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Blog > What Camera to Get for Your Artwork

March 12, 2015 - by Ruth Collis

What Camera to Get for Your Artwork

Beginning Camera Buying Guide

It used to be a consumer camera would be the next step up from a cell phone camera. Now with digital photography there are some pretty good smartphone cameras out there. But consumer cameras may have some more features, and has the lens built in (non-detachable), and is what the general public would use for vacations, family, and general use. These are readily available at Best Buy and electronic stores. The first thing to really do isMake a List of your needs and then find the camera that will meet that. What do you need the camera for?

camera lens

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Here are some possible needs you might have as an artist or creative person:

Jewelry photographing 
You would need a good optical zoom, and flash or studio lights.


Actions shots photographing fast cars, includes fast moving waterfalls, or a passenger taking pictures from a moving car window, is where you would need a speed/sport feature or fast ISO settings, where you can change the speed of the shutter to match the current conditions.


Fashion models
This requires a zoom lens so you can get up close shots without intimidating the model.


Underwater use 
You will need a complete underwater waterproof camera, or housing that will fit what camera you have, depth level, clarity, and operate efficiently.


Poster format 
If prints are what you want, you may want the larger megapixel (MP) camera, like above 10 MP. The larger the MP, the larger prints you can make, and there are large format printers you can get for this purpose. The larger the pixel size, the longer the transfer of photos to your computer and wherever you send them.


Web use
A camera using photos for the web will require you to dub down pictures, meaning create pictures that are small enough in size to be uploaded, as well as for people browsing on their mobile devices to view fast enough. A large photo will take forever to load. File sizes need to be generally small so web pages will load fast.


Low light use
If you want really good sunset pictures, find a camera or feature on one that really specializes in drawing out colors in low light situations.


General use
Most cameras often come now with multi-use dials that adjust the camera's settings for a certain type of photo automatically, such as auto, portrait, landscape, flower, sport, and night mode, which makes it a good camera for photography by making the options at an easy button selection.

Digital camera guide

You might want to consider what features you would be looking for, like a large LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) on the outside of the camera for quick viewing of the picture you just took, an eye piece area that covers light so you can see what photo you are taking in the bright sunlight, a camera that transfers photos easily to your computer with the least amount of technical issues, or small size for easy portability. If you seem to

always take blurry photos, and don't want to lug around a tripod, you might want to look for a feature called image stabilization or vibration reduction, where the camera seems to float and has sensors that adjust the camera back to where it should be when tilted off course.


Each camera seems to do one specific thing well. If you want a video camera, great still picture quality may not come from a camcorder. If you've noticed a video feature on your still shot camera, the frames per second and video size may be smaller. The videos are also limited to so many minutes so the sensor doesn't get too hot. So you have to determine your need and how long you want to take video. If you want a hidden spy camera, the quality always lacks. Underwater cameras usually don't give great shots above water. Travel waterproof cameras will always lack quality. So get a camera you have one main use for. If your one main use is the best of everything, you will end up with a lot of cameras.

Some camera features to Avoid:

  • *Digital zooms that get blurry when you zoom in to the picture already taken. Pay more attention to optical zoom that has a mechanical part and lens to get close to your subject "before" you take the picture.

  • *Slow to turn on. This makes you lose the moment of the shot. Cheap cameras will do this. Even the best of consumer cameras will too, until you really get yourself a professional SLR (Single Lens Reflex, which is a detachable lens).

  • *Slow to take the photo. Especially if you move the camera by the time it takes the photo, the results will be blurry. 

  • *Boasted MP size does not always mean the quality is actually there. Reading reviews solves this.

  • *No Automatic Gain Control. Pictures will turn out dark without this every time.


Some key points to look for or think about are:


This is different than DIGITAL zoom. Optical zoom is where the lens of the camera actually brings the subject closer optically, or mechanically drawing the lenses out to get the eye physically closer. Digital zoom is where the photo ALREADY TAKEN is zoomed in more, and here is where you lose quality each time you blow the image up more, because the pixels separate and render a bigger (yes) but blurry image. The digital zoom seems to be a useless feature, unless wanting to look closer at a smaller object in the picture you took. A good zoom to find is 10X or more zoom.


*Image-brightening feature
More cameras have this now, but you used to have to ask for a camera with Automatic Gain Control (AGC). This is an invaluable function that brightens images not only under low light conditions, but where you don't think it's dark. With this feature, your images will turn out "as you see them", rather than "darker than you see them," which is how every other normal camera seems to work. I personally would not get a camera without this special image-brightening feature.


*Megapixel size
Bigger is not always better. It depends on your need. Sales people will try to sell you the highest top going MP camera, but then you will have to get a higher capacity camera storage card, and transferring all these high resolution photos to your computer, will take forever, unless you have high computer processors for all this high definition. Also, over a shorter amount of time, your computer will fill up faster with photos. You will then have to consider external hard drives or alternate storage solutions. This should be done always as a good practice for saving photos you don't want to lose, should your computer malfunction.


A camera that can be adjusted to use less than 5 MP will keep file sizes low and still give good quality. If you want it for print uses, you will need the highest MP always.


*Photo storage
Check what type of photo memory card the camera uses and if it will fit what slot your computer has. If there's no slot for it, check into what external card readers would fit the camera and your computer.


*Extra Accessories

  • Camera case (to protect your camera)

  • Memory cards (you don't want to run out of space when you're on vacation)

  • Spare batteries/recharger (a few times of being function-less in the field will cure this)

  • Tripod (for steady shots to avoid blur)

  • Lens cleaner kit (grabbing the camera and fingerprints resulting, always happens. Be prepared.)


*Quality & Size
For years I pondered the greatest question of all: how to get professional quality, but small in size without looking like you're a whole camera crew coming in to take a cool picture of just that bird nearby. The gap between professional/quality and consumer/compact was just too large. There MUST be BOTH quality AND small size, not one or the other.


Then the smartphones came out with better cameras. I have been really amazed at some of these cameras, capabilities to record quality videos up close on artwork, still shot ability to be sharp when zoomed, and the most difficult challenge of all: taking good blacklight photos that no one could tell me how to get.

It's important to check reviews on any electronic item before buying it. Better to have your heart set on something and check the reality of other's experiences before buying, than waste your time, money, and much stress getting something that doesn't live up to the standards it claims. Type in the camera you want in Amazon and read the reviews. Then go to YouTube and type in the camera to see how the actual quality looks "being" used.


Then go to the electronic store near you and get the item with a warranty (a big store chain is best to go to, so they don't go out of business, and will be there to honor your purchase over time). Most warranties online will offer only current replacement value, rather than the value at what you bought the item at. If you buy it in the store with warranty and it breaks within that period, they have been more likely to fix or replace your same product, or give the next model up if they don't have your model in stock.


A good cameras for photographers is a professional camera. This is the next step up after a consumer camera, where you might pay for just the camera body, and buy lenses separate, that would meet your needs. After using a consumer camera for awhile, you will know more of your needs and what you like and don't like about what you've been using.

SLR lenses

This detachable lens is called an SLR camera (Single Lens Reflex), and will get your more quality shots, be quicker in responding, have more features, and is used for professional landscapes, photographing art, model photography, travel, and commercial uses without the limitations of a consumer camera.

It is a good idea to buy an extra battery, spare photo storage cards, lens cleaner kit, soft spongy neck strap to lessen arm pain in holding the camera long periods, a tripod that will keep the camera still, depending on your needs, and can be found at specializing Camera shops. If you live near Los Angeles, drop by Samy's Camera and talk to a sales person that will help you with your needs. Some will try to sell you what they want, so keep in mind "your" needs because you have to live with what you get.


Some down sides to having a professional camera is that it's heavy to carry all this stuff, and you get tired of changing lenses, missing your shots doing so, and real tired of dirt getting on the sensor each time, and then risking cleaning it yourself and ruining your camera, or paying $30 and waiting without your camera for long periods of time for a professional to clean it. You might even find yourself with 2 professional camera around your neck... one for zooms, and one for wide open landscapes to not miss the shot while you are out. there's nothing covert about this though, and might end up back with your cell phone and attachment lenses. The good cameras are definitely needed for quality painting photos. 


Also a day at the zoo carrying a heavy lens might give you some bad tennis elbow. By the way, I took this all natural product called Zymosine that completely cured the most horrible elbow pain from holding that camera, that creams and all other things would not work. It took 3 bottles at $70 back then, that seems a little hard to find now. I think the company made claims it will "cure" and so got in legal trouble, which is so stupid, as it really did completely not only heal me, but cure me for good. People who have tennis elbow are forever trying to deal with their pain. Go figure. Hope that company comes back and has some good success. Think you can still get it but higher price, so make sure to get 3 bottles.


It would be great to find a professional lens that can zoom from 20 to 300 mm WITHOUT having to miserably change lenses, miss your shots, get continual dirt spots on your photos that require constant delicate sensor cleaning, not carry 2 huge cameras around your neck, nor spend money for that, just to go take a walk and zoom in flower pictures, or zoom out on pretty house pictures that exist in the same world. Looks like an update to this article is that they do now have 28-300 mm lens, but could be a lot heavier, and is still over $1000. 


By the way, the best program to get rid of lens spots on many wonderful pictures, is Inpaint. You just draw a red line over a telephone pole or smudge that you want gone, and it magically disappears.

Don't know how they do that, but it is amazing, and should be part of your tools.


You will find that as you use cameras and progress from cheap to better, you will find many things you don't like, and avoid those in your search for better, but would not have known unless you just got in there and practice with something in order to know what you would like.

Woman with long lens camera

TIP: If you don't have your user manual for a camera you do have, you can do a neat trick and pull one out of thin air by typing in to your internet search engine "user guide for (make and model name of your camera)", and you may hunt a little, but often times digital manuals are found on the internet for easy download. Don't pay for it where some sites will trick you into that, but sometimes the manufacturer will have them for free download. You can go to their direct site and type in your model brand.


This camera buying guide may only get you to think about what to get, but your best bet is to actually go into a store and talk to a sales person knowledgeable about cameras and help you with your needs to get a good photography camera.

Ruth Collis, photographer, artist, sculptural painting instructor

Ruth Collis

Sculptural Painting Instructor

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