I started this blog in September of 2010 when I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D90. Between photography classes and towing my camera along to every social event I could, I wanted a place to share my photos—and my life, really. I even wrote my first ever blog post about my new camera and the pretty gold box it came in. (Side note, in the past three years gold climbed from least-favorite precious metal color to a one of my most used accessories in crafts, projects and outfits. Go figure!) My D90 was with me as I learned the in’s and out’s of photography: how to nail your exposure every time, how to create creamy bokeh, how to pose your clients to make them feel comfortable, how to set up off-camera lighting… That camera and I learned a LOT of lessons together! It was with me through my first season of weddings, and it has been the perfect camera for starting my business. I would still recommend it to anyone who is a semi-serious photographer looking to learn, practice, and still create professional-quality photographs (although the D90 has since been discontinued and replaced by the D7000, which has JUST been replaced by the D7100! All are fantastic cameras!)
For every wonderful thing that I loved about my D90, it also had it’s limitations, and I knew from the start that it would one day become my backup when I upgraded to my dream camera: the Nikon D800. I’m still looking around for someone to pinch me, because last month that dream came true! I tore into my Adorama box and just looked at it for a few minutes expecting it to pouf into thin air. Thankfully, no such thing happened as I squealed and ran around the house testing it out by shooting any and everything! My dad, who has a little bit of photo nerd in him too, just smiled and watched because he understood the excitement. There are SO many things about this camera that I have been yearning for. From finally being able to shoot with a full-frame sensor to the 51 wonderfully wonderful auto-focus points available, I just wanted to be able to get out and see what this puppy could do! After acclimating myself with it’s dials, buttons, and settings, I got to do just that at Maggie and Dan’s wedding. And now, after a few weeks of shooting with him, I am SO excited to share my three favorite things about this guy!
Upgrade #1: Full-Frame Sensor!
In the world of DSLR’s, there are two main categories: cropped sensors and full-frame sensors. Generally, this is the biggest difference between entry-level DSLR’s and true professional camera bodies. The sensor is the neat-o piece of technology that captures the light from your lens and translates it into a digital image. The digital version of film, if you will. The sensor frame in cropped cameras is 1.5 times more “zoomed in” than it’s full-framed brother, because the sensor is that much smaller. Ultimately, what it means is that the edges of the images that would have been captured on a full-frame sensor are lopped off, leaving you with images that are much more closely cropped. The biggest downside to this is that it severely limits wide lenses from capturing the width that they’re supposed to. For instance, this shot from Maggie and Dan’s first dance wouldn’t have captured as much of the details of the ballroom, the reactions of their guests looking on, OR the full length of Maggie’s dress on a cropped sensor.
In short, full frame is like photography magic. This great gif from the #WhatShouldWeCallWeddingPhoto Tumblr really says it best. :)
Upgrade #2: High-Performing ISO!
The ISO capabilities on the D800 outshine the D90 like a full moon does the stars on a clear night—literally. ISO determines how sensitive your camera is to light, and the better a camera can handle high ISO’s, the better it is at handling low-light conditions like a dark church or a dimly-lit reception venue. With my D90, any ISO above 1000 produced some seriously noticeable noise. The D800, however, can be set up to 25,600 ISO, and while I would rarely—if ever—shoot with it that high, it also means that its lower ISO ranges produce MUCH less noise, so I can shoot up to around 4000 ISO without even breaking a sweat about noise in my images! The image above was shot without off-camera lighting at 2000, and no noise! Higher ISO ratings also make ceremony shots in churches with dim lighting or lighting restrictions MUCH more feasible. Instead of having to slow down my shutter speed and compromise sharpness, I can bump up my ISO worry free and capture the ceremony images that I’ve been working towards. The image below of Maggie and her dad was shot at 1000 ISO.
Upgrade #3: 51 FOCUS POINTS!!!
To round out this post, here’s my absolute favorite aspect of my D800 upgrade: 51 beautiful auto focus points!! While I shoot completely manually in all other aspects of photography (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, etc.), I use auto focusing because it is faster, smarter and more precise than I could ever be. On the D90 I had 9 focus points to chose from, which meant I was often focusing first on what needed to be in focus and then recomposing the shot in-camera to get the image I wanted. Think about it: if you only have 9 place in a photo that can be in focus, that’s not a lot to work with! On the D800, Nikon has 51 focus points, which means that I can compose my shot FIRST and then lock in my focus. It may sound lame but it’s kind of revolutionary! The focusing system on the D800 is amazing, too. When I focus on the eyes of my subjects, I don’t have to worry that it is missing the mark and accidentally locking on a piece of hair, I know we’re good to go! I love this image of Lindsay below because it shows exactly what I’m talking about. Even shooting at f 1.4 with a super shallow depth-of-field, her eyes are crystal clear! I love it!
I’ve been like a kid in a candy store shooting with my new baby for the past couple of weeks and I am so excited to shoot with the D800 throughout the rest of the 2013 wedding season! Still, as much as these upgrades are wonderful and are helping me to hurdle over some barriers to growing my craft, I want to be clear: good cameras do not take good photographs, good photographers do. If you’re just starting out using an entry-level DSLR, GOOD! Learn everything you can about that camera and with it improve your craft to create photos that you proud of. There will be hurdles, yes, but we can’t let our equipment make excuses for our images. Because that little box of plastic and mirrors is never going to create beautiful photos on it’s own—it needs someone’s hands to pick it up.