Useful Information

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This section will get updated from time to time. There are at least 30+ more questions that I still need to add. Please stay tuned.

1. Nikon vs. Canon. Which one do you recommend?

A. Nikon and Canon both make great products. I feel that Nikon has the edge on ISO performance and Canon has the edge on the video side. If you compare the cameras within the same class the difference is not that huge. One may give you higher mega pixel while the other has better ISO performance. You must know what you want to do with the camera. If you do mostly studio work and make huge prints, perhaps higher mega pixel is more useful to you. Someone who shoots in low light a lot may consider a camera with better ISO. Do your homework and if you’re still confused, ask us on face book. One of the BIGGEST reason why I like Nikon is because it's very user friendly. Nikon has exceptionally great AF system and the ability to move the focus points around is something that can't be matched with any other name. Because I photograph family portraits, kids and a lot of events, some of these things are very useful. I am not a Nikon for life because the day they drop the ball, I'll start looking somewhere else. But it's very unlikely that Nikon all of a sudden will stop producing great cameras. I think they have a pretty decent edge in AF system, ISO and ability to move the focal points around so I don't see them going backwards.

2. What camera should I purchase?

A. The answer to this will change depending on what’s the latest camera in the market. Normally people are confused when there is a few hundred dollar difference between the two models and the beginners have trouble deciding. We can discuss the different models on face book but remember to budget for a speed light (bounce flash) or you won’t be able to take decent pictures indoors. In other words, if you can afford to get the slightly more expensive camera, I suggest to look at the model one step below and add speed light to your budget if you plan to take photographs indoors. Also, invest in quality lens. You don't have to buy your dream gear right away. It takes time to collect expensive lenses but you're better off saving for the quality lens than buy something very cheap right away.

3. What lens should I purchase with my camera body?

This is a very broad question. The answer depends on what type of photography you’re into. I cannot recommend you a portrait lens when you are into landscape or street photography. I cannot suggest a wide angle lens when you are into macro photography. These are some of the questions you have to ask yourself. Even though you could get a lens that cover wide angle to telephoto like 18-200 but I would not recommend such a lens because it’s variable aperture. Please watch my video on Prime vs. Zoom vs. Kit lens to learn more about variable aperture. 

* Some entry level DSLRs don't have the option to purchase just the camera body only. In that case you  have no choice but to get the kit lens and add additional lenses as you progress.

Below are some of the lenses I’d recommend for a specific type of photography.


50mm 1.8    $110+ If you’re on a very tight budget this would be an ideal lens. Don’t rush to buying  this lens unless you know the auto focus will  work on your entry level DSLR. If your entry level DSLR does not have a built in focusing motor then you need 50mm 1.8G AFS lens. It cost a bit more but it will work on your entry level DSLR with no problem.

85mm 1.8    $420+ An excellent lens for portraits. It produces very silky smooth bokeh. Better optics than 50mm 1.8  It’s a great lens to shoot engagement sessions, newborn babies and kids who can follow directions. If the kids are hyper and running around, you’re better off with a zoom lens. 

70-200 2.8    $1400-$2400 (This is also a great lens for shooting wedding ceremony and events) Non pros can get the Sigma version as it’s a great lens but for Pros, it’s worth spending the extra money for Nikon or Canon get incredible optics. It’s a VERY heavy lens so please,  hold it in your hand and see if you can handle it.


24-70 2.8     $1800+ A must have lens for someone who shoots weddings and events. The only 3rd  party lens for similar focal range I’d recommend for non pros is the Tamron 28-75 2.8 but you must do your homework before purchasing a third party lens. Read every single review from any site you can find. See if the people who left negative reviews even know what they’re talking about. Sometimes clueless people leave bad reviews even if the product is great and they don’t know how to operate it. If you plan to shoot events on a side or full time, get the Nikon or Canon. 

* Inexpensive Alternative - Tamron 28-75 2.8

70-200 2.8   Same lens mentioned in the portrait section. It’s excellent for portraits and wedding photography to shoot the ceremony.    

* Inexpensive Alternative - Sigma 70-200 OS 2.8

14-24 2.8    $1900+ A great lens for super wide angle shots. It’s great if you do landscape or even weddings. You some have a few shots of the wedding in ultra wide angle. Perhaps a picture of the church from outside/inside. You can use this lens for wedding/engagement portraits on a beautiful landscape.

NOW, the good news is that there is a third party lens that cost way less and can produce almost same optics. Tokina 16-28 2.8 is highly recommend. Buy this lens if you own a FX/full frame sensor camera. Those who own a DX/crop sensor camera, look into Tokina 11-16 2.8 That’s also an excellent lens but I don’t know if this will match the quality of Nikon or Canon. Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 however, can.

Street Photography or Video

35mm 1.8     $250+ It’s a great lens for street photography. Because I am not that much into street photography I can’t speak too much on this particular lens but if you’re into street photography, this would be a great choice.  Please do NOT, I repeat do NOT use this lens for portraits. I have seen a photographer suggesting this lens to beginners to do street and portrait photography with this. At this focal range you’re going to get distortion in your image if you do close up portraits the nose will appear big, the sides will be crooked. Anyone telling you otherwise is simply trying to sell the product. Be VERY careful of product pushing photographers on YouTube.


50mm 1.8G   It's an excellent lens for people on a tight budget. It's without a doubt one of my favorite lens. It's excellent for tight spaces and delivers quality on low budget.

85mm 1.8    Same lens mentioned in the portrait section. Use this if kids can follow your direction. I would not recommend using this lens when the kids are running unless you're shooting in an open field. You’ll constantly have to move around and will get tired in half an hour and may not end up with all the shots you’re looking for. This lens is not recommended for really tight spaces indoors for a crop sensor camera. If you shoot outdoors, it's a must have lens for portrait for people on a budget. 

Zoom Lenses

24-70   2.8
70-200 2.8    Same lens mentioned in event section. You have to use your own judgment here. 70-200 will give you better bokeh  than 24-70 but if the kids are running around it could be a heavy lens to carry for a longer period of time. But if the kids are camera shy, maybe 70-200 would be a better choice as you can shoot from a distance. One disadvantage with 70-200 lens is that you can’t do wide angle from a near distance. So if the spacing is tight, 24-70 would be more practical. If you can't afford this, simply try the third party Sigma lens or go with 50mm 1.8 prime lens first.

Macro Photography

150mm 2.8     $730 I don’t even need to mention Nikon or Canon lens here. Sigma 150mm 2.8 can match the quality and will save you some money. For extreme macro photography you can try teleconvertors. I suggested you buy branded convertors. Tripod is a must and you'd probably have to manually focus. 

If you are a brand junkie then look into 105mm 2.8 macro.

4. I am on a very tight budget. What lens do you recommend for basic portraits?

A. I would suggest to start off with a prime lens. 50mm f/1.8 (Nikon or Canon) is an excellent lens for the money. Please don’t rush in to buying the lens without doing the research. Depending on your camera, your lens may not auto focus if the camera does not have a built in motor. If the lens has a built in motor like Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AFS, then you have nothing to worry about. But if the lens does not have a built in motor like 50mm f/1.8D AF, then your camera body must have a built in motor in order for the lens to auto focus. Nikon D3000, 3100, 5000, 5100 don't have a built in AF motor which means you will need 50mm 1.8G AFS

Try to avoid lenses that have 2 extreme ranges from wide angle to telephoto like 18-200 or 55-200, 70-300. If you look at Nikon’s or Canon’s top glass you’ll notice that the focal range is broken down into 3 different lenses. There is a reason for that. You have 14-24mm f/2.8 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 When you get a lens that covers such a huge range you’ll most likely end up compromising on the quality. 98% of the pictures posted on the facebook page with such extreme zoom lenses are simply blurry. Even if you could get a variable aperture lens of this much zoom for $50, save the money and buy some other important accessory. You're better off buying a point and shoot camera with 20x zoom if you're okay with blurry pictures.

If you don’t have the funds right now. Try to get by with your kit lens and save until you can afford a better lens. No one starts off with the top notch equipment from day one. It is acquired over a period of time.

5. I simply cannot afford the Nikon or Canon 24-70 f/2.8 Would you recommend a third party zoom lens?

A. So far there is no third party lens that can match the quality of Nikon or Canon 24-70 f/2.8 The only lens closest is Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 Always do your home work before you make any purchase even if the item is for $20.

6. Is there a third party lens you’d highly recommend?

A. Yes, I absolutely love Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 for landscape or other wide angle shots. If you’re into macro photography, look into Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Both these lenses will not disappoint you.

7. What lens do you recommend for portraits?

A. IF you’re on a very tight budget, go with 50mm f/1.8 If you could spend a little extra go with 85mm f/1.8 and if you want the versatility of a zoom lens, then 70-200 f/2.8 preferably with VRii. If you own an entry level DSLR, always make sure if the auto focus will work on your camera before you buy the lens. If you're just becoming a semi pro and do plan to expend the business then you'd most likely end up buying all the portrait lenses like most pros.

8. How do I determine the true focal length of my lens?

This is very easy. You first have to find out if your DSLR has a crop sensor (DX) or a full frame sensor (FX). Simply google it and read the specs. If your DSLR has a crop sensor then there is an easy formula to determine your true focal length. Because a crop sensor crops the image, that means your picture gets magnified. If you are using a Nikon crop sensor then the formula is “focal length x 1.5” = true focal length. For example a 50mm lens on a Nikon crop sensor would be 75mm. Why? Because 50x1.5 = 75. So 75mm is your true focal length on a Nikon crop sensor. If the focal length is 100mm then it would be 100x1.5 = 150mm.

Canon crop sensors have 1.6 magnification factor. So the formula for Canon would be “focal length x 1.6” = true focal length. A 50mm lens on a Canon crop sensor camera would be 80mm. Why? Because 50 x 1.6 = 80. So 80mm is your true focal length.

Some Olympus DSLRs have a 2 times magnification. So 50mm lens would be a 100mm on those Olympus cameras. 

If you own a full frame sensor (FX) then there is no formula. A 50mm lens on a full frame sensor would be 50mm. A 200mm lens on a full frame sensor would be 20mm. There is no cropping/magnification involved.

9. Any suggestion for taking pictures of the kids?

A. Shooting kids is not easy. There are two kinds, the super hyper ones and the ones who love to pose. 8 out of 10 times you’ll be shooting the hyper ones haha. Zoom lens is very helpful when shooting hyper kids. If the kid is running around it’s not easy to get them perfectly framed in a portrait position. Get your safe shots out of the way by taking pictures in landscape position first. After a while when the kid calms down, you can try shots in portrait position. If the kid is not willing to smile for the camera, don’t force them. Let them play around and try to capture the candid shots. Watch my videos on family portraits of kids. You'll see what goes on behind the scene.

If the kid is willing to pose then a prime lens like 85mm f/1.8 would be an excellent choice. You can open up the aperture and get a silky bokeh to blow out the background. Always take shots from different angles. You cannot take all the shots while standing. Add variety by mixing up it up. Lay down on the floor. Try eye to eye level and some shots from the top.

Useful tip: Tie a small bib around your lens if you want the baby to look towards you. It works 9 out of 10 times.

10. RAW vs. JPEG?

RAW is your digital negative. It contains more information than JPEG. When you post process your picture, RAW holds up better than JPEG. Does this mean RAW or nothing? NO! One photographer on YouTube in particular does make it seem like that but that's like giving the same medication to all your patients without asking any question. If you do a lot of action photography, sports, fast moving subjects, RAW may not be the best route. RAW files are huge and the camera will hit the buffer faster which can cost you a great shot. You also must have a software that can convert RAW files to JPEG.

I don't always shoot RAW. For paid gigs, and personal serious work, yes I shoot RAW but all the sample pictures I take for the video, are shot on fine JPEG. In my opinion shooting in RAW is NOT the most important thing for a beginner. It's your composition, exposure etc. A crappy picture shot in RAW will still be crappy. Chase Jarvis has published an entire book with a ton of great pictures all shot in JPEG format. Again, composition, exposure are more important for a beginner to improve the skills.

Now if I were selling T shirts that say RAW RAW RAW and my goal is to sell as many T shirts possible and money is a bigger priority than teaching photography, then yes, I'd tell my 6 year old nephew to shoot in RAW and make it seem like that's the biggest priority for a beginner. Fortunately, I don't think like that. I do sell RAW T shirts but I would never deceive anyone just so I could push my product to make an extra buck.

11. What are some of the shots you would suggest for wedding photography?

A. I don’t want new photographers to be scared of wedding photography because it’s not that difficult. You just have to pay attention to small details. In the beginning maybe you could have a small check list. After you shoot a few weddings, it will become second nature to you. I shoot Christenings just like I shoot weddings. I cover the baby’s dress, shoes, getting ready shots etc. It’s almost like shooting a small wedding. It’s a great way to practice for someone who is just starting out. 

I will be making a very in depth wedding photography tutorial broken into many different parts. There will be a separate video that shows how to photograph a ring, shoes, dress, portraits, ceremony, reception, dance etc. Because I explain things in detail with lots of picture examples I rather not rush these tutorial. So please stay tuned for that. Make sure you subscribe to the channel so you're notified right away.

These are some shots you should consider.

Getting Ready

* Bride hair + make up
* Dress displayed
* Shoes + Hair piece + flowers etc
* All the girls hanging out
* Bride putting on her shoes
* Boys putting on ties or cuff links
* All the boys hanging out

Group shots

* Bride and Groom, of course :P
* All the guys together (serious and goofy shots)
* All the girls together ( serious and goofy shots)
* Boys and Girls together (serious and goofy shots)

Family Group Shots

* Bride + Parents
* Bride + Parents + Siblings
* Bride + Grandparents
* Bride + Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
* Groom + Parents
* Groom + Parents + Siblings
* Groom + Grandparents
* Groom + Parents + Siblings + Grandparents
* Bride + Groom + Both parent sets
* Bride + Groom + Both families

Reception Hall

Most of the shooting at reception hall is common sense. You capture every little detail possible. Anything that catches your eye.

* Flowers
* Table setting
* Fine China
* Party favors
* Placement cards
* Food
* Decoration
* Cake

Wrap up by taking pictures of empty glasses and empty hall if you stay there till the end.

This info will get updated from time to time. I am juggling too many projects at once but if you have any question, you can always reach out to me on facebook. Remember, this site does not belong to me only. It belongs to anyone wanting to learn and people willing to contribute to teach others. If you feel I should add something to this list, please feel free to suggest. I don’t have a big head and big ego. I am a simple person like you are.

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