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Professional Take: A Camera Bag for Beginners! By Me Ra Koh

by Gina 08/14/2009

Me Ra Koh Photography, Inc. is a nationally recognized studio with a talented team of wedding and portrait photographers. Me Ra Koh started the company seven years ago as a self taught photographer and has since been spotlighted on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Martha Stewart TV and featured on VH1′s Fabulous Wedding series. Me Ra is also one of Sony’s Artisan’s of Imagery who shares their expertise with Sony customers through photography discussions, contests, and events.

She recently wrote a blog article titled, “What’s In Our Camera Bag” which uncovered the insides of her camera bag on location in Thailand’s jungle. Interested in picking her brain on what a beginner should buy, I asked if she could share her recommendations with Sony Style blog readers. She did!

From Me Ra Koh…

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is “If I had to buy one camera and lens, what should it be?”

It’s a great question. My ideal camera bag for beginners would have two things: The Sony Alpha 330 camera

and the Sony 50mm, 1.8 SAM DT lens.

Here is my reasoning. Let’s start with the camera body.
As a mom and professional photographer, I want a camera that can do several things. If I feel like putting the camera in my purse and going to the pool with the kids, I want a lightweight option that is more “purse friendly” but a step up from a point and shoot. This way I can capture all the moments in my daughter’s back flip off the diving board.
Color quality is also a HUGE deal to me.  I don’t want to spend hours behind the computer adjusting color. Who has time for that? I want my color to be good the moment I shoot it. The color quality in the Sony 330 is BEAUTIFUL! What I see, and what I shoot, is what the camera gives back to me–without hours of color correction. This is a HUGE plus for any busy person!
But the lens. The lens is where the magic goes to a whole new level.
Everyone has their own preference to what they love about photography. My preference is what I like to call “buttery, blurred backgrounds”. I love the background that softly blurs and at the same time accentuates the story of where I’m focusing my image. This is why I would choose the 50mm, 1.4 SAM DT lens over a zoom lens any day.
Why not a zoom lens? Wouldn’t a zoom lens give me more versatility? A zoom can be nice b/c you can stand farther back, and if you want to get in closer with your framing you don’t have to move your feet. Here’s the key to the buttery, blurred backgrounds. The “lower” my fstop goes, the more buttery my background becomes. The 50mm lens that I’m suggesting can go all the way down to 1.8 fstop. That’s REALLY low.  But zoom lenses are limited to how low they can go in their aperture/fstops.
I took this image of the kids at a 1.8 fstop. I wanted the wheat stalks to be in focus around Blaze’s sad face. (He was caught up in the idea of how sad he’d be if he lost his balloon to the clouds.) But I also wanted to make the image even more dramatic by having Pascaline blurred in the background. Her presence helps accentuate the story of Blaze, how young he is, the story of kids playing with red balloons in the wheat field, and at the same time Pascaline doesn’t take away from Blaze because of how much I’ve blurred her out.
The best part about the low fstops is that you can take a great picture ANYWHERE! It doesn’t matter how horrible your background is. You can just blur it!
The last feature I love about the 50mm lens is that it can get great wide shots too. The 50mm lens is not a “wide angle” lens. But it does the “wide” trick for me! Not only can I get in really tight to Pascaline’s eyelashes, but I can also step back and get a wide angle shot from underneath the pier.
The blurry background is one of the key features that makes our Point and Shoot images look like snapshots, and our blurry background images look professional. If you have a limited budget, and photography is a new passion of yours. Go with the Alpha 330 and the 50mm, 1.8 SAMT DT lens. You will be AMAZED at the difference in your images when you take your first shot at a 1.8 fstop. And if fstops overwhelm you, you can forget about numbers and simply adjust the sliding scale on your Live Preview Screen. See the person’s head with the blurred mountain behind him? The lowest fstop is 1.4. Once you get your 50mm lens, put your camera in A mode (Aperture Priority) so you can move the marker down the sliding scale. That’s it!

That is a signature feature to the Sony’s Alpha 330 camera, and I’m so excited for visual learners to have this kind of technology. It takes all the Math and fractions out of getting blurry backgrounds. And even better, it opens up a world of creativity to you!

I’m excited to see what you capture! If you have questions about what you see here, feel free to ask! Happy to share what I know. :-)

Much Warmth,

Me Ra Koh

Thanks Me Ra for sharing your recommendations. For more photo tips and exercises, check out her blog or see more posts of hers on Digital Darkroom (photo gallery site where you can practice photography techniques). If you have tips and recommendations you think readers would be interested in learning or if you have questions for Me Ra, please share by posting your comments.
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  1. guest_user wrote: August 17, 2009 1:54pm

    Cool tips. Can hardly wait to rush home and try a low fstop!

    Reply
  2. Gina wrote: August 17, 2009 1:58pm

    Hi Guest,
    Glad you like the tips. I took notes myself :-) Good luck trying a few of them and let us know how a low fstop works. Thanks for posting. Gina (Blog Editor)

    Reply
  3. guest_user wrote: August 17, 2009 6:08pm

    Me Ra’s work is stunning and she is so generous to share her knowledge and excellent photography tips!

    Reply
  4. Gina wrote: August 17, 2009 6:17pm

    Hi Guest. Thank for you for the super nice comments. We were so grateful that Me Ra shared her expertise with us. I saw her post today on her blog where she mentioned what a good time she had writing this. (http://www.merakohblog.com/). We had a great time too :-) Thanks again for sharing. Gina (Blog Editor)

    Reply
  5. guest_user wrote: September 11, 2009 6:27pm

    Me Ra has been such a tremendous help in the search for my very first DSLR camera. I started with her “What’s In Our Camera Bag” post and wound up at here, and now I feel even more confident that I want to invest in an Alpha series camera. I have learned so much already – thanks Gina and Me Ra!

    Reply
  6. Gina wrote: September 11, 2009 7:24pm

    Hi Guest,
    That is so fabulous to hear. Thank you so much for sharing your story and you are very welcome :-) Enjoy your Alpha and we’d love to hear from you as you start to take photos with it! Enjoy and thank you again for posting. – Gina (Blog Editor)

    Reply

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