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Basics of photography: the camera

"Summer Forever" image by Michelle Posey
"Summer Forever" by Michelle Posey
The above image was shot using a toy camera purchased for a dollar at a flea market.

One of the most common questions asked by beginning photographers is, "What kind of camera should I use?"

 Advocates of the two major professional camera brands (Canon and Nikon) are quick to make a case for their preference. Others tell beginning photographers to start small, with a less expensive camera, such as an Olympus or Minolta.

 Leaving brands aside, there is a large school of thought that says you should always start with an SLR, or single lens reflex, camera. This type of camera typically gives you more control over lens choices, lighting and controls such as aperture and shutter speed.

 Internationally-known photographer Chase Jarvis has answered the question his way in his new book, "The Best Camera Is The One That's With You." Those who are familiar with Jarvis' work know that he is a master of high-quality photography. But in this book, Jarvis takes a look at a camera that many people carry every day without thinking about it: the iPhone. In addition to his book, Jarvis offers and iPhone app and is creating a photo sharing site for its users.

 Is this something new? No. Photographers have long gone back to simpler cameras to pursue their artistic vision. From Polaroids to toy cameras, there is a great tradition of art work done with cameras that some photographers would bypass as being too primitive, too amateurish, or of poor quality. Jarvis is simply the latest artist to create with whatever comes to hand.

 A professional photographer needs a certain kind of camera to produce the high-quality images that clients expect, but many turn to other cameras to explore their personal vision. For the beginning photographer seeking to explore the art of photography, it makes sense to start with whatever camera you have, learn how to master composition and light, and then move on to better technology if you find you need it.

 Photography begins with mastering the art of seeing, and it does not matter which camera you use for that.