Making the Switch to a dSLR

For years, I have enjoyed using a  compact camera, which is a step-up from a point-n-shoot. These cameras allow for more setting options to match the various situations we encounter when photographing people, places, and things.

The PowerShot SX110 IS served as the workhorse for the vast majority of the memorabilia photographs I have shared. This camera also snapped the cover photo of my daughter reading the scrapbook featuring her Grandpa Bob. It was a great camera. It decided to quit on me, and I needed to get a new camera.

I tried another compact camera that I thought was in the same class as the SX110 but I was soon very disappointed when attempting to use it for heritage photography. The camera does not handle small objects well as it can not zoom in or be close enough to capture details without blurring out the whole image. I needed a new camera since this one was clearly up for the job, but did I want to attempt to find another compact camera?

After much debating, I purchased the Canon Rebel T5, an entry-level DSLR. Just holding the camera makes me feel like I have a professional grade camera, which is daunting. The price tag and the overwhelming features kept the camera in its box for 2 weeks after it’s arrival. Could I handle such a camera? Would it produce better photos than a $200 camera? What is worth it?

Finally, my husband urged me to get the camera out and start using it. I soon realized this was more camera than I knew what to do with, so I purchased a video tutorial (Photographer Overnight). The video has instructions and lessons to help anyone quickly see what the settings on the camera are for. I didn’t become a fantastic photographer overnight, but I am finally beginning to understand what all the photography books are trying to say. I suppose that’s the visual learner in me. Demonstrate something and I’ll understand much faster. Overnight, I did go from unwilling to use my camera to willing to learn the settings. So, I would still recommend the video and I’ll admit I haven’t completed every lesson yet.

In addition to the video tutorial, I needed someone to sit down with me and walk me through some more features of the camera. I had a lot of gear that came with my new camera in a bundle which was confusing. My best friend was willing to help me out, despite having a migraine at the time. Love this lady! She demonstrated and explained my camera and gear, then had me practice. She gave me immediate feedback. The lessons of the video and my darling friend were internalized and I started using the camera more. It hasn’t been near the packing box since!

This is my youngest son with tons of personality!

With this new confidence, I took my camera to a mini family reunion. My children, nieces, and nephew were excellent subjects to experiment with in a variety of lighting situations. Many of the photographs were simply stunning, others weren’t so great. In short, I was starting to learn the limits and possibilities of the camera. Additionally, I began to discover what I don’t know so I know what to research to improve. I just wish I took better group family photos with this camera, since it was a reunion.

Photo from my first memorabilia session with the new camera.

The moment of truth finally came when I decided to photograph some memorabilia. Mind you, I didn’t select an easy object, to begin with. Jewelry is VERY difficult to work with because of it’s shiny, reflective nature and because of how small rings actually are compared to a camera. Regardless, I wanted to put my skills and the camera to the test.

After my first experiment, I am pleased to say the Canon Rebel T5 is a great little camera, yet it has a learning curve. I no longer fear using it or think the purchase decision was wrong. I am making mistakes and learning much from them. There are also a lot of stunning photographs that showcase the pieces in my Treasure Chest.

Photography is a lot like genealogy, you have to start doing something rather than fear you’ll do it wrong. Yes, you will make mistakes at times, but then you’ll surprise yourself at what you do right. Then you can learn from the mistakes and the success to generate more successes than failures.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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