Photo Classes

2009 Digital Camera and Gadget Buying Guide

Once again, here it is–my recommendations for the best cameras, photo gadgets and gifts for the holidays!

Some reminders about buying cameras online–BE CAREFUL. If a price looks too low, there’s a reason. It may be a gray market product (made for non US markets with lower standards and no warranty) or a refurbished item.
Also be suspicious of any vendor who wants you to call and confirm your order. You’re just going to have to suffer through a big spiel to buy expensive and often overpriced accessories. This is another way companies that lowball prices try to get their money back, often telling you your item is backordered or out of stock if you don’t order the extras.
The following vendors are legitimate, reasonably priced, and I deal with them all the time:
I’m also a fan of Fry’s Electronics (although I know not everyone is.) And when I can, I support Precision Camera at 35th and Lamar. They will often work with you on the price if you bring in a printout. Keeping local brick & mortar stores open is important!
Okay, scroll down, see what I’ve got for you! And have a great holiday.



Cameras and Photo Gadgetry


Point and Shoot Cameras


Canon Camera 
New this year is a KILLER camera from Canon. If you are not ready for the full blown digital SLR, but want something with more heft and power than a typical point and shoot, try the Canon PowerShot SX20IS. Wow, oh wow, 12 megapixel images and movies in HD! $369.
ElphIf you want the pocket-sized camera, I still love the Canon Digital Elph ($149). I own one myself and it’s the best combination of tiny size and good picture. I haven’t seen anything come through my Point and Shoot Camera Basics class that tops this little guy.
When it comes to features, remember that more megapixels are not always better. Unless you’re going to make a billboard, 6 megapixels is plenty. Otherwise you are just buying bigger memory cards, bigger hard drives, and waiting longer to upload. The ridiculous part is that often the camera defaults to a lower megapixel rating so it appears that the card holds more images. So your 12 megapixel camera is actually shooting at 8 or less unless you change this.
Image Stabilization is pretty important on a camera that has more than 3X optical zoon (remember digital zoom is EVIL. It CROPS your pictures. It’s not a zoom at all. Turn it OFF.) Without I.S., a tiny wiggle in your hand (even in just pushing the shutter button) becomes a big movement at the extended end of a zoomed-in lens, causing motion blur.


Digital SLRs
Still, the best is going to be for me, the Canon Digital Rebel XSi ($569). I’m NOT sending you to the pricier 15 megapixel one. The 12 meg one is FINE! Really! The link is for the kit, which I don’t love, as I think the 18mm-55mm lens isn’t enough for what most people will want. Try a 28-135 lens instead.



Photo Gadgets

SandiskThis year when a family member asked for an MP3 player, I discovered this amazing little SanDisk gadget. It plays songs, as well as lets you view photos AND videos. Since our cameras all do little videos now, this is the perfect thing to slip in your purse or pocket. Who needs wallet photos anymore? Just load up your updated pictures into this! And best of all? Only $49.

I freely admit to being a Canon girl. Among the entry-level digital single-lens-reflex cameras, I find them the easiest to use. Nikon buries the menus and makes it difficult to make simple setting changes. But if you love Nikon, definitely the D-series are a good choice ($464 for the D3000).

Private Lessons and Classes

Fancy cameras are no good if you don’t know how to use them! Most people don’t realize that a digital point and shoot camera used in the “automatic ” setting will take WORSE pictures than a point and shoot.

For gift certificates for private lessons bought between now and Christmas, buy one hour of lessons for $65 and we’ll double it for a two-hour session.

Just call or email me and I’ll get you a cute little gift certificate. 

This year I got to do so many fun lessons. Dad brought the kids to the park while Mom learned how to photograph them. We set up a little space by a window in another mom’s home where she could take portraits of her baby. I got to teach a jewelry maker how to photograph her work and a knitter how to get images up on Etsy of her products. And boy, did I do a lot of Photoshop lessons. Seems everybody wants to touch up their pictures. :)

Gift certificates for private lessons are good for a year.
OR! Take one of my classes at UT! I will be teaching both my beginner Point and Shoot Camera Basics and my intermediate Photography Walking Tour of UT (for both Digital SLR and P&S cameras) in March. Search for photography classes at UT Informal Classes. If you want a more in-depth series of classes, look for my friend Carlos Austin’s courses for beginning digital SLR users.


For the kids
The girls’ book on how to make balloon animals is going great! It made it all the way up to #26 for Kid Crafts on Amazon last week. We were thrilled!

Since so many people asked where to get pumps and balloons, we found a company that provides supplies to professional balloon twisters and made a little kit of the book, a pump, and 20 balloons. It’s on special through Christmas for $16.95 and use the code shipfree09 and you won’t pay shipping either!
If you would like the book signed by the little authors, you can let them know the inscription in the shipping instructions.
Check it out at Casey Shay Press.

Reflections Tour

My most recent Reflections Tour was so fun! Perfect weather and my students were awesome. We started ad-libbing it and walked through the Warehouse District after shooting the cityscapes on Town Lake. I can’t wait to do it again!






Happy Toys

Hooray! The first ACC Community Ed class I am teaching is DONE!!!! I have to teach it again, like 6 more times, but it’ll get easier now that I’ve done it once. I see some changes I need to make, get more hands-on things going on (the whole class got to take my silhouette image today–I will definitely bring a cleverly shaped still life next time!!!) but overall it was good.

To celebrate I bought myself a toy I’ve wanted since last summer–the Canon Elph, a digital camera extraordinaire–7 megapixels, super high quality video capacity, pictures like I only see coming out of my $5K professional setup, and it fits in my back pocket!!! I am so excited. One of the students in my class had one and all the images we took–the window silhouette, an orange rose we pilfered from a horticulture class during the break, and even throwaway shots testing focus range were all breathtaking.

Another professional photographer friend had highly recommended it many months ago–back then it was over $500. Now I picked it up–the newest incarnation no less–for $350.

Oh, the happy camera dance commences!

And the end of this class signals my slowdown in everything. Back to a normal 10-hour work week, a regular schedule, time to play.

Whew. Thanks for all of you out there who were great about listening to me complain.

(more happy new camera dancing!!!)

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