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Back-to-School Tips for Photographers (and Wannabes)

Although university life can be exceedingly overwhelming, there are times when the homework well dries up and menacing free time taunts you with video games, frat house parties, and streaking. Well, someone’s got to document it, right? Maybe you have plans to be a photojournalist for the school newspaper, or just want to compile shots for a scrapbook reflecting on all of the stupid things you did in college. Whatever the case, let’s start with some top camera picks for school.

Equip Yourself

If you happen to be a photography student, your budget is going to be stretched like salt water taffy. Not only do you have to account for books, tuition, food, and living expenses, but you’re also going to need a camera capable of handling advanced assignments. This is a list of my top 5 budget DSLRs:

Pentax-Kr

  • Pentax K-r (around $700 with kit lens online): Great image quality and in-camera effects.  (Although Japan gets a LOT more color choices)
  • Canon EOS Rebel T3i (around $730 with kit lens online): Plenty of manual controls and impressive 1080p video quality, as well as Canon glass.
  • Nikon D5100 (around $760 with kit lens online): Trusted Nikon image quality and oodles of manual controls to learn with.
  • Sony Alpha A55 (around $760 with kit lens online): One of the best HD video performers in its class.
  • Olympus E-30 (around $900 with kit lens online): Excellent image quality and one of the most robust manual control suites in its class.

If photography is your hobby, then you might want to go with a good fixed lens or Micro Four Thirds camera. Here’s my list:

  • Canon PowerShot G12 (around $470 online): Exceptional external controls, great image quality, and vari-angle LCD.
  • Olympus E-PL2 (around $550 with kit lens online): Micro Four Thirds quality on the cheap with fantastic Art modes.
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 (around $700 with kit lens): Exceedingly compact interchangeable lens system.
  • Canon PowerShot S95 (around $350 online): The low light killer with a BSI sensor and wide aperture.
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 (around $270 online): Great Optical Image Stabilization, image quality, and manual controls out of this P&S.

Shooting Tips

Whether you’ve grown up with cameras your entire life, or are just entering the realm of photography at school, there are a few golden rules to help make your shots more professional. Even if you’ll just be relying on your phone camera for photographic documentation, these tips could be invaluable:

  • Rule-Of-Thirds-Photography

    The Rule of Thirds

    Rule of Thirds. In your mind, or using the Grid function, divide what you see in the viewfinder into nine parts, as showcased in the picture of the falcon. Try to position subjects or landscapes along either two vertical lines or either two horizontal lines for better composition.

  • Shoot the same object or scene from multiple angles
  • Avoid backlighting by shifting 180 degrees
  • Use a flash at frat house parties, otherwise everything will look blurry
  • Offset an object or person rather than centering them perfectly in the middle of the frame
  • Invest in a good wide-angle lens for close-ups and a telephoto for sports photography
  • Save money for a trusty camera bag and accessories like backup batteries, flashes, and electronic viewfinders

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do take as many pictures as the battery or memory card will allow in one session, for that last shot you were too tired to capture could have been the Pulitzer prize winner.
  • Do team up with other photographers and talk cameras. You can help each other on shoots and trade knowledge.
  • Do push yourself creatively. Try light painting at night with slow shutter speeds, applying filters in Photoshop, and using different angles and lenses to achieve unconventional effects.
  • Don’t capture any scandalous pictures or videos and leave your camera unattended. Your credibility may be obliterated overnight.
  • Don’t get too intoxicated while shooting. You run the risk of losing your camera or breaking it.
  • Don’t neglect your camera. You paid a pretty penny for it, so put it to good use.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about heading to college with a camera, leave them below!


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Mike Perlman

Mike Perlman grew up in Nintendo Land and developed a relationship with all things electronic and nerdy early on in his childhood career. Today,...Mike Perlman grew up in Nintendo Land and developed a relationship with all things electronic and nerdy early on in his childhood career. Today,...


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