Choosing the Camera
Professional studio cameras capture very high quality images but are also very expensive.
SLR digital cameras have interchangeable lenses and prices are falling rapidly.
High end consumer digital cameras almost always have the features you'll need for studio photography.
There are many kinds of digital cameras that will take good studio photos. They range from exotic and expensive studio cameras to inexpensive everyday point and shoot models. Generally, you can get good results from any camera, provided it has the features you need for studio photography. Although not all of these are essential, the following features have proven useful to other studio photographers and are available on most digital cameras.
- Image size is often overrated. Generally the larger the image a camera can capture, the sharper it will be when enlarged. However, most images are reproduced in print at no more than 300 pixels per inch so even less expensive cameras will give good 3-4 inch reproductions. Images on the
Web are normally displayed at less than 100 pixels per inch, so you can even get good results with images that are quite small.
- Image quality is determined by the amount of compression and the file format used. Normally, cameras capture JPEG images in a variety of compressions from Fine to Normal. A few cameras also let you shoot in higher quality, uncompressed formats such as TIFF or RAW.
- White balance adjusts the image so colors look natural, even when photographed under unusual lighting. As you'll see in this book, it's this feature that lets you use standard lights with quartz, tungsten, or fluorescent bulbs to light your subject. These are cheap, easy to find, and can be used for other things when not taking photos. These kinds of lights can't be easily used with
film cameras because you'd have to put filters over the lights or camera lens to match the light and film (a very arcane science indeed). With digital cameras, white balance compensates automatically and you can review your images on the monitor to be sure you are getting the results you want.
- A zoom lens, or interchangeable lenses, give you creative control. The lens also determines how close you can get to a subject, or how far away.
- Auto focusing doesn't always work without a lot of fiddling, so manual focus is a nice feature to have.
- All cameras have autoexposure, but aperture-priority and manual exposure modes are nice to have. Exposure compensation lets you lighten or darken images when automatic exposure doesn't work the way you want. Histograms let you analyze your results with more precision.
- Macro mode lets you get closer to small subjects or capture fine details on larger ones.
- Hot shoes let you mount a more powerful and flexible external flash on the camera. There are also other ways to connect a flash or strobes .
- AC adapters let you keep the camera on all of the time without it going into sleep mode or running down the batteries.
- The monitor lets you review your images as soon as you shoot them. It's hard to evaluate exposure, color, and focus on these small monitors, but they are a basic guide. Always confirm your results on the computer screen.
- Video out lets you connect your camera to a TV set so you can see larger versions of the images as you shoot them.
- A self-timer lets you trigger the shutter without shaking the camera and blurring the images.
Point and shoot digital cameras have a surprising number of features and are often useful studio cameras.