Photographer, Michael Mbaya, shares camera tips for beginners

Is it just me or is it really confusing reading about DSLR cameras? I get lost in all of the technical jargon of the articles out there.  I suppose as one progresses through the photography journey all the technical information because more important and hopefully easier to grasp. For starters, lets get the basics right. Ok so maybe you’re wondering, “What is a DSLR camera?” This is a good question. Originally I thought this was any black camera with a big lense protruding from the front. This isn’t true. There are cameras designed to look like DSLR cameras but they are not. DSLR stands for digital single lens reflex – in other words: camera that takes high quality photos, has multiple setting capabilities and has interchangeable lenses.

You may be looking to buy a DSLR camera but don’t know which one to pick. I use a Nikon D3200. I chose it after many days of Googling, “best DSLR camera for beginners.” Oh how Google has been the basis of so many of my life decisions. Because there is so much information available on the internet and so much advice laced with alternative motives it can be tricky picking out the good stuff. So I interviewed Michael Mbaya, a friendly and very helpful photographer who took the time to answer some of my questions about cameras, SIMPLY.

Tell us about yourself

Hi, I am Michael. I’m 26, Head Photographer and Director at Enigmatic Iris Studios. I have been a photographer for almost 6 years now. The exciting thing about it is that I feel like I haven’t even started scratching the surface when it comes to knowing photography and being the best photographer that I can be. I officially started taking photos when I joined the visuals team of the Perdeby (University of Pretoria varsity publication) and the funny thing about that job is I applied for it using my phone photos, before I knew my way around a dslr camera. It’s safe to say my time as a photojournalist taught me everything I know, my editor at the time was so helpful. With photography, practice is everything and your relationship with your camera is what sets you apart from other photographers. I am mainly a portrait and lifestyle photographer, I enjoy capturing life’s moments and, more importantly, emotion.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a 67 day project for Mandela day. It’s mainly focusing on women issues – given the lack of safety of girls in Joburg right now. The aim of the project is to raise funds to help homeless women and struggling women. We are collecting old handbags and feminine products and the essentials women need. I have exhibitions coming soon, unfortunately I can’t disclose dates yet but it’s all part of the 67 day project. I’m on all social media platforms.

How can we contact you?

Facebook: Enigmatic Iris Photography

Instagram: Michael_Mbaya

Twitter: Tapiwa_Mike

www.michaelmbaya.com (which is currently down but should be sorted this coming week)

I suck at answering my phone though my number is available on all of these platforms. I do respond to messages on all platforms. If you can donate old handbags and feminine products it would be awesome and appreciated, it’s for a good cause. I’m also willing to come collect if you can’t do drop offs.

With cellphone cameras getting better and better, does one really need a DSLR camera?

I have to admit, phone cameras are becoming more impressive by the day. The need for DSLRs will never die as far as I’m concerned. As much as I love my phone camera and that you can now shoot in manual/pro mode on most phones, I can’t really push it as much as I can push my camera. The applications of a DSLR are vast and the options are quite diverse especially when it comes to producing quality, professional photos.

Which DSLR camera would you suggest for beginners?

Any entry level camera is a good choice, it fits the pocket and it gets the job done. If you really don’t want to focus on the technical side of camera functions a Canon is a good choice like an EOS 1200D.

Canon vs Nikon, does it really make a difference?

Well I have both a Canon and a Nikon in my camera bag. I am a Nikon enthusiast. I love how it is set up, how it works and how technical it is. I believe both brands have their merits, I honestly don’t believe it matters, to me it actually doesn’t.  It’s the Apple vs. Samsung argument. Whatever camera is in my hand at the time is my camera of choice.

What are some of the basic settings one should be aware of?

3 things: Shutter speed, ISO and Aperture. The slower the shutter speed, the more light your camera takes into your camera. The higher your aperture the less light your camera takes in. Know how to change that and you will get the most out of your camera. ISO basically measures the sensitivity to light. So the lower the number, the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the images are. High ISO is usually for darker settings to get faster shutter speeds.

Is the lens that comes with the camera good enough?

The kit lens is a good lens; it has the power to surprise you. If you know how to use it, you can do a lot with it. Camera settings and good use of light are quite important in getting the most out of your lens. Know what the numbers on your lens mean and how to use them to your advantage. Play around with the settings, the internet is your friend; there is a lot of helpful literature out there. It also helps to shadow someone.

How do I know if I need a new lens?

That’s an interesting question. Well depending on what you use your camera for and what you are hoping to achieve, there are specific lenses for specific things. It really depends on what it is you want to do. It’s always good to have a lens with wide range in your arsenal, something that will let you shoot from wide angle to portrait to telephoto.

Is it correct that there isn’t a lens that is good for everything?

Well, arguably there is – such as full frame lenses like the 24-70mm. At 24mm you are shooting wide angle and anything above 50mm will do portraits justice. It’s my personal favourite.

Do you have any tips for how to practice photography on a budget?

Pinterest has the most photography hacks all in one area. Also, rent your equipment. Rent until you can afford to buy the things you need. When you rent a lens or lights or anything really. You have about 48 hours with it and you can work around that. Schedule your shoots in such a way that you get the most out of it. I recommend Lens Rental in Randpark Ridge, Quantum photo, Broadcast lighting and Outdoorphoto.

Lenses are generally expensive to purchase. Look at Ormsdirect, Outdoorphoto and Bhpphoto, they have sweet deals.

Thank you Michael Mbaya for answering these questions! I never knew that renting camera equipment was a thing. This gave me an idea – rent and test out before buying.

Which camera do you use? Please share any tips you have in the comments below 🙂 

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