A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lens, Baby!

Building on the “M is for Manual” post from a week or so ago, we can now talk sensibly about lenses.

If you own a digital SLR camera (like a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D80), chances are it came from the manufacturer as part of a kit, with a “free” neck strap, a few other doodads, and some kind of zoom lens attached to the front. And here’s the bad news: chances are that that kit lens is an el-cheapo of dubious quality. Let’s put it this way, if the enormous lens you see a professional sports photographer lugging around is a Ferrari, the kit lens on your new SLR is almost certainly a Yugo or a Ford Pinto.

Camera manufacturers know a couple of things: (1) first, even a savvy consumer will likely ignore the quality of the lens and focus his or her attention on the camera itself, in the process becoming enamored with fairly meaningless metrics like the number of megapixels (“Geez, Lorna, with a bazillion megapixels, we could outshoot Ansel Adams!”); (2) second, they can sell a kit at a premium because the camera is “ready to go,” and make a nice profit by including the cheapest possible lens.

Experienced photographers, on the other hand, know a dark secret: the camera is only one part, and often a modest part, of the total investment necessary to take good pictures. The real money—the real investment—is often in the lenses.

This was particularly true in the days of film cameras, where the quality of the lens and the quality of the film determined the quality of the final image, and the camera had little or nothing to do with it.

In the digital age, the image sensors built into cameras play a much more important role. Nevertheless, the lens—not the camera—remains the single most important factor in determining the quality of the final image. Put a crappy lens on a great camera, and you’re going to get a crappy image. Put a great lens on a crappy camera, and you may be surprised at just how good the resulting image looks.

So, what do you need to know about lenses? Not much really, but you do need to understand the two most important features of any lens: FOCAL LENGTH and MAXIMUM APERTURE. Future posts will address each of these in turn and hopefully point you towards (a) what lens will give you the “look” you want, and (b) what lenses offer the best quality and value.

(“Lensbaby” is actually a company that manufactures selective focus lenses that make for some sweet effects. See http://lensbaby.com/. I don’t own one, but they look like fun.)


  1. Great- now I want that lense. We will have to talk!!

  2. Hi Timothy,

    My name is Laurie Millar, I'm Kelly Sharp's sister and she referred me to your blog. Very informational and good. I LOVE some of your pictures! Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and kudos!

    I also thought you'd be interested in joining DPS (Digital Photography School) where you can read/post tutorials, get photos critiqued, share your shots and get to know photographers from all over the world (amateurs to professionals). I've loved it, so come join us! It's free too.

    About lenses...I'd say kit lenses are more like motorized scooters! (:

  3. Hey Laurie. Thanks for visiting! I took a quick tour of your blogs and was not the least bit surprised to see ... the Sharp boys. What a hoot to photograph (I'll have new pics up soon on Flickr courtesy of Kelly and Brandt's patient indulgence). Thanks too for the DPS recommendation.

    Love your work. Particularly intrigued by the studio work with flowers. I've shot flowers for many years (tulips are my fave), and have always been intrigued by the notion of bringing them indoors where I could control the lighting/wind, etc. for really fine-tuned images. Anyway, you've got some great stuff.

  4. "Geez, Lorna"...Tim, you're a crack up. A crack up with some good info to share!

    You should invest in a lensbaby, a small investment for a lot of fun!