All the info you wanted on which camera I use and how I process my pictures.
Whenever I go traveling and exploring, my camera is by my side. Photography has become not only a hobby, but a real passion and I am the happiest when I travel and able to capture what I see. And recently, I’ve come to really enjoy sharing some snapshots of my travels with all of you on my Instastories! Since I started doing that, I’ve been getting a lot of requests as to what equipment I use, how I edit my photos and so forth. So as per request, I’m happy to finally share this blog post about it.
I’m going to make this as short and easy as possible, and I think the key topics are which equipment I use, how I use it, and how I edit my photos later before sharing them. If you want to know more details about something, just let me know! I figured there’s plenty of photography blogs out there, so there’s no way I can share all there is to know in just one post. Also, I’m constantly learning myself and by no means an expert or studied photographer – but I can relate to many of you who want to improve their photography skills without having to take courses and reading plenty of books. So this post might be helpful to get some orientation. Or just to get some insight into what I personally like to do!
First things first, the question that pops up the most is – “which camera do you use?”
My current baby is a Nikon D750 DSLR camera (available online here). I started off with many different little compact digital cameras (I was always the one friend in charge of photos, during university life and in my family) before dipping my toe into the DSLR world with a Nikon D3500, more of a beginner’s DSLR camera. Two years ago, I invested in the D750, which I am so so happy with. It’s more of a professional-level, full-format (FX) camera and our wedding photographer Dominique Bader (whose pictures I loved the second I stumbled across her work) uses the same and recommended it to me when I started searching for a new one.
I also use two other cameras: my iPhone X (the integrated cameras on the newest smartphones are so good these days and so so easy to use!) and a Sony RX100 iii, a digital camera. Since the iPhone camera has become so good (just check out the #shotoniphonex campaign), I rarely use the latter these days, except when I’m out with friends and we want to take some party snaps – because the flash light on the iPhone is still pretty crappy. I would still recommend the Sony RX100 for beginners who don’t want to dive right in and who will mostly use auto-mode anyway, because in that case, there’s really no point in carrying around a heavy DSLR and multiple lenses if you’re not going to use them to their full potential. If that’s kind of where you see yourself, check out this travel post from Abu Dhabi from 2014 – all of those holiday snaps are taken with the Sony RX100. It’s easy to use and you can easily transfer your pics to your smartphone with the wifi function (my D750 has that function too, which is seriously invaluable to me).
Everybody is currently raving about the new Sony A7R camera, and I’m dying to test it out, so I might be updating this part at some point. One of my favorite photographers on Instagram, Jamie Beck (@annstreetstudio), is using this one too and I love to follow her Instastories and see what settings she uses and what she does in Photoshop!
Back to my current equipment, the Nikon D750 won’t get you very far without some matching lenses. I use three and I’m about to get a fourth:
- a zoom lens for travel photography: the Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6
- a closer-range zoom lens for people photography: the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8.
- a fixed-lens for portraits and my blog pictures: the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (I also have the Nikkor 50mm fixed lens which is a great deal but I like the Sigma 35mm better)
- the next one I want is a wide-angle lens, not sure which one yet
Remember that if you use a FX (full-format) camera, you should absolutely only use FX lenses on it. More on that topic here if you want to know more about that and go deeper into the ABC of photography. Also, ALWAYS add a good UV protection filter to each lens. If you’re going to spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a lens, you might as well spend another 80 bucks on a good filter that’s going to protect it from scratching or even breaking.
Notice the f/xx number I put behind each lens? That’s essentially the number that shows how much light the lens is able to let in = the aperture. The lower the f-stop, the higher the aperture – the more light gets in. Also, the lower the f-stop, the more bokeh (background blur) you’ll be able to get. More on that here. When it’s bright and sunny and you’re shooting a landscape, that’s not so important because you’re going to increase the f-stop anyway. But if you’re capturing something indoors or in a lowly-lit situation, you’ll notice the difference like crazy. The f-stop is one of the biggest price-drivers for lenses and a major criteria for choosing a lens. Unfortunately, zoom lenses with a consistently low f-stop will not only be crazy expensive, but also really large and heavy. So the 28-300mm zoom lens was the best compromise for traveling and I’m really happy with it personally. Actually, Robert from “Leave Your Daily Hell” (one of my favorite travel blogs) recommended it to me – he also uses the D750.
HOW TO SHOOT
Okay, so let’s say you have the camera and the lenses and you’re ready to go. Will that ensure that you’ll be getting great pictures? Probably not.
We see a lot of tourists these days running around with huge DSLR cameras with their kit lenses mounted and their auto-mode on. Many of them don’t even look into the viewfinder, but they use the “live view” function instead. Well, that just seems like a total waste of money and equipment right there. If you’re going to take the plunge and up your game when it comes to photography, I believe it’s important to understand your camera and the functions it offers. That being said, I always (always!) shoot in manual mode. That ensures that I can fully influence all settings and leave nothing up to chance. Essentially, I try to keep my shutter speed as fast as I possibly can considering the light situation, the ISO as low as possible (never above ISO 1250 to avoid “noise”) and my aperture / f-stop varies (f-stop as low as possible if I want lots of bokeh, as high as possible if I want everything, from foreground to background, to be sharp). There’s lots more to it, of course (playing around with the white balance, using the right autofocus mode, remote control, etc. etc.) – but those are the basics of what I do.
One more really important point is shooting in RAW, not jpg. Each picture will be huge in size because it’ll contain all of the info you need for post-editing, but don’t worry, you will convert them into jpg after you edit and then they’ll be a decent size. You can delete the RAWs after to clear up space. More on that here. Trust me, if you want to get the most out of your pictures, don’t compromise on that. Get some larger SD cards (128 GB or more, class 10, with a speed > 90MB/s) and some external hard drives and you’ll be fine with the data volumes.
And then there’s the whole topic of how to take a picture, how to compose it, how to style your subject, the rule of thirds…there’s plenty of literature on this. But you know what? While that can be great to learn about different styles and viewpoints and perspective, which is definitely great as a source of inspiration, I have a very distinct opinion or motto, if you will, on this: no one sees it like you do. Remember that some of the best photographers have become successful by breaking traditional rules of photography and provided their very personal and unique vision to the world. So don’t be too intimidated and just get out there and try, learn, and find your very own style. There are many beautiful ways to capture something, and each photo tells a very unique and personal story.
Now that you’ve taken your shots, I’m afraid you’re not quite done yet. So much of the look and feel of the final photograph will be determined on the computer – in post-editing.
There are some great apps for editing pictures on your phone, such as VSCO etc., which is sufficient for social media. Nonetheless, you won’t get around transfering the pictures to your computer and properly editing the RAWs there if you’re wanting to get the most out of them. It’s amazing how much you can still get out of some pictures that appear super dark, but then you lighten up the shadows and the picture “appears”.
What I do is I use 90% Adobe Lightroom, 10% Adobe Photoshop. I use Lightroom as my picture catalogue as well as an editing tool. There are some photographers who prefer using a different catalogue tool and then editing solely in Photoshop, but I think Lightroom is much easier to use and sufficient for 90% of what I want to do, since I’m not doing photo-art. So basically, what I do is I transfer the pictures to my computer, import them into Lightroom, select the ones I want to keep by rating them with stars, then deleting the others.
Once I have my selection, I go into editing (“develop”) mode. To speed it up, I have a selection of “presets” that I can use – basically a selection of settings that I can apply with one click. Imagine you want to edit a sunset picture. You’re going to want to make it a little more vibrant, more orange or pink, take out some of the shadows so you see the sand that’s a bit dark, etc…. so basically I have a preset for each “typical” situation. Also, I use the presets from @doyoutravel (available here) for many of my travel pictures. I really like when all the pictures from a trip kind of get a distinctive “look” to them that gives them a harmonious feel. After I apply the preset(s), I only need to tweak them some more (the presets will never get you to 100%, because some pictures are darker / lighter / more contrasty to begin with, so the presets will look different on each one). Once I’m done with them, I need to “export” them as JPG files in any desired folder. I like to export a large version and a social-media-sized version. Once I’m done, I can delete the RAW files, which clears up a ton of space. By the way, I use My Cloud to store all my photography in folders. It’s great because I can always access my files from anywhere in the world, but they’re stored on a hard drive at home that’s connected to our wifi.
You’ve spent a lot of time taking, choosing and editing your pictures. Now, you’re probably (hopefully) going to show them to at least your friends and family via Facebook and Instagram, or publish them on your blog if you have one.
While I’m a big fan of all the new, digital possibilities of photography, I still feel like there’s nothing better than looking at printed photographs. I notice that, when showing photos to our family and closest friends, prints just transport the feeling and the story of the photographs so much better than a TV or computer screen. So what I like to do is order a photobook for each major event or vacation via MILKBOOKS. I used to do the same with Apple Books via their Photos-App, which is great for a basic photobook, but if you want something a little more “professional-looking”, Milkbooks is the best I’ve seen so far. They offer 6-color-printing, their online tool is really nice and easy to use, and you can order your books wrapped in linen or even leather. LOVE! #notsponsored
So that’s pretty much the basics of what I do! Some more info I’d like to give is on the rest of the equipment I like to use. First and foremost, exchange the camera strap. I use this one (in the medium size even though they recommend the large one for DSLRs, I think the medium is just right) and it’s so much better than the one that comes with the camera!
For our couple pictures, we use the Manfrotto tripod that’s pretty convenient for traveling. We carry it with our equipment in this camera bag – I love that they make camera bags that don’t look so nerdy and don’t scream “Steal me! Expensive camera equipment inside!”…
Last but not least, there’s the question of who takes my pictures. The answer is – I take all the pictures myself unless I’m in them, and the others are usually taken by my husband or by Mr. Manfrotto if we’re both in them. I also do all of the editing. When we travel, I’m in charge of photography while he does video. He uses a lot more equipment than I do… He films with a Panasonic Lumix FZ300 camera, but then he also uses an iPhone with a Gimbal for smooth & steady moving shots, a GoPro with a Dome for underwater shots, as well as the DJI spark drone. It’s superfun when, a while after one of our trips, we compare my pictures to his video and we see many of the same scenes, but sometimes captured totally differently, which makes it so great and fun to have both. If you’re keen on seeing one of his travel videos, have a look at this post from Nepal and scroll all the way down. Also, if you’re ever looking for professional cinematographers for a wedding, those two are the best and so much fun to work with!
Alrighty, I think that’s all for now! I hope I was able to answer some of your questions – and if you want to know more, just let me know in the comments or shoot me a message!