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Friday, February 27, 2015

It wasn't my camera!

Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2012, at 9:29 PM

Goodness me.

It really bugs me when people tell me that my camera takes good pictures. (The Reader's Digest version of this blog is at the bottom in bold.)

Usually they say that and then ask me for advice on purchasing one, so I understand. But at the same time, I'm a little irked. I composed the photo. I chose the exposure settings. I posed the model (of course, not always, since my job as a photojournalist often means not manipulating the scene, just the light captured).

Yes. I have a nice camera. It was pretty pricey, but on Auto with the kit lens and the built-in flash, it takes about the same pictures you get with any point and shoot digital camera.

The reason I have nice pictures is because I have since invested even more than the original body in lenses, external lighting, processing software (Oh my, I upgraded from Photoshop Elements to CS5 for my birthday. OUCH!) and learning materials. I have also invested a lot of time and energy learning and practicing- blinding my dogs and taking a lot of photos of the Brett Favre (During his run in the Packers) bobble head on the dresser to learn this craft. While I am waiting for photo assignments to come in, I utilize the studio in our newsroom to practice lighting set ups that are impossible with my limited personal collection. In my spare time I am reading books on the subject and out with my camera trying new things.

If you buy the same camera as me and stick it on Auto with the kit lens, do not necessarily expect our photos to look the same. Take the three images of Favre. All three were taken in the same room about a minute apart (I took 1 and 3 first, and then decided to take 2).

The one on the left isn't terrible- I'm not knocking auto. It has its time and place. But that pop up flash is not nearly as forgiving on humans and when the camera is held horizontally. It also flashes while the camera is focusing- that can confuse people and blind them. Not fun. It also made the room look REALLY dark- when in fact I am in a pretty well-lit room.

The center one I could play with it in Photoshop, but the variable aperture (the 3.5-5.6) really hinders its performance and the lens is just really slow. It is a good lens in well-lit locations.

The one on the right is my favorite. People love the blurred background and the very shallow depth of focus makes it as interesting as a still bobble head can be. This image was taken using a pretty dang expensive lens.

Why you should not buy an SLR camera

1. If you did not understand what I was saying in most of that, I recommend waiting until you have done some studying to make that leap.

2. If you do not care to learn how to shoot in manual, don't waste your money. Your photos on a normal point and shoot will come out similar to photo #1. Why spend a lot of money on a "fancy" camera if you're only going to shoot in auto.

3. You're probably looking for a digital camera that can also shoot video.

I have the CHEAPEST Canon SLR on the market. And it wasn't cheap. And it does not shoot video. The cheapest SLR with video capabilities, at least on the Canon line, runs about $800 USED.

4. You're looking for a digital camera to take with you on vactions.

Mine is also the SMALLEST. And it sucked to travel with until I had enough gear to justify getting a good bag. They don't fit well in purses and the lens is pretty fragile. You can't just toss this puppy in a suitcase and call it a day. You can't just shove it in your handbag. And running around with an SLR can draw a lot of attention. If you don't want it stolen, it's a lot like traveling with small children.

My Recommendation

If you've got a good amount of cash saved up, I recommend the Canon G12 Powershot (around $400). Beside its quality in auto, it also has a manual mode that you can use to get comfortable/ familiar with if you think you might be interested in learning photography, and its maximum aperture is 2.8 when fully zoomed out.

Reader's Digest:

Unless you're actually interested in the art of photography, buy a good point and shoot. And my camera doesn't make pretty pictures, I do. It just captures them.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Oh Good something educational. Thank you

-- Posted by KH Gal on Wed, Mar 21, 2012, at 9:34 PM

Good blog!

I love my Canons!

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Wed, Mar 21, 2012, at 9:37 PM

Excellent advice and thanks for talking me out of an SLR camera.

-- Posted by bondyweb on Wed, Mar 21, 2012, at 10:32 PM

This is a very good blog! What goes for cameras goes for many other tech gadgets also. If you really don't know how to use it to it's fullest potential, or are willing to learn how to, then it is no more than a pricey status symbol. Judging from your patience and passion, you will go far! Best of luck!

-- Posted by royincaldwell on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 7:23 AM

Thank you Melodie for great advice. That had to take some time to write.

I can't decided which I like the one on the left or the one on the right. I don't like the one in the middle the colors don't show through as well as the other two.

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 2:55 PM

Thank you all!

Jessie- I am a total Canon dork.

Marilyn- I had a hard time too. I think I'll have to do a comparison with a person. The on-board flash is not awful for inanimate objects.

-- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 8:51 PM

Melodie, I have several Canons, lenses, stuff. I know I'll never be done buying 'more stuff'. I know I can't have just one camera, in case something goes 'wrong' HAVE to have at least 2 for events.... especially weddings...I don't wanna be the one responsible for missing 'that shot"

Great job you are doing!

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 9:48 PM

I wanted to buy a canon however it was a little pricey for me and the salesman sort of led me to the kodak I have now. I'm always wanting a new camera and I try to hold myself back for at least 2-3 years before I buy a new one. It' getting close to that time.. Lol!

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 9:56 PM

Canon makes a "point and shoot" that looks darn cool to me. My 'small' camera kind of needs replaced.... cuz I don't really like carrying my big ones Melodie says, they can be somewhat fragile. And too expensive to risk at times. I carry mine around inside my coat front in the winter.... and sometimes in the summer, it's slung over my shoulder, but I cringe when things start to go 'bad' and never know how they will turn out. We were in such 'boggy' land last year, I was afraid of being on the ground, getting them wet...but I've been lucky. I might have to check into Ashton Kutcher's Canon stuff...the commercials look cool!

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 9:59 PM

I'm always looking for a camera that isn't over my head in expense but will give me a clear crisp picture for the products I sell. The best picture I get, is when I photo shoot outside. As long as its in the morning so I don't get shadows. Any advice you can give me will be very much appreciated

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Thu, Mar 22, 2012, at 10:04 PM

Jessie- I have a friend who owns the G12 powershot and I was pretty dang impressed by it.

MsMarilyn- Get something with an aperture priority mode would probably be best for your products. People go gaga over blurry backgrounds and they take out the distracting background. If you shoot around 11 a.m. and use something to soften the light over the item (they make reflectors for sale, but white cloth about the density of a bedsheet stretched across a frame works well if one is on a budget.)

If you hold that over the item, just out of the frame, it will soften the light. You can also use it to create fill light if you are getting shadows- set it facing the object and the sun to bounce light into the shadows.

-- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 12:14 PM

Hi Melodie, great blog. Just a quick question and totally off the subject. Are you any relation to Pete Lettkeman?

-- Posted by KentuckyTransplant on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 12:25 PM

Ok I give what is a aperture priority mode? All I know is point and shoot...

My small items I shoot in the bathtub with a sky light up above...... I'm creative :)

-- Posted by MsMarylin on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 12:57 PM

Probably point & shoot is your best bet Marilyn.... just so you don't have to worry about those settings,

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 1:11 PM

Nikon is what Ashton uses, my bad

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 1:35 PM

Melodie, I was looking at some of your past blogs and I answered my own question. Come to find out, my wife and I are the people that bought your family's home! Small world huh? Mr. Bradbury, my father-in-law, is actually the one that checked it out for us since we were stationed in Texas at the time.

The reason that I was asking about your dad is because we have yalls Lettkeman door knocker that I think your parents wanted to keep. I was just wanting to know if they still wanted it and where we should send it?

-- Posted by KentuckyTransplant on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 1:41 PM

Oh no! They're in Japan at the moment. Email me at and I'll give you my address. They're overseas right now. Thank you for buying our house! It was a huge weight off my family's back!

-- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 4:12 PM

No problem what so ever, we love the house! It's just me and my wife so, we have plenty of rooms to play Hide-n-go seek in :)

I was able to figure out the sprinkler system today and now if I can just figure out the code to the garage, I'll be all set!

-- Posted by KentuckyTransplant on Fri, Mar 23, 2012, at 6:29 PM

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A Different Perspective
Melodie Lettkeman
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I'm a staff writer for the Tiger Tribune, and I have a lot to say! Music, books, movie reviews, my opinions and updates around the high school.
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