I SKIPPED across the Irish Sea recently to the Photography Show in Birmingham NEC Halls, where the the latest-and-greatest gear was on show not just from the likes of Nikon and Canon, but a plethora of other consumer-camera brands too.
There were approximately 235 exhibitors at the show, and right from the off, the aisles were very busy each day.
There was so much to do and see at the show that your correspondent can only imagine the frustration of the single-day attendee, trying to get around to all the stands and talks.
Raw, Lightroom and Instagram were the three biggest buzzwords of the show during my three days there exploring the latest tech and trends.
The first term, Raw, refers to a visual digital file type, which offers a photographer much more editing control than Jpeg format. If your camera offers Raw mode – use it.
Next, and to Lightroom, a piece of Adobe software. That firm had its own enclosed theatre, and most seminars within were a hot ticket.
Adobe’s PhotoShop has long been the standard image editing software for amateurs and professionals alike, but Lightroom’s new upgrades offer keen photographers ever more options for managing their galleries and libraries of images.
This is important from an intellectual property point of view – and for making cash from your photos, if that’s what you wish.
Finally, to Instagram. Ah, Instagram! One would think that this social media platform is the preserve of 18-year-olds, sending photos of their latest hairstyles out into the ether for their 100,000 global followers.
However, the show’s workshop talks convinced many middle-aged people that they, too, can become an influencer with their photos – and monetise their hobby, to boot.
In addition to photography, those interested in videography were well catered for.
As an example of the type of stalls and developments at the show, a small UK start-up company, Loki (lokicameragear.com), showcased its excellent modular rig for DSLR consumer cameras, many of which today can film in 4K ultra hi-definition video.
This rig can be shoulder-mounted one minute, a protective jib-housing the next, and even has its own wheels to facilitate pan or tracking video shots, as shown below.
Moving on, and one of the most popular areas was the Drone Zone, where parents and kids alike marvelled at the latest and greatest in airborne camera technology.
Needless to say, the bigger the drone diameter, the greater the expense; most such aerial kit was aimed at industrial buyers such as coastal engineers, television producers and police forces.
Thin rope mesh cages prevented the airborne contraptions from “going rogue” and taking someone’s eye out – as a photographer, it’s always best to keep both of those healthy! (Though star Scottish photographer Albert Watson, 74, a speaker at the show, isn’t impaired by sight issues, despite being born blind in one eye.
Sony is stealing a march from even big traditional stalwarts such as Canon and Nikon because of the quality of the lenses it’s been able to buy-in, and because of the ultra-high spec of its sensor.
A digital camera is only as good as the size and performance of this crucial piece of internal tech: the sensor, and Sony and Nikon’s stands were extremely busy, at all times.
Conscious of the tech in cameras, and how that can affect prices, once I got back to Ireland I sounded-out a local professional – Rafal Kostrzewa – who is quite the snapper-about-town.
Poland-born Rafal (photocatchthemoment.com) is making a name in fashion, portraiture, and food/restaurant photography. He was keen to allay my confusion about the best camera to buy, saying: “Buy what you can afford.”
My puzzled look inspired him to explain further: “I use a Canon 6D, because it takes very good stills, and is also high-quality enough for my corporate video work.
“My Canon is a DSLR, and its memory-card capacity is good for the shoot-heavy work that I do.”
I asked: “But Rafal, what if someone’s only got, say, €140 to invest in a decent-ish camera?” He responded: “Then I can recommend, say, a second-hand DSLR by Olympus, or even Panasonic. The image quality is very acceptable in cameras of those brands, which may be as old as 2012 or even 2011, the year of manufacture.
“My Canon has changeable lenses, so there is a bit of babysitting involved to avoid getting the sensor dusty – the bane of a professional photographer!
“So, if you get a second-hand DSLR, keep the sensor clean, and shoot in Raw mode.”
Next I asked: “If I do get a DSLR, what lenses do I need?” He advised: “Generally, you need just two lenses to start with; the 14-24mm range, and the general 24-70mm range, but they’re expensive, admittedly.
“That’s all a serious amateur needs to cover most wide-angle, and mid-range situations. When your budget permits, add a third lens to that pair – the 70-200mm range lens.
“Then that’s it – you’re complete, pretty much for life!”
So, why not give your interest in photography another shot? There’s never been a better time to try to develop your ‘eye’, your skills and your passion – just Google “photography courses” and “camera clubs”, and best of luck!