With this generation having taken a fancy to the Digital Single-Lens Reflex cameras, and how, Dharma Chandru touches on the basics to help you understand these gadgets better…

Photography is a unique and creative medium of self-expression. Everyone has a few moments to cherish, a different perspective to share and, given a camera, an innate sense of story-telling. Perhaps, that explains the popularity of the camera among the youngsters. Moving from the era of still portraits and frozen landscapes brought to life by bulky cameras to one that embraces the ‘point-and-shoot-while-on-the-go': photography has emerged as the order of the day!

Today, with the phenomenal development in technology that makes it affordable and user-friendly, even an amateur can experience the thrill of seeing the world through his/her own eyes. And with the doors of lucrative opportunities thrown open, an aspiring hobbyist can effortlessly pursue his passion and ‘ go professional' too.

Easy hobby

These days many people opt for professional cameras. This generation of passionate and fearless youngsters dares to follow its instincts and pursue what is close to their heart. Technology has helped tremendously in this endeavour making cameras more affordable, portable, idiot-proof and intelligent. DSLRs, particularly, allow one camera to accommodate a very wide range of lenses with different focal lengths and apertures making them highly suitable for serious photographers who prefer greater manual control while taking shots. Also, the ‘Live view' in SLR is a big attraction today. The Internet can take credit for turning everyone a photographer. It has enabled people to share their thoughts and ideas across various nations and cultures making learning as easy as the click of a button! Camera Phones and Digi-cams combined with sites like ‘Flickr' have led to a new kind of Social Photography. The various levels of being involved in photography are:

Hobbyist: Enjoys photography and practises it in spare time.

Enthusiast: Devotes considerable resources but does not strive to make a significant income from it.

Semi-Professional: Makes additional income from photography and may consider doing it as a full-time occupation.

Professional: Earns his entire living from photography. No outside income besides it.

Professional photography is hard work and not fairly compensated unless you're at the top of the field. Those who don't have to make a living from photography and see it as a hobby don't feel the need to charge a reasonable rate.

Why DSLRs?

DSLRs are increasingly becoming a tool within the reach of the average photographer with increasing affordability and their enhanced user-friendly nature. Also, DSLR cameras offer great image quality, come in different sizes and prices. Here are a few factors to consider when planning to buy a DSLR:

Price: A good place to start is obviously the price. DSLRs offer a wide price range; from very affordable deals at the lower end, say Rs. 20,000 onwards to the significantly costlier ones at the professional end with price tags in lakhs. At the outset, set yourself a budget. But take into account secondary costs like lenses, lighting equipment (flash, light strobes, etc.) and other accessories.

Camera size: DSLRs were once quite bulky and heavy. Today, the market is flooded with lighter and highly portable options, making them a practical buy even for the adventurous and the jet-setting kind. Nevertheless, a professional DSLR is still typically fairly bulky. Sensors: In the market today, two types of sensors are available: CCD and CMOS. The CCD, or Charged-Couple Device, is used in almost all point-and-shoot cameras. This one produces high quality images, although such cameras tend to be more costly and consume more power than other types. A CMOS sensor is larger than a CCD sensor making its surface capable of capturing more light. As a result, CMOS sensors are more sensitive and produce high quality images compared to CCD sensors. CMOS sensors are less expensive and easier to manufacture and also use less power. Unfortunately, due to their increased size, such cameras tend to be bulkier.

Sensor size: Sensors come in three basic size categories: Four Thirds, APS, and Full Film Format. The smaller sensors are used in point and shoot cameras, while the larger ones are found in DSLR models. Four Thirds sensors have become standard for Olympus and Kodak, at a size of 13.5mm x18mm, while APS sensors are close to that of the original APS film size. Most DSLR cameras fall into the APS size range, (14mm x 21mm to 16mm x 24mm), often described as 1.5x and 1.6x factors.

Sensors that are the same size as the 35mm film format are called full-frame sensors. This sensor allows you to use lenses without the complication of focal length magnification factors and produce the highest quality images in DSLR cameras. The sensor size is a true 24mm x 36mm, just like a frame of 35mm film.

Focal Length Multiplier Factor: The size of a DSLR's sensor affects the viewing angle of the lens. Lenses are described by their focal length and aperture size in a standard 35mm format. Since most DSLRs use sensors that are smaller than this 35mm format, the angle of view is magnified.

Compare a standard 35mm film camera equipped with a 50mm lens with a digital SLR with a sensor size of 22.5mm x 15.0 mm. The DSLR's image sensor is smaller than the full frame 35mm camera's film area by a focal length multiplier of 1.6x. This means that the 50mm lens translates into a short telephoto lens of 80mm (50mm x 1.6 = 80mm) when used on this particular DSLR.

Small sensor sizes have other advantages when it comes to telephoto lenses. To achieve a 300mm telephoto angle of view, using a camera with a 1.5x focal length multiplier factor, you can purchase a 200mm telephoto lens and get the same results.

Wide range of lens: There is a wide range of lenses which can be used in a digital SLR: Ultra-wide angle (roughly between 19-25); Standard zoom (18 – 105); Telephoto zoom (70-400); Wide angle (14, 16, 20, 24 etc); Standard telephoto (50, 85, 100 etc); Standard Telephoto (200, 300); Super Telephoto (400, 500, 600, 800); Macro; Tilt-shift lens.

‘Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.' Duane Michaels

This is especially true today with the flourishing technology at hand, which has made picture editing relatively simple for even the novice. Photoshop unleashed the capacity to fashion and influence images in an almost endless number of ways. Of course, Photoshop has now progressed beyond most kinds of digital image ‘quick fixes'. As an ‘Image Manipulation' application, it is possible to take any photo and implement all kinds of very creative and artistic ‘non-destructive' effects. Image manipulation can help make the picture look more realistic than it actually is, but an excess ‘touch up' of the image by inexperienced hands might just lead to a very warped outcome.

The writer is a 26-year-old professional photographer.

Basic tips

Like every beginner you may start with flowers/sunrise and poverty but do not stick to the same league for a long time.

Try to shoot the same scene in different angles.

Explore different genres of photography from time to time. But do try to discover your area of expertise.

Do not try more shots in your regular shoulder level angles.

Legendary photographers

Nicéphore Niépce — One of the inventors of photography and famous for producing the world's first photograph in 1825.

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre — Artist and chemist, famous for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography.

Henri Cartier-Bresson — Considered the father of modern photojournalism. He mastered the art of candid photography, and also developed ‘street photography' that has influenced many.

Ansel Easton Adams — An American photographer considered a visionary figure in nature photography and wilderness preservation. Best known for his balck and white environmental photographs that made him an environmental folk hero and a symbol of the American West, especially of Yosemite National Park.

Kevin Carter — A South African photojournalist, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Sudan famine picture featuring a malnourished child and a prying vulture.

Choose the right camera

Match your needs with one of the given user profiles. When you want to buy a digital SLR always consider the following:

Price

Type of sensor

Zoom range and aperture (if it's all in one camera)

IS (Image Stabilizer): It helps get better quality images even if shake is found while taking a photo (and if it's all in one camera).

Quotes

I use a canon 450 D. I enjoy shooting people and the locale. DSLRs are driving cutting edge standards in the photography and advertising field. It packs quality, saves on time and gives you results instantly. What's more necessary for this demanding society? SHAUN D'SA

I use a Sony DSC H7 for now but am saving up for a Nikon D90 . Photography is an expression; it's a piece of your memory. The picture can be a person, a tree or any other object but when you look at it you are sure to get some memories. More and more people are taking this hobby seriously. BALA K.M.

I have a Nikon D5000 which I use to capture the beauty around and remember for long time. I also like to experiment with different settings. My favourite subjects are mountains and clouds. DSLRs are fun, simple and easy to use. Increase in affordability and people's interest in photography has increased along with an opportunity to travel. Such travel kindles one to have those memories as green as possible. POORNIMA SRINATH

Keywords: DSLR-sphotography