Monday, April 14, 2014

A Case Study On Why You Should Use Your DSLR

For those of you out there with lovely DSLR cameras who are loth to use them because they are too large, too bulky, too cumbersome, too complicated, to whatever… I would like to relate a story that I hope will persuade you to get yours out and make friends with it.

Last spring I was getting tired of taking Lego mini figure photos with my iPhone. Yes, it has a great lens and yes it's easy to use and the editing apps and the uploading ease to social media where unparalleled. But I was growing dissatisfied with the results and I was quickly realizing that almost all the really great photographers I admire on Instagram, were using full size cameras.

So I broke down and pulled out my full size DSLR camera. And yes its big and bulky with a complicated interface that sometimes makes my head swim. Luckily all that time I had spent volunteering at KEXP was coming in handy. The boys at the station had definitely been teaching me a thing or two about photography, so this time, the interface was manageable. I tried a few different lenses and settled on an inexpensive 50 mm macro and off I went. I loved the results! Sharp, clear, great depth of field; everything I had been lacking with my phone. I was in heaven!

But like most new photographers I was concerned about storage and file size. I shot my images on the small RAW setting which gave me a file size of 5.5M or 2880 x 1920. I figured this would be more than adequate for my needs and would allow me to blow my images up to a nice size like 8" x 10" (2.4m x 3m). I had a wonderful summer shooting with friends in unusual places and since I was trying lots of different things I was having a lot of success.

When the fall rolled around and I had a chance to show my work in a gallery I quickly realized the images I had created, like the one below, were too small to create the images I wanted to show. I tried in vane to recreate the shots, but like all good images, there was a certain serendipity that was not going to be replicated. So I had to admit defeat, quickly create a few new images and move on knowing I was leaving some of my favorite images on the so called cutting room floor.

So the lesson is shoot big, shoot for the future and know that as you are learning and enjoying the photographic process you will eventually capture great images. And wouldn't it be a shame if that image was on your phone or a small compressed file that didn't allow you to work with it as your other photographic skills grew?

So get out your full size DSLR's, shoot on the largest RAW setting you have and invest in a good storage device (preferably with a back-up system). Because you are not only shooting for today, you are shooting for the future…and who knows what opportunities will come your way.

- xxsjc


  1. In complete agreement. I should have listened to you earlier, but do glad I am shooting dslr now... The quality alone makes it a game-changer!

    1. Thanks Jon, It's not an easy decision to make on many levels (including money). So I realize everyone needs to come at it in their own time. You are my poster boy for awesomeness though! I hope you will consider joining stuckinplastic. I think you will find it interesting, but not an overwhelming time commitment.

  2. I´m completely understanding the idea- and it´s leaving me sad and frustrated. So far taking pics has been an affordable hobby to me. I do not intend to lift it to a professional level, still it would be great to move on up higher. Qualitywise. Possibilitywise. But thinking about the hardware (dslr and a proper computer) and space needed leads me to the point of understanding that it will be the phone-level for quite some time ahead. Maybe time to learn more about image construction and lighting.
    Still thank you for posting these facts, Shelly.


    1. Have a look at the latest post, Stephan.

  3. They know that studying for 20 minutes I ran across this site after school will not lead to success.