I get a lot of questions about gear. Everyone wants to know what the magic combination is to make perfect pictures every time. If I had a dollar for every time someone looked at my photo on the back of my camera and said, “I wish I had a camera like you so I could take better photographs.” I might actually buy a nicer camera! While it is true that as I've progressed I've improved the gear I own. The gear doesn't make a cook great nor a surgeon savvy nor does it make a photographer capable.
The truth here is that it takes practice and working with the tools that you have in front of you. Now I will certainly concede that high quality gear is beneficial just like a sharp scalpel would be, but the camera at least so far doesn't tell you how to fill the frame and it certainly doesn't pick the settings that will yield the best results. I'd rather eat a meal from a good cook who prepared it with dull knives than from a bad cook with sharp knives.
To get the results you've got to take control, and you have to be willing to get worse to get better. Take those settings off of automatic and learn what all the buttons do on your camera, and even better learned the correlations between the different settings. The major settings are so incredibly connected and play critical roles in allowing you to craft the image you want. Look at the scene. Watch the light. After all photography is just a memento of light falling across a scene at a particular moment. Learn to see it and appreciate it and your photography will improve.
Many you out there have gotten crash courses in photography from me and I hope you are all being brave enough to put the camera on manual. And remember that the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are the triangle that everything else is built upon. There are many other settings to change, but that foundation is fundamental. The camera you have is better than the one you don't. SLRs are amazing for the amount of control you get, but not necessary for great photos.
All the photos in this blog came straight from a 3.2 megapixel point and shoot, but it had manual controls. Would I want to shoot a wedding with it today? No. It doesn't have enough quick access to controls nor does it have the low light capabilities I desire, but it did let me print up to 20'x30' and the prints looked amazing. Should you rush and buy it. No. But it certainly taught me more than any other camera simply because it is the one I owned when I decided to learn how to manipulate the controls to capture the world as I saw it. Automatic just seemed to normal.
So the bottom line. The world is incredibly diverse and certainly worth photographing, but the magic setting for getting better photos is in your eye and not the camera's. Just like other arts and skills to practice is to improve and to diversify your subjects and endeavors will teach you new skills. When it counts use what you know already, but when the photo is just for fun then experiment and play until you understand your settings and their effects. Change everything manually and see how the different settings effect the same scene. And try to enjoy all the beauty in the world.
Sunset in Swansboro NC In the end the advice for what camera is best for you that I think holds the most water is simply this. What camera feels good in your hands? If you have the money to invest in an entry level DSLR then great! You can get high resolution powerful cameras for around or under $500 bucks! Truthfully both Canon and Nikon are amazing and there are some other contenders out there as well. But if you go put your hands on the cameras and try them out, the best one for you is the one that feels most intuitive. For me that happens to be Nikon. But for some of my good friends who I look up to it happens to be Canon. All in all if you aren't comfortable changing the settings on a camera you most likely won't. If you really want to go budget then get the previous years model and save that cash for a trip to go take some pics!