Always seek expert advice

Not every camera is suited to every type of photography. Picture by Ivor Rackham.
Not every camera is suited to every type of photography. Picture by Ivor Rackham.

What should you buy a photographer for Christmas?

I have had a few people ask me about what camera they should get for someone. It’s really important when you are going to buy a camera to choose one that meets the photographer’s needs.

Giving your loved one a camera as a surprise isn’t the best idea. It is far better to take them to a camera shop so they can handle the different models, test the size and the weight in their hands and get expert advice.

When I bought my first film SLR over 35 years ago, I was able to tap into the expert knowledge of the sales staff in the camera shop. That advice is hard to come by now. With so many people buying online, or from chain stores without specialised staff, people are getting cameras that are not what they really need. By spending a little more money going to a camera shop, you will walk away with the right camera.

Although important, ergonomics aren’t the only factor to consider when buying a camera. The photographic genre can affect the choice of camera body too. Not every camera is suited to every type of photography. What’s right for them might not be right for someone else and they will nearly always recommend what they own.

Some shops will try to sell you the most expensive, and therefore complex, model you can afford. They are driven by sales and profits and not by meeting the photographer’s needs. Having a top of the range camera can be a disadvantage for someone who doesn’t have the skills to use it. All those extra functions can get in the way of taking photos. I’ve come across so many people who have advanced cameras that sit in cupboards unused because they are too complicated to learn.

Cameras do wear out, and those first cameras that don’t get locked away do get a lot of use. It is common for some new photographers to shoot thousands of photos every month as they learn their craft. By the time most beginners master their cameras and want to upgrade, their old one will be ready for replacement anyway. It’s daft wearing out an expensive, top of the range camera with lots of bewildering features in two years when a simpler, cheaper model that is easier to learn would have been better.

Perhaps the person you are buying for has outgrown their current camera. If all they own is a consumer camera body and a kit lens then it’s a good time to decide whether a different system would suit them better. The sales of DSLRs are dropping and mirrorless system cameras are winning that part of the market. Is it time to change? Again, getting into a camera shop, or trying different models may be the answer.

Other things a photographer may appreciate for Christmas are extra lenses. Good quality optics make a bigger difference to the final image than the camera body.

There are lots of accessories a photographer will appreciate too. Spare batteries, a good quality tripod, a camera bag, a flash, lens filters, a grey card, reflector or soft box and photography training vouchers can make great presents.

This week’s theme words are Light and Memory. Get your cameras out and start clicking!