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The Gear You Need After You Get That New Camera

The Gear You Need After You Get That New Camera

Ahhh, that new camera smell! It’s all fresh and shiny, and just waiting to start exploring with you. 

I’ve learned the hard way, that before you go too far with your new camera, you’ll need three more items. It’s not an additional lens. It’s not a tripod. It’s not a set of filters. While those are wonderfully helpful photo tools, the three items you need next are not quite as “sexy.”

Item Number 1: Additional Memory Cards

Gear You Need After You Get That New Camera - Memory Cards Michael Sladek Photography
You need more memory cards for several reasons.  First, they’re easy to leave in pockets, purses, computers, or basically anywhere but the camera. Second, they are physically fragile, and it’s possible for them to become damaged or lose data. Third, even with large capacity cards, it’s possible to fill them with a couple of days taking photos with a high resolution camera. 

So, it’s always good to have a spare memory card. Or two. Or three. Memory cards are relatively inexpensive, with most SD cards of good speed and quality costing about $.75 per gigabyte. For example, a 32GB card with relatively fast data speed of 95MB/s costs about $20, and a 64GB one costs about $35. 

Which One to Get?
For memory card purchases, I usually take a middle of the road approach, as that’s usually where I find the best value. I go for a middle speed, middle size, and from a brand I’ve had a good experience with. 

Size: I’ve found 64GB to be a good size for photos from my 24 megapixel camera. That lets me store about 2,000 RAW photos on one card. If you shoot lots of video, especially 4K, or have a camera with 36 megapixels or more, a 128GB card might fit better. 

Speed: For my current needs a read/write speed of 95MB/s works well. Again, if you do lots of video, sports, or have a 36+ megapixel camera, you might want a card that can write at 300MB/s. 

Brand: This one’s easy, as SanDisk has pretty much set the standard for SD cards. So, if you’re buying SD cards, SanDisk is a very good choice, in my experience. It’s possible to spend more, but I’d rather save that extra money for lenses. There are less expensive cards, but not by a whole lot, so it’s just not worth saving a few dollars at the potential cost of missed moments. 


Item Number 2: Additional Batteries

Gear You Need After You Get That New Camera - Batteries Michael Sladek Photography

If your camera battery is dead, your camera is now just a pretty paperweight. 

If you have a DSLR camera, one extra battery will likely be enough, as those batteries are usually good for 800-1,000 photos or more. If you have a mirror less camera, you’re likely going to want more. Lots more. Mirrorless cameras generally get many less photos per battery as the batteries are smaller to fit in the smaller camera bodies, and the cameras drain them faster as they are always powering a screen and the camera sensor.

I have six batteries with me on a wedding day with my Fujifilm X-T2, and will use 4-5 of those in taking 2,000 photos. 

Which One to Get?
The general decision to make with extra batteries is whether to stay with original equipment ones, or consider third party options. I’ve had good experience with both original batteries and third party ones. For my Fujifilm X-T2, third party batteries from Watson cost $20, where the Fujifilm brand ones cost $65. The main difference I’ve noticed in the third party batteries is that when the camera battery charge indicator first shows red/low battery, the Watson battery will be much closer to depletion (10 or so photos), while the original Fuji batteries will get a few more photos than that. 


Item Number 3: Extra Hard Drive

Gear You Need After You Get That New Camera - Portable Hard Drive Michael Sladek Photography

There’s an old saying about computers: “It’s nota matter of IF your hard drive will crash, but WHEN.”

So, with it being a given that your main computer hard drive will have some kind of failure, it’s extremely important to have a backup copy of your photos. There’s a couple of general ways to accomplish this. 

One option to copy your photos is online storage, sometimes referred to as cloud storage. I don’t recommend this as a primary backup as it can be expensive, and it’s relatively slow, especially when uploading multiple terabytes of photo data. 

Another option, and my suggestion, is to purchase a portable hard drive to copy all your important data. 

Which One to Get?
We live in a wonderful time when hard drive storage has never been less expensive and there’s now one main connection format. My suggestions will mostly focus on portable hard drives which use USB-3 and get power from the computer. 

Size: My suggestion is to get a hard drive with as much storage as possible. I just purchased a 5TB portable hard drive that is just a bit larger than a deck of playing cards for $130. My photos take up a bit more than 2.5TB of space for approximately 70,000 photos. 

Format: USB-3 is the most common format, so it’s generally the one to go with. Newer computers are moving to USB-C, so sometime in the next 5 or so years, that will likely be the new normal. 

Spinning Disk (HD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)? Currently, small, spinning hard drives are much less expensive than SSD’s. A 2TB HD is available for approximately $65 while a 2TB SSD is about $560 at the time of this writing. SSD’s have several advantages: they are faster, smaller, lighter, and more durable as they have no moving parts. 

Brand: I’ve used hard drives from all the major brands including: Seagate, LaCie, Western Digital, and G-Tech. All have worked well with no problems for me. 

Replacement Strategy: I replace my portable hard drive about every 18 months. I assume my backup will also fail, at some point, so by keeping my hard drives relatively new, I hope to minimize this risk. 

What gear did you get next after your camera?

Behind the Scenes with Deanna Rivaldo Photography

Behind the Scenes with Deanna Rivaldo Photography

One way to get better at something is to hang around with people who are already really good at it. I’ve been wanting to improve my portrait photography skills, so I spent an afternoon with Deanna Rivaldo Photography as she shot a couple’s portrait session in Ballard. 

While I was shooting this behind the scenes video, here’s what I learned while watching Deanna work her magic:

  • No matter the environment – don’t freak out. It was really windy and a little rainy on the afternoon of the shoot, but Deanna stayed calm, and solved lots of little problems (hair in the face, rain on the lens, etc…) quietly and with no drama. This helped the couple stay relaxed, and added a couple of moments of laughter and fun.
  • Come with a plan, but be flexible. The wind required adjustment to a couple of photo locations, and a beautiful flower backdrop was not available as it was on private property. Again, Deanna stayed calm and quickly had a solution for each change in plans. Confidence and adaptability gives confidence to your subjects and results in much better photos.
  • Be specific, but open to interpretation. Use your hands and body as a model for what you would like your subject to do, and then watch how they add their own personality to the pose for that special moment.
  • Laugh. If you’re having fun, there’s a much better chance your subjects will too.
  • One lens. One. Freaking. Lens. It’s not about the gear. Deanna completed the entire shoot with one lens – a 50mm f/1.8. I feel naked without at least two lenses, and one (or both) of those is usually a zoom lens. Deanna knows this lens REALLY well, so she knows what it does well for her, and what to avoid. No excuses, just great photos from what you have.


Spring Quarter 2017 Featured Photos Slideshow

Spring Quarter 2017 Featured Photos Slideshow

One of the joys of my “day job” as photography instructor at Highline College, is to be inspired by the amazing work created by students in the digital photography classes. This spring, I had two sections of ART 147 (Introduction to Digital Photography) and about 48 students combined in the two classes. Many of the students in this class use cell phones for their camera, and once they get beyond the bathroom selfie mode (grin), they tend to create some stunning work. 

The video below showcases some of my favorite photos from the quarter. Enjoy! 


From Flat to Dramatic Photo in 5 Minutes

From Flat to Dramatic Photo in 5 Minutes

Today is the 10th anniversary of Adobe Lightroom. I really dig this program, and do over 90% of my photo edits here, and rarely need to go to Photoshop to edit a photo. So, here’s a 5 minute photo transition from flat to dramatic completed in entirely in Lightroom.

I took the above photo on the Bremerton to Seattle ferry, as we approached Seattle. There was a steady rain, gray skies, and more storms on the horizon. Unfortunately, this photo doesn’t feel like that. It feels flat. Lightroom to the rescue.

I started with getting the basic tones and feel of the photo more like it felt when I took the photo. In the Basic panel, I increased exposure and contrast, and then added whites and highlights, while decreasing the blacks. This added even more contrast and punch to the image. Next, the Clarity was cranked up a lot (MORE punch) and saturation was slightly reduced.

It’s getting there, but the sky isn’t quite right. The Graduated Filter tool will help with that. Starting about a third of the way between skyline and top of photo, I drew the Graduated Filter until just above the skyline. I then reduced exposure, highlights, whites and blacks, while increasing contrast a bit and punching up clarity one more time. Now, the sky has the appropriate drama.

The finishing touch was to add a tiny bit of lavender/blue to the highlight tones in the Spot Toning panel. This gives the photo just a nudge towards the blues, and completes the transition from flat to dramatic. 

11 Photography Quotes

11 Photography Quotes



Every once in a while, I find it helpful to turn to the wisdom of others to find that little extra bit of inspiration and motivation to make better photos. Here’s a few favorite quotes about photography:

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” — Destin Sparks

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” — Imogen Cunningham

“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” – David Alan Harvey

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” –Robert Capa

“Photography is a language more universal than words.” –Minor White

“A good photographer records; a great photographer reveals.” –Skyler Reid

“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.” –Jay Maisel

“The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.” – Ansel Adams

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” ― Robert Frank

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

What are your favorite photography quotes?