[This is a guest post from David Bier. You can find out more about David below]
Welcome back for more tips on how to take better pictures of your kids. Last time we talked about 3 tips for better photos of kids.
This thrilling installment is all about getting tooled up. Dads love to have the right gadget for the job — I’ve previously been accused of speaking serial numbers to one of my geekier friends, and still have a fairly serious camera strap habit. However, photography is one area where the right kit really does make a difference, and children’s photography even more so.
So let’s start with the obvious. Which camera to buy?
Three words. Single. Lens. Reflex.
Actually, put one more in front of those — “Digital”. First of all here’s the biggest argument against a DSLR: It’s pretty chunky. If you’re used to the tiny pocket cameras, it will probably take you some time to get used to the bigger form-factor of the DSLR cameras. But there’s too many good reasons to go for the DSLR.
For instance, those pocketable point and shoot cameras are often slllooooooowwww. In the same time it takes your DSLR, to compose, focus, take the shot your average compact point and shoot is just about ready to stretch, yawn, switch itself on and poke the little motorized zoom out, blinking in the light like a badger emerging from hibernation. And look, now your toddler has started shaving. Oh, and camera phones? Forget it. My iPhone literally drives me into a rage because I can never get the shot.
I recommend the cheapest DSLR you can find — there’s very little advantage in spending more than you have to here. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic all make good entry level options.
The only thing about DSLRs is that to actually take pictures with them, you need to stick a lens on the front, unlike compact cameras that have them built in. Onto tip number two:
Buy a fast lens.
The word ‘fast’ in the context of a lens, doesn’t refer to autofocus speed. It refers to the amount of light that the lens lets in. The more light, the less time required to fully expose the frame.
Think of the camera’s sensor as a tall glass that must be filled with water. A slow lens is like a dripping tap. A fast lens is like a hosepipe. Kids move fast. Buy the hosepipe. Luckily, one of the fastest kinds of lenses available is also one of the simplest, oldest designs… and therefore very affordable. I recommend buying a 50mm lens (not a zoom) with an f1.8 maximum aperture. Canon sell one for about £80 in the UK… and when you consider that Leica sell a manual focus 50mm lens for around £6,000, the Canon sounds like a decent bargain! Add in the fact that lenses like these are light, and also offer fantastic image quality, and this is an easy buy.
There’s one last piece of gear you’ll need:
Get a big honking memory card.
Or get three of ‘em. When Isaac was born I shot around 500 frames a month. Partially because he is just that remarkable. Partially because I just made that many mistakes. Partially because kids are just that unpredictable. In any case, set your camera to record at the highest JPEG quality and blaze away. Don’t buy a piddly little card that will fill up just when you need it most. Oh, by the way, if you’re shooting video, this advice goes double.
So let’s review. You now have a nice little camera system that is fast fast fast, has great quality, and you have enough capacity to take a few thousand images. Next time I promise we’ll start using the camera.
David Bier is a professional children’s photographer based in London. So you can imagine how many pictures he has of his son Isaac. You can find out more about his children’s photography at his website.
A word from the editor
My current camera is my first DSLR ever. We got it right around the time Aiden was born, and I couldn’t be happier with it! (it’s also what I use to make the videos on this site). Seriously, if you don’t have a DSLR and you’re thinking about it but you’re scared if you’ll use it… I highly recommend you go for it… I’ve snapped some amazing pics over the past couple years, like this one, and this one, ha! and this one!
Here’s my setup:
- Canon 7d Kit (comes with lens)
- Sigma 30mm/1.4 lens (most vids are shot at 2.0 aperture. For photos I live from 1.8-2.2)
- 2 8gig Flash Cards, though I wish I went with the big daddy (faster data transfer, and definitely more capacity)
- Sandisk Extreme FW800 Card Reader