Finding the right camera for you

Trying to figure out the right camera to buy can be challenging. The endless research can be overwhelming. So I offer you my love story with my cameras.

The first question I’d ask you is why do you want a camera? Once you share your passion and excitement then’ll I’ll crush it by asking how much money do you have to buy it?

The point is to get the soul purpose of your desire. You might be selling yourself short if you answer about your budget first. I saved up for my DSLR for 6 months and paid for it cash. I had learn having debt for equipment can be dangerous, you can get too excited and waste money on gear you don’t need. 

Why do you want a camera? I wanna have fun taking photos – Any camera can do.

Find any camera and play with its effects. Look at thrift stores or eBay. I recommend an old film camera, you’ll fall in love with photography!

I think the most fun I had with a camera was my Diana 35mm film camera I got at Urban Outfitters. It was first stressful learning how it worked because its suppose to be “easy”, which made things complicated. Once I figured out how to use the camera, I had fun trying out different effects it offered. 

I wanna start learning photography. – Film cameras

You won’t like this answer – I know you wanna run out and buy an expensive camera. I recommend buying a 35mm camera with a detachable lens to teach you the fundamentals. Test the shutter to see if it works before you buy. You will bond with this camera and people will call you strange. Little kids will ask to look behind the camera wondering where their photo is. But you will learn how to frame up, expose, and capture a moment. Every exposer will cost you – $2 for each shot (development and film.) You will feel the mistakes in your wallet but you’ll also learn how to use the camera without a computer thinking for you. The photos you take will surprise you, and show you what kind of photographer you wanna be. Because those will be the picture you take most.

I want a camera to take with me while I travel. -a digital point in shoot

We all have this romantic image in our head of walking down the streets of Italy pointing and shooting our camera capturing people in the market place, beautiful architecture and of course our self in front of landmarks. But the reality is, you will leave your heavy camera in the hotel and settle for your camera phone – this my friend, you will regret. Sure you got 50 likes on FB but the day will come when you want to print the photo and there you will see the truth of how bad camera phone pictures are- they suck. The good news, because of iPhone technology advancing, they are getting better but until then, I recommend a point and shoot that cost more than $200, anything cheaper will have low pixels. I found the Nikon CoolPic 300 produces great photos! I bought it for the manual settings. Although I hardly use it because it takes too much time to set, instead I use the auto settings.

When traveling you are going place to place so fast, you only have time to frame up. Plus this camera is easy for other people to use when you ask a stranger to snap a photo of you. Its very rich in color, wide in frame and great at night.

I want to start filming/shooting professionally. – Canon or Panasonic with audio inputs

If you are starting a photography and video production business or if you are hired to film, the poplar DSLRs is what you are looking for. The quality is great without having to spend so much on a camera. The audio is bad which you’ll need a secondary recorder for that. But if you are getting B-roll type footage or plan on creating wedding montages that don’t need audio, then this camera is best to use. You will have to invest stabilizers but they aren’t too much. You do have the choice of buying a cheaper DSLR for $700 which is great for filming because they have the flip screens or go pro $2000 which would be ideal for photography. Look up tech details to see what best fits for you. I would recommend if you are starting out to start with the cheaper camera until business kicks in. The last thing you want to do is put all your money into something that you later find out you don’t really enjoy or find that the area you live in doesn’t have a market for it. Keep in mind its the LENS that really affects the quality, that is where you will need to invites your money in.

When it comes to filming you’ll want to record audio. Make sure there is an input to plug a mic in.

As you can see, you don’t just have to pick one camera. If you love photography, you’ll love cameras, and each one is different. I go thought many different phase just using one type of camera. When I get bored of my work, I search for a new camera that can spark up some fresh creativity inside me. You don’t have to spend thousand of dollars either, sometimes the right camera ends up finding you.

California Road trip – Hollywood

Growing up my parent’s idea of a holiday is staying home. This summer because I wanted to save money, I was about to do that too.. but just couldn’t stay home for a week doing nothing! I talked Gus into doing a road trip with me but this time focus on California. We made our first stop in Hollywood to visit a church. After we went around the blvd and captured some photos and video. Gus shot and edited a travel series of our trip. I’m so happy to share the videos here along with my photos. Keep in mind, I am awkward in front of the camera! Next post – Santa Barbara!



What I’ve learned from Filming Weddings

Filming a wedding isn’t just picking up a camera and pressing record. There is an art behind it that most people fail to understand. When I am hired as the photographer usually the person doing the filming is someone’s relative.  When it comes to those special moments they can be found hanging out with friends having a good time while the camera is somewhere on the table. You get what you pay for. Free is free but a wedding should be captured be professionals. Photographers and Filmers. We have invested greatly in our craft as artist.

The past few years I’ve filmed over ten weddings. Not one of them was the same. Each wedding has its challenges; lighting, venue, stress levels, camera malfunctions, weather. I learn something new each time, and usually add an item on my gear list.

I’ve probably learned the most while second shooting for a friend in the OC.

First, have the right gear – 2 16gb memory cards, two batteries with chargers, mono-pod or steady rig, a clean lens, mic/audio recorder. Ice packs if shooting outside in the heat. An LED light for evening shooting with your camera. You can also rent lens if you have an HD SLR.

Communicate with your other filmers what the purpose of their camera is. (Close up & details, wide shooter, bride or groom, location for speeches, location for ceremony, ceremony audio.)

Find the perfect spot to film the ceremony and stay put. Record all the way through. Move quickly to the next spot of the ceremony, such as the unity candles.

Every wedding is different, figure out the personality of the bride and shoot that style. (Fun, exciting, moody, deep, friendly, social,..)

Everyone will be stress, with so many details it will be hard to film, “moments.” A photographer only needs 3 seconds to capture what looks like the best moment of the couple’s life, but a filmer- we need more. Its okay to make up “fake moments”. Sometimes I’ll whisper to the bride’s mom, “can you go give your daughter some advice before she walks down the aisle.” For a brief period of time, the bride and her mom forget about the cameras and have a real moment no photographer can capture but only a filmer. 20 years later when the bride watches the video, she will finally understand her mother’s advice.

Most people get nervese around a camera, most people act different in front of a camera, those are the shots you won’t use in the editing room, you will use the shot of the groom and his groom’s men laughing.

Be the director that is invisible. Let no one see you seeing them and if they do see you pretend that you don’t see them, even though you are pointing a camera straight at them. Keep on filming. They will return to their conversation, laugh – there is your shot. Now you can go.

Pretend you are filming something else, but really filming what the wedding party is doing. Keep your camera rolling when everyone thinks no one is watching.

Be at eye level with who you are filming. (I’m short.)

Don’t adjust your aperture setting while filming, shutter speed if anything. Its okay to film in program mode. But when you are being artsy and have time, go on manuel. Limit the use of high ISO.

Have your mic on at all times.

You want to capture emotions, anything else is boring.

Make peace with the wedding photographer. Introduce yourself and say hello. You can steal all their set up shots during the wedding pictures. If they aren’t giving you anything interesting, speak up and direct the couple to do something.

Don’t depend on the photographer for giving you great lighting. Usually they have a flash. For sunsets our cameras will make anything in front of the sun silhouette or blow out the background, film it artistically. After the photographer is done with that set up, adjust your couple to get the shot you want with light that works best for your camera.

Shoot quality not quantity.

Keep your shots steady, wait to stop recording three seconds after the moment is captured.

Know your key moments – first kiss, cutting of the cake, speeches, first dance, etc. If these things don’t happen its okay but it never hurts to suggest to the groom, “ask her to dance.”

Above all else, film the wedding like it was your own. Full of significance and beauty.

Film: London and Paris

The first day of walking around with my large DSLR  in London I decided that I would capture the city in film instead. Who am I to compete with every great photo on line of these amazing cities. Call me lazy or call me smart. Either way, I hope film live pass my life time.

I took 3 rolls – 2 came out. Fortunately, all my Paris shots came out. I’ve been let down by film before, so with every film shot taken I did a digital copy.

Film is indeed a dying art. I love it for the magical flaws it seems to capture.

May Film Live On

So for the past month, I’ve been doing this independent thing. I do a few photoshoots here and there and with free time I go outside and play.

I was in disparate need to shoot film. I hadn’t done it in a while. My friend Hector and I went across the field by his house to take some photos. When we were walking I couldn’t help but feel peaceful. I told him the feeling of being outside at the end of the day reminded me of my childhood. “When I was a little girl I played with the neighbor boy in his grandpa’s junk yard, this kinda feels like this. ” I told him to stand still so I can take some pictures, but as any boy, he kept moving. haha.

There is something pure about film, it capture the purity of life.

New Editing Book

Good news – My new editing book came in..

The bad news – I am having a hard time finishing up the current book I am reading, “What They Don’t Teach You at Film School.” This book is good but dry. It more about preparation for working as film maker.

Today when I got home I found this on my table. I can’t wait to highlight the pages and share quotes with you.

Behind the Scene: I am a Kid

“I am a Kid” was a day-dream I had while listening to, I Believe in Your Victory by This Will Destroy You.

I imaged how a young couple would react when put in an adult situation. How immaturity would affect their decisions and reactions. I pictured the girl saying one thing but really meaning another. I imaged her pushing away a person she loved because it was the only thing she knew how to do. Or if she gave herself to someone she didn’t really care about. I thought about the impact a choice could have on both their lives and affect the future of a child.

An hour before filming, my male actor backed out. Savanna and I began to text around and found Danny. He came to our rescue. When it was time to tell Danny and Savanna the plot, I was a bit embarrassed, “So you’re going to tell him you’re pregnant.” I felt weird telling them this as both of them are from my church’s youth group. Thankfully, they both laughed and said okay.

If you noticed there isn’t an establishing shot. The sun was setting when I filmed the exterior scene which was my beginning and end. By the time we got inside the car to film the dialogue, you could see it was evening outside their window. If I left in the end, she would have walked in to daylight. Another slip I made was crossing the line on the exterior shot. A classic mistake that I couldn’t believe I made on my first scene! I decided to leave it out. I read an article from the editor of DRIVE, Mat Newman, which made me okay with my decision.

“What we wanted was to create something that’s very dreamy all the way through.  We tried not to use establishing shots so the viewer would be a bit disoriented.  The dissolves worked into that intention also. The editing is all about transitions and sustaining the mood and tension.”

To give you some background about myself: I am a commercial editor. I am so used to communicating all my thoughts in 30 seconds. I edit video fast and make them fast. W.Murch’s talks about this, “In The Blink of an Eye.” 

“Television is a “look-at” medium, while cinema is a “look-into” medium. You can think of the television scene as a surface that the eye hits and then bounces back…One of the functions of music videos and commercials is to attract your attention and keep it…feature editing has to be paced differently than music videos of commercial editing.”

I decided I’d finish reading the book before I edited my scene. The book was full of good practical tips. It would also give me time to disconnect with the filming and see the footage with some fresh eyes.

Until then, I prepared my footage. I asked my film editor friend about syncing up the visual and audio. He then introduced me to merging clips in FCP. I had no idea about this future! You can watch how to merge clips on youtube.

I took some of Walter Murch’s advice. I did the Photo System, posted the frames on my wall, I edited with no audio, I even tried standing up when editing, all of his wisdom was helping me grow.

When I was ready to edit, I ran in to a problem right away. Since I told my actors to improv, each take was different. Making sense of it all was challenging.

Here is a list of things I learned from this filming:

– Get coverage. Get some close ups even when you think you don’t need them.

– Make sure the time of day you film won’t change during your filming.

– Communicate with your audio person how you want things recorded. Record atmosphere.

– When logging your footage, numbering the clips help. It allows you see that all clips transferred over. Digital transfer sometimes skips clips.

Now I want to hear from you, the viewer. Your honesty will help me grow. Since I created this project in a week, my heart can take your honesty. 🙂 If you like watching movies I wanna hear what you thought about the scene.

How did you react when watching the scene?

What did you think about the characters?

What would you have liked to see more of?

Thanks for reading this post, I know it was a lot of information. Hope you learned something. I know I did.

My Personal Film School

I may not be able to afford film school but I can afford books. Here is my film library. Some of these I read a while back and others I bought yesterday when I was in Burbank. I am now on my third book, “What They Don’t Teach You at Film School.”

I just finished, “In The Blink of An Eye” and loved every moment of it. I didn’t want the book the end. My personal film school is: Read a book, make a film, read a new book, film….

Here are a few more books I am looking to read:

Make the Cut: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Assistant Editor in Film and TV
by Lori Coleman and Diana Friedberg

First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors
by Gabriella Oldham

Do you have any favorite film books?

Film: Learning how to walk

As I was cleaning my room, I was captured by a photo I took a few years ago. It was my first roll of film with an old SLR. I had asked my family to come outside as I tested the camera. It had been years since I taken any photos.

I remember looking through the eye piece for the first time and how it awakened my heart for photography.  Something inside of me sparked as I captured my dad helping my nephew walk.

My family went with me to pick up the prints that day. We were so excited we looked at them inside the store. The photo developer said, “They came out good, this one is my favorite” and handed me the photo of my dad holding my nephew’s little hand. We stood there and all said, “Wow.” Not because of me or the camera but something very special was captured.

This picture of my dad holding my nephew’s hand makes me think of how God helps us in life. We think we have to do it on our own, carry every burden and worry, but God offers His hand.

When he falls, he will not be thrown down headfirst because the LORD holds on to his hand.

Psalm 37:34

What is Beautiful

I don’t think we realize or appreciate the real beauty behind us all. We live life so fast, we don’t take the time to notice how complex and unique we all are.  We believe what is beautiful is what we see in advertisement or films, but what we all fail to do is ask the right questions about each other. What is beautiful to me is life. Through heartache or pain, celebration or victory, every event in our lives makes us who we are. It’s up to us if we let what happens in life destroy us or make us stronger.

I created these shots to suppose each thought in the poem. Enjoy.

 

Film: Behind the Beauty

This morning I woke up with the need to be creative in a fresh way. As I wrote some thoughts down, I suddenly imagined a short film in my head using film stills.

I would only have 24 exposure to capture the story.

It was interesting limiting myself. I knew what I wanted and I had to wait for it. Each frame was valuable.

Out of my 24 frames 6 were all I needed to tell the story. Today I had to create something honest and real.

“Create what you are most passionate about.”

Tomorrow I’ll post up the video.

What matters

I bought a photography course from Creativelive of famous photographer, Zack Arias.  During his introduction he said somethings that stood out to me.

We want to be the photographers that master the medium, not let it master over us.

Photography will take everything from you, it will take your time, money, family, your credit score, if you let it. Its’ a wild beats.

The Balance: We have families, we have lives. Photography is everything but no it isn’t, photography is stupid. At the end of the day, its just a job, we’re not curing cancer, but its the only thing I know how to do.

When my nephews visit they light up my world. There have been times where I am working on my computer and David the oldest says, “Monica, come play with me.” Or my mom ask, “Do you wanna put Jacob to sleep?” At those moments, what ever I am doing becomes meaningless. The past few weeks I have only been taking photos with my film camera of life. I felt like I needed a break from “photography”. I know a creative break will help improve my professional work.

Life is full of joy, we just have to stop and notice it.

A clip of Jacob. I love his reaction to the sunlight.It’s as if he is seeing it for the first time.

Adventure in LA

Every LA adventure I have is so different. I always discover something new about the city. Yesterday Anabel and I parked the car and walked around the city.

There is this hidden cafe that makes home style breakfast sandwiches. I discovered this place with some friends last summer and since then stop by when I am downtown.

Harlem Place Alley 124 W 4th St Los Angeles, CA 90013

After breakfast we walked to the Art Gallery. We got lost and found Little Tokyo.

City Hall 200 N Spring St Los Angeles, CA 90012

We walked around the block a few times and finally found The Moca Art Museum to see Art in the Street. Its the summer exhibit of graffiti style projects from the 1970’s. The cool thing is that it’s attracting people who wouldn’t normally step foot in an Art gallery. My film camera didn’t do to well in the low light.

THE GEFFEN CONTEMPORARY AT MOCA 152 North Central Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012

Afterward we crossed the street to El Pueblo. I find this place so fascinating. They sale so many cool hand-made toys, blankets and lots of Mexican restaurants to choose from. It feels like Mexico city.

Pueblo (Union Station and Olvera Street)

We made our way to the car and drove to Santa Monica. We were planning to get in the water but it ended up being so cold. As you can see I am ready to get a tan.

Santa Monica, CA

After the sunset we decided to go see a movie. Anabel noticed this indie theater down the street so we went to look at the posters to see if anything interesting was playing. Anabel made her FB status “I’m @ Santa Monica with Monica @ Monica Theater 4 watching an independent film not quite by Monica :)” It was great to see my name in lights.

1332 2nd St Santa Monica, CA 90401 (photo yelp.com)

Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen looked good so we bought our tickets and stood in line with 300 old people. We were the only young ones there.

To have an adventure in a big city or even in the next town next to you. Be spontaneous and let the city come alive. Walk around and have some child like wonder. The best things in life are free.

Dating my Camera

I read an interesting blog post encouraging photographers to take their camera out on a date. You can read the post here. I love this question in the post:

Be a photographer because it’s what I love, or be a photographer to make money at what I love?

She answers with this line:

I’d rather “date” my camera. I’m enjoying the romance way too much to turn it into a commitment that will have me working for what I love, rather than loving my work. Photography makes me happy.

After reading the post, I knew a date with my camera is what I needed.

This photo is of Briana and her boyfriend Mario. The first frame I took was without them knowing and the second one I asked them to pose and kiss for me but then said “nah that’s not going to work” and then SNAP, I captured a real laugh.

I had to talk my nephew in to coming outside and playing with me. He loves my mom and wanted to stay inside with her. I finally got him outside and just let him play. I love how he found so much joy in playing with this fly swatter.

These two photos that I took in Big Bear worked really well together. I love the color of film!

I don’t have very many photos of me, so it was fun to get in front of the camera myself. My camera actually does double exposures. The woman on the right above my head is my mom.

My date with my film camera was fun. I’m excited to go on more.

The Mini Diana Camera

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My friend bought me the Mini Diana Camera for Christmas.  Two time I tried to use it I had some trouble with loading the film and rewinding it. I was so mad that I lost those photos but I decided I would give her one more chance. Saturday I tested it out for the third time and I finally figured it out.

I thought I’d make this video so others wouldn’t have to go through the heartache of missing up their film. Hope it helps.

Here are my shots. The next roll should be better.. I hope.

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The Magic of Film

I finally develop two rolls of film today. The experiences of film just never gets old.

Here are some favorite shots from the rolls today.

Joshua Tree

More at  Journey to Salvation Mountain and  Road Trip to Salvation Mountain (35mmFilm).

David playing outside. More at Playing Outside.

My photo shoot with Olivia, more at Photoshoot: Olivia

Photo shoot with Drew. More at Photoshoot: My First Guy.

Keep in mind I did no editing with these photos. The colors you see are the rich colors of light hitting the film. With film you are just able to catch the most magical moments that maybe digital doesn’t have the patience for. The pay off and risk is indeed worth it.

Road Trip to Salvation Mountain (35mm Film)

Road Trip to Salvation Mountain (35mmFilm), originally uploaded by Monica Briano.

I first saw Salvation Mountain on “Into the Wild”. I couldn’t seem to get that scene out of my head. This old man had painted a mountain declaring the love of Jesus. I was excited to find out that Leonard was a real person and Salvation Mountain was a real place. My friends and I went on a two day adventure to Niland, CA to have our own encounter with the artist, the mountain and God.
Here are some photos from my 35mm film camera. I took lots of digital photos that Ill post up soon.

What makes this amazing place special is Leonard, the Artist. Have one conversation with this man, and your life will be impacted. He is a visionary, a dreamer, and you might even think he was crazy. This 70 year old man’s passion for sharing the love of God is indeed inspiring. He wishes that all people from all walks of life will know how much God loves them, “He gave His only Son didn’t He?” Leonard told us. He also told us about all people from all over the world who have traveled to the desert to see his panted mountain and trees.

He loves talking to people and sharing this special place with the world, but most of all he wants to leave the earth knowing that all generations will have a place like this to come to and read how much Jesus loves them.

 

I love my film camera.

I love my film camera, or should I say LOVED.

Today I found out this amazing camera of mine, officially doesn’t work. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sad when I heard the news. Instead  I know that a new season of photography is about to begin for me.

A year ago I took the risk on this old outdated thing called film. Since then I have grown as a photographer and as an artist. I have finally discovered my personal style. I am one of those young artists who was schooled before I was able to explore my creativity. Photography started out as a personal outlet for me. It was in photography that I was able to be me, to take photos because I like to. This camera also helped me see the art of capturing personal moments that life gives us all the time.

And now I finally believe in myself. I believe in myself enough to invest in myself. I have saved the hard earn dollars and finally purchased a digital SLR. The Canon 7D. This large purchase wouldn’t have been possible without the risk of the purchase of the vintage film camera. Whoever the photographer was that owned this film camera, passed on their love and gift to me. They had to let go in order to go forward on their journey. And so I close my journey with this beloved camera and start a new one with the 7D. I am excited to learn and I’m ready to make mistakes. But one thing is for sure, I will always remember to use whatever God puts in my hands.

I do admit, I will keep an eye out for another great film camera. Because FILM IS NOT DEAD.

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