Intermediate Photography – Useful resources
(This is a list of stores and products that I have had good experiences with – I have no affiliation with any of them, and there are certainly lots of other good things out there, so this is by no means a definitive list, but hopefully a good starting point.)
www.bhphoto.com – excellent, trustworthy web retailer for _everything_ photographic
www.adorama.com – try them if B+H is out of stock
www.freestylesalesco.com – good for toy cameras and hard to find items
www.calumetphoto.com – good professional supply house
www.ebay.com – good for used items, and price checking
SK Grimes – 23 Drydock Ave Boston 617-951-1480
www.photo.net – a wealth of information on everything photographic
www.dpreview.com – excellent source of info for digital photography
www.luminous-landscape.com – landscape and general photography information (excellent but highly-technical tutorials)
www.photodo.com – VERY technical, but very informative lens reviews
www.photozone.de – Excellent equipment reviews, but highly technical
www.photoreview.com – subjective but fairly complete equipment reviews
www.bandesphoto.com and www.charlesbandes.com – if you want to keep up-to-date with my work
Digital photo labs:
Cameras Inc – Arlington, Somerville
Zeff Photo – Belmont
Some Costco stores have surprisingly good digital photolabs, worth checking
Mpix.com (my favorite)
kodakgallery.com (maybe the same as ofoto now)
Where to buy equipment:
Photographica Camera Show: This happens twice a year, in April and October Contact: Photographic Historical Society of New England, PO Box 650189, West Newton, MA 02465,
617-965-0807 web site: www.phsne.org – the next one is Nov 5/6 at the Armenian Cultural Center in Watertown. It is worth attending if you want to buy used equipment.
Calumet – CALUMET CAMBRIDGE 65 Bent Street Cambridge, MA 02141
Newtonville Camera 1-800-734-9992
EP Levine 23 Drydock Ave Boston 617-951-1499 www.cameras.com
Zeff photo: Belmont, MA1-888-465-7290
HUNTS PHOTO & VIDEO100 Main StreetMelrose, MA 02176 781-662-8822
(I think the salespeople there are really really sleazy, but they have very good inventory)
Avoid the Bromfield Street, Boston camera shops, they are rip-off artists
Ebay is the best source for used cameras, imho. (just be careful, check feedback scores, don’t send wire-transfers overseas…)
It’s worth checking craigslist from time to time – especially for computer-related stuff. Again, just don’t do anything stupid (like sending wire-transfers overseas or accepting massive “overpayments” in the form of phoney bank checks.)
Where to buy inkjet supplies:
Atlex.com has some of the best prices on Epson and Canon inks and papers
Digitalartsupply.com and Inkjetart.com have a wide range of fine-art papers for inkjet
Mediastreet.com and inksupply.com have high-quality archival third-party inks. (But you really need to know what you’re getting into if you use these, not for the faint of heart)
Calumet’s “Brilliant” line of papers provide high quality at very reasonable prices
Places to take classes:
DeCordova school, of course
New England School of Photography (www.nesop.com) Great studio access for the money
School of the Museum of Fine Arts (www.smfa.edu)
Cambridge and Boston Centers for adult education
Boston Photo Collaborative
A good next step would be a photoshop course. I happen to be offering one at DeCordova for the next session, so check it out if you’re interested. You may also want to seek out courses in specific subject-matter (documentary, portraits, fashion, landscape, night photography, advertising, studio…) or critique-focused courses.
Charley’s Shopping tips:
1) First and foremost, you need a camera I prefer Nikon and Canon, but there are numerous brands that make fine cameras. General advice – once you start with a particular camera system, it is usually a good idea to stick with it, so that your lenses, flash, etc will not need to be replaced. (So, if you have a pentax that you love, don’t buy a canon just because you saw a persuasive ad.) If you have a friend with a particular system who can help you, it might be wise to buy a similar camera, so that you can compare notes.
Stuff to look for:
You want an “SLR” – Single Lens Reflex
Make sure you’re comfortable with the control layout, and that you feel you can understand how to operate the camera.
Try to find a camera body that supports TTL flash
Look for cameras that support “matrix metering” if possible
Avoid “all in one” compact cameras – these have small chips which produce inferior images.
Some really good choices:
New: Nikon D50, D70, D70s, Canon RebelXT, 20D, Olympus EVOLT300, Pentax *istDS, Minolta 7D
Used: Canon: Digital Rebel, D30, D60, 10D, 1D; Nikon: D1, D1h, D1x, D100, D2h; Fuji: S1, S2
Handle the camera before you buy it, make sure it feels comfortable. Ideally try to test the camera’s “feel” with a lens similar to the one you would be using – as lenses significantly change the weight distribution and feel of a camera.
2) Tripod. If you buy only one thing after your camera, make it a tripod. If you can afford it, get a Bogen or Manfrotto – this is by far the best brand of tripod, and doesn’t cost much more than any others. When buying a tripod you buy the legs and the “head” in separate pieces – even the simplest model from Bogen/Manfrotto is a totally fine tripod. As above, if possible to go a store where you can play with the equipment, find a tripod head that feels comfortable. Even a small, low-end, cheap tripod is better than nothing – so if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a top-end tripod, it’s still worth getting a small $15 table-top tripod, as it could come in very handy one day.
3) Flash. If your camera supports TTL flash, make sure the flash you buy is compatible with your camera system. This will require some research on your part. Make sure the flash you purchase is designed for Digital – older flashes likely won’t work.
Michael Reichmann of luminous-landscape.com says “Most lenses are better than most photographers.” He’s right. Even the cheapest, junkiest lens you could get for your camera is capable of making good pictures if you know what you’re doing with it. The better your lens, the sharper and crisper your shots will be, and the less distortion and flare you’ll see in telephoto/wideangle shots. The difference is something that you can see, but it’s subtle – and the odds of a shot being ruined by a bad lens are much smaller than those of a shot being ruined by poor composition, poor focus, or poor concept.
That said – consider adding the following to your arsenal of lenses:
Wide-angle or wide-angle zoom – A 24mm, 28mm, 35mm or maybe a 12-24mm or 17-35mm zoom lens. (Consider the Tokina 12-24 or Tamron 17-35Di)
A fast “normal” lens – get a 35 2.0 or 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 lens, this will serve you well
Telephoto or telephoto zoom – an 85, 105, 135, or 200mm lens would be a good addition – alternatively consider a 24-135, 28-200 or 70-300mm zoom (Some good and relatively inexpensive zooms: Tamron 28-75 Di Tamron 24-135
Canon and Nikon make the best lenses around – but they are priced accordingly. Other brands to consider are Tokina, Tamron, and Sigma (I don’t really like Sigma lenses, but they’re inexpensive.)
Most importantly – you can make fantastic pictures with whatever equipment you can afford. Don’t go buy a $1500 lens because you think it will help you make better pictures, it won’t . Once you feel that you need to take the next step in your photography and that you are being held back by your equipment, then and only then should you consider a major investment in lenses.
“Digital Darkroom” Equipment
You need a computer that is up to the challenge – it can be a mac or a pc, but either way you will need lots of RAM (at least 2GB) and hard drive space to store your photos (I recommend at least 160GB) a DVD burner is a good idea for backup
Make sure your monitor is up to the challenge – I like the LCD panels, especially models from Apple, Eizo, and NEC. Make sure your LCD panel supports digital connections – either ADC or DVI. Don’t buy a panel with only analog VGA input, these are dramatically inferior.
Inkjet printers offer the best photo-quality printing results currently available. Avoid color-laser printers, as these do not produce photo-quality results (they halftone and create obnoxious dot patterns, they also cannot print on photo paper)
When buying an inkjet printer, there are some things to think about.
a) Regardless of the brand you choose, you will spend more on ink and paper than on the printer itself. Because of this, don’t skimp too much on the initial printer investment – get a machine that you’re willing to live with for a while.
b) Two types of ink are available for most printers – dye and pigment. Each has its advantages.
a. Dye inks are less expensive, produce better color, and make nicer glossy prints. However, they will usually fade quickly, sometimes within just a few months. Dye printers are great for quickie prints, and things that don’t need to last too long – but are a poor choice if print lifespan is important to you.
b. Pigment inks are more costly and only currently available on Epson-brand printers. However, they produce prints with true archival lifespan – up to 300 years on the latest models. The downside is that some pigment printers give mediocre results on glossy papers, and the color can be a bit muted compared to dye-based prints.
c) Inkjet printers work best if you give them good materials – I recommend using the OEM-brand ink and paper. Off-brand inks cost much less but almost always produce inferior results, and can clog your printer. Papers are safer to interchange, but make sure you are using high-quality paper. Don’t buy the really junky stuff, you’ll be unhappy with the results.
d) Consider the size of the prints you want to make – most printers are available either in 8.5” or 13” widths. Larger models are available from Epson and HP, but these add considerably to the expense.
e) Make sure you get a model designed for photographs. These all use at least 6 inks, sometimes more. (All of my recommendations below use 7 or more)
My favorites currently on the market:
Epson: R800 (8.5 width), R1800 (13” width – best for glossy), R2400 (13” width – best for fine-art prints) – all of these are pigment printers
Canon – 9900 (13” width – dye ink)
My favorite papers:
Epson: Enhanced Matte, Heavyweight Matte, Premium Lustre, Velvet Fine Art
Ilford: Smooth Pearl, Smooth Gloss
Somerset: Enhanced Velvet, Enhanced Textured
Hahnemule (sp?): Photo Rag, German Etching
Brilliant: Matte, Gloss, Pearl
Red River (redriverpaper.com) is also worth a look, but I don’t have a lot of experience with their products.
If you are going to be doing a lot of photoshop work, a drawing tablet is highly recommended. The best (only) brand is called Wacom. They have two lines – Graphire and Intuos. Both are good, Intuos is better. I recommend the 6×8 inch model, it is large enough to use well without being too big. The Intuos 3 was recently released, which means discounted Intuos 2 models are available at great prices – these are very good.
You have spent a fortune on equipment – don’t skimp on software, it’s the heart and soul of your digital studio.
Adobe Photoshop is an absolute must. I strongly encourage you to have Photoshop CS2 instead of Elements. Photoshop Elements is designed for casual users and is very limited in functionality – it does not allow for serious photographic editing. This can be purchased inexpensively if you use an educational discount. Your registration papers for the DeCordova school should be adequate evidence for an educational reseller such as http://academicsuperstore.com – if you have a teacher or a college student in the family, so much the better!
Other products worth considering (most work on both mac and windows):
iView MediaPro (iview-multimedia.com) is a phenomenal program for cataloging and organizing your photographs. It is a little bit pricey (around $150) but it is invaluable if you have a large collection of images that you want to organize. (demo available)
Bibble (bibblelabs.com) is a very powerful raw-converter that supports nearly all camera models. If you do a lot of work in RAW and for some reason don’t like Adobe’s support, Bibble is worth a look. (demo available)
Noise Ninja and Neat Image – these are two excellent noise-reducing filters for Photoshop. Both produce outstanding results and are worth the investment if you do a lot of high-ISO work. I prefer NoiseNinja, but try both and see which you prefer (demos available)
Apple’s iLife suite is great if you want to make complex slideshows and DVDs for your friends and family. (I am not aware of a PC equivalent, however)
Picassa is a powerful and free cataloging program. Not nearly as sophisticated as iView, but much less expensive (can’t get much cheaper than free!) – windows only.
Corel Painter IX – this is a very powerful painting program, designed to mimic the behavior of real-world artist tools. It is nearly as powerful as Photoshop, but works very differently. If you want to be very expressive and free with your digital images, Painter is a fantastic tool. It isn’t a replacement for Photoshop, but an excellent compliment.
QuadToneRIP – if you want to make black-and-white prints from your Epson inkjet, this is a great tool. It is a replacement printer driver that optimizes for black and white prints. It is shareware and costs $50 to register. Available at http://harrington.com