is only as good as you get.
3. Maintenance of a DSLR
Getting a DSLR is no child’s play. It requires your utmost dedication. You don’t just play with it; you have to ensure that the camera is always in perfect condition.
As with other normal Point & Shoot cameras, your DSLR is not just made to stand “shoot and forget” attitudes.
Before each shot, you need to make sure that the lens is clean, the sensor is clean, and that there is absolutely no speck of dust on either of the items.
Owning a DSLR is like owning a car. If you keep it under regular check, it will work best. If not, you would encounter some problems later on with the camera that would cost you.
Now, how exactly can you take care of your precious, expensive DSLR? The answer is to buy a sensor cleaning kit. That would help you clean most of the items: sensor, lens, viewfinder lens, etc. Any dust that lands on the lens or sensor would show up on the final image.
Thus, it is very important for the specks of dust to be cleaned right away — they could also end up scratching your lens or sensor, rendering them useless unless you like extra decorations in your pictures. If you don’t, this means a dent in your wallet.
Dust in the viewfinder will be visible through your viewfinder scope, and even though it is not that dangerous, it is wise to clean the dust to avoid any risks.
This is one of the main factors that determine whether you should get a DSLR or not. The very first thing is to chalk out a budget plan for yourself — including the price of the camera, lenses, and accessories, if any — and see which camera comes in your range.
Once you have a list of potential cameras in your budget range, you should visit a website like dpreviews.com to compare the cameras and find the best three from your list.
Keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to buy the best camera in your budget, and you could always compromise a little money on the body itself (as long as they both have the same sensor size) and get an additional lens instead.
Nevertheless, if you want to get into wedding photography or similar fields, it would be wiser to save money for a DSLR; P&S cameras do not do the newlyweds justice.
Finally, always remember that once you get a DSLR, you are in an “expensive” hobby. Unlike P&S cameras, DSLR requires regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them in their best possible condition.
Not only that, but lenses cost a fortune at times, and the type of photography you do would influence the type of lens required, whether it is a wide-angle lens, prime-lense, or so on.
5. Funding your DSLR
This portion is only important if you finally decide to get a DSLR and some good lenses.
Now that you have posted a tweet on Twitter saying, “Ouch! Photography is an expensive hobby” or something similar, note that you can recover your losses and fund your DSLR with your DSLR, with a bit of hard work and some time, of course. One way to do this is by selling stock images or selling prints.
Stock images are used by advertising agencies and people to complement their projects. These shots are taken mostly in-studio, some out, depicting models doing one action or another that can be used to supplement any written material in the right context, for example, an executive talking on the phone, jewelry photographs, etc.
Selling prints gives the user the option to sell their images to people who would want to hang them on their walls at their home or office. Selling prints is far more difficult as it needs the photographer to be passionate about his photography and come with results that amaze the peer — rendering the impulse in them to hang such a photograph on their wall.
Users can also put their lens up for rent — though it might be a risky business and will require users to use their own judgment when picking the people who want to rent the lens.
Finally, the user can always shoot portraits, weddings, and commercial photographs, taking money for each shoot. Do it well enough, and you can even earn your livelihood with it.