Botanical Artists and Natural Science Illustrators

Tips & Tricks of the Trade

Costa Rican Caterpillar ©2009 Nancy Richmond  www.NancyRichmondPhotography.com

10 things to Nature photographers, Botanical Artists and Natural Science Illustrators should think of when buying a digital point and shoot camera: by Nancy Richmond – Photographer

Here are 10 useful tips about buying a digital point and shoot camera. There are so many cameras on the market these days, with so many bells and whistles that it is confusing. If you just want to take good photos, stick with something basic. You do not have to spend a lot of money to get a good quality camera that will suit your needs.

1.    What are your goals? Do you want to take vacation and family photos and photos to draw from, or do you want to become more of a professional photographer with your camera?

2.    Do you want to print your photos? If so, look for higher resolution – The more megapixels the camera has, the bigger the print you can make. With 3 MP, you can make a nice 5”x7” print. With 6 MP, you can make a 7”x10” print and with 10 MP, you can print about 9”x13”.

3.    Are you only going to e-mail your photos to family and friends, post them on the Internet, or draw from your computer or iPad? If so, you don’t need a lot of megapixels, and your camera could be less expensive.

4.    Get close to your subject. Look for a camera with a good telephoto zoom, and look for optical zoom, not digital zoom.  A digital zoom only enlarges the pixels and the quality declines. You should always use the optical zoom, which will give you better quality. Zooms vary on every camera. These are listed as 3x, 6x, 10x, etc. The higher the number, the closer you can get to your subject. A good zoom is one that allows both wide angle and telephoto shooting. Wide angle is usually used for wide, landscapes, and telephotos bring your subject closer. If you want to photograph a bird in a tree, you’ll need a telephoto. A lens that goes from 35mm to 200mm is fairly typical. Every camera is different and the zoom range is listed in the camera’s specifications, so read this when you’re buying.

5.    Are you going to shoot at night or in low-light situations? Photographing in the rainforest can have very low lighting conditions, and it is best to have a camera that has a wide range of ISO settings. Look for one with a range from 100 to 800 or 1600, if possible. The larger the number, the lower light you will be able to shoot in.

6.    Do you want to shoot close-ups of small items, such as leaves, flowers or bugs? Make sure your camera has a macro lens. Most point and shoot cameras have them these days and they are fun to play with.

7.    Will you be shooting things that move quickly, like birds or butterflies? If so, look for a camera with manual capabilities so that you can set a fast shutter speed to capture the action.

8.    Think about getting a camera with a rechargeable battery and get an extra one for backup. You don’t want to waste your money on new batteries all the time, plus it’s not good for the environment.

9.    Will you be traveling with your camera?  Will you be doing a lot of hiking or walking? A camera that is heavy or has multiple lenses can get cumbersome after a while.

10.    Think about storage for your photos – extra memory cards and possibly a device to download them to when you’re traveling. With digital photography, you can take an unlimited amount of photos provided you have enough memory on your card or cards. Either have several cards or a device like a laptop or an iPad that will allow you to view your pics immediately and store them, freeing up your card for more photos. Small zip drives also allow you to store your photos temporarily and free up your cards. Your photos of the rainforest will be irreplaceable. I recommend smaller-quantity cards in case one is lost or damaged, so all is not lost from such an incredible trip.

Cameras Nancy recommends:

Canon Powershot or Sure Shot series. I use the Powershot G9. The G11 is the updated version and sells for about $450 – a good bang for your buck. It has automatic as well as manual settings for more control.

Panasonic Lumix – the DMC series is worth a look. Lumix cameras use a superior Leica lens. Check out the DMC-ZS7K. It has a 25-300 zoom in a nice, compact size and sells for about $280.

Nancy Richmond will be on the Bugs, Beasts & Botanicals Costa Rica 2011 trip teaching photography. For more information about the tour visit the art tour section of this site.