Tips for your venture into a DSLR!

October 31, 2012 by Arnoldo Offermann

Lots of discussions about DSLRS have been taking place. Many of you have jumped into the T2i, T3i, or T4i… and why shouldn’t you? With virtually the same image quality as the infamous 7D at half the price, it’s a no brainer. Yes, the 7D has a better button layout, more rugged body, more Af points, and a few other features that you will most likely never need; yet I can promise you that the Rebel bodies I mentioned will blow you away.

So you bought your nice camera, you take a photo, and it looks like total turds and oatmeal. Oh noz! Well, let’s go through the checklist:
Did you shoot in Manual (M), Aperture Priority (Av), or Shutter Priority (Tv)? No? You shot in Auto? Congratulations, you overspent on a point-and-shoot! Manual should be the way to go. If you don’t know how to use this… well, there’s plenty of stuff out there to teach you! 🙂
Are you using the kit lens? This is the lens that you bought with your camera; most likely the 18-55 3.5-5.6. It’s a good lens at ƒ5.6, but terrible for low light applications. Why? An ƒ-stop value (or aperture) of 3.5 does not let enough light in to really grab the rich colors your LEDs give out. Sure, you could up your ISO to 6400 or take your shutter speed down to 1/10 or slower, but you will have the blurriest and grainiest photos ever. This is a combination that can kill crucial bits of detail.
The better the lens the more expensive it will be, but the good news is that lenses will be with you for life and will across multiple generations of multiple bodies. With Canon, there’s two primary mounts: EF fits everything and EF-S fits APS-C (or crop) bodies such as the Rebel series, 7D, and the XXD series (as in 60 down to 10D).
There are three AMAZING low light lenses in three ranges of budgets. Remember I use Canon and not Nikon, but I am sure Nikon has equal alternatives! Let’s explore:
     1) 50mm ƒ1.8 AKA The Plastic Fantastic. At $99, this baby cannot be beat. Super fast (1.8 is ridiculous) and very vivid colors. It’s a prime lens which means it cannot zoom in nor out. Focus on it is slow and 50mm means it’s NOT very wide at all. Still, worked for me for a bit. However, I wanted something wider, but didn’t have $1000 to spend, so I jumped to…
     2) … 35mm 2.0. Please do not get this confused with the $1500 35L (ƒ1.2). This short lens is only $300-400 and also a prime, but a lot wider. Focus is loud, but faster, and colors are very vivid. An ƒ2.0 value means it’s the 50mm 1.8 is a tad better at low light, but you won’t notice it. Honestly, you’d be fine down to ƒ2.8,
     3) Speaking of ƒ2.8, let’s talk about (IMO) the best lens for DJ use. It’s around a cool grand, but when my photos equal instant sales of upgrades, it’s totally worth it. The Canon EF 17-55 ƒ2.8 Constant IS is a KILLER lens.
Look at your kit 18-55, see how you can zoom in and out? The 17-55 can do the same, but a tad wider. However, the aperture value stays constant. As you zoom in on your 18-55, the aperture value changes and gets darker. BOOO. The 17-55 stays at 2.8 (which lets a LOT MORE LIGHT IN THAN A MEASLY 3.5) so this lens is also great for video shots, too!
Speaking of video, the 17-55 has Image Stabilization. That’s right, your video won’t look like some horrible college film. It has great glass, and IMO is a great rival to the more expensive 24-70L lens.
Can you justify a $1000 lens? Maybe or maybe not. I couldn’t at first, no matter how much I drooled over the lens, but I needed amazing photos to push our events and the 50mm and 35mm, while amazing lenses, just didn’t cut it for me!
In this day and age of social media, photography is bigger than ever. Sure, I can get photos from a photographer, but I need photos of MY lights, MY console, and MY effects on the dance floor. I doubt many photographers are going to shoot at 1600ISO / 1/40 / and ƒ2.8 just to get you some shots you need.
This also involves using very little flash. Sometimes you want a nice bump, and the pop-up flash is exactly what you want to avoid! Use an overhead flash, aim it straight up (unless the ceilings are black or some dark color) and set it at -2 or -3. The nice bump of light will light up features and create some nice highlights without overriding the colors your lighting emits.
Last but not least, NEVER trust the camera to do the processing for you. Remember that comment I made about the point and shoot? This applies, too! Shoot in RAW so you have the ENTIRE raw data (and not just what the camera chose to keep) and import it into a program such as Adobe Lightroom. There, you’ll be able to get rid of the hot spots your LED emit (such as the white center in uplights), fix the odd color issues (blue LEDs appearing purple) and remove noise!
Yes, it’s an investment of time and money, but when your images stand out above your competition, you have an instant advantage that money cannot buy. I love being able to whip out my iPhone or iPad, pulling up a beautiful photo of the venue they’ve chosen all made up and saying “yes, we can do this with your wedding, too” and seeing their eyes light up. Our sales have become easier as we have a countless number of photos which make upsells a quick decision!
Just like there is an art form to being a DJ, photography is no different. You cannot expect to pick up a DSLR and master it. Likewise, you cannot break the laws of physics and get a killer low light shot that’s not blurry and has little grain on a lens that isn’t up to speed. It takes some times to learn the ins and outs of DSLRS and digital photography, but the rewards will be fruitful for your company!
Good luck with your snappy snaps!
For more info, and to really learn how to take amazing event photography, click here:
Arnoldo Offermann Arnoldo Offermann (41 Posts)

Arnoldo Offermann is the president of 4SchoolsOnly, a national phenomenon in school dances. In a market where DJs cry about $500 school DJs, 4SO sees 10-20x that price tag per event. Arnoldo is also the creator of Master School Dances, the leading educational tools for DJs wanting to get into this great market. He is a sought-after speaker, reviewer, and DJ tech-writer. You can learn more at

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