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Recently I received this entertaining email from my friend, Jim:

Hi Brenda, I just know you have been anguishing about what to give Jim for Christmas. Well, I have a suggestion that may ease your suffering a bit. Years ago there was a song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” sung by a young person. This reminds me of what I want from you for Christmas. All I want is the Photos you took at the Art Museum of the classic cars. I’ll take them as they are, without photoshopping. Please? Linda and I wish you and Rick the happiest of Christmases. See ya, Jim

This gives me a great excuse to discuss my personal answer to that age-old question, “What’s the best camera?”

What’s the best camera?

A flippant, but accurate, answer is: “The one you have with you!”  This is why many photographers go everywhere with a camera.  This is why I started working with a mirrorless camera body as well as my full-frame Nikon DSLR.  And this is why I always want the best camera I can afford on my mobile phone.

There are times when it is either inappropriate or inconvenient to carry a big DSLR.  I have been stopped and told I can’t use it in certain places, but this rarely happens when I pull out my mobile phone because pros DON’T use phone cameras, right?  Wrong.  In a perfect world, I would always use my favorite camera rather than a phone camera, but these days, it is sad but true that even some professional publications have gotten rid of their professional photography staff and instituted the use of iPhones or similar devices.  Do I think the photos are as good as the pros got with their big cameras?  Of course not.  But this has opened the door for many people to rely on phone photography for work as well as play.  It has also encouraged people to want to learn how to get the most out of their phone cameras.

Here you go, Jim.

This past fall I went with my friends Jim & Linda and my husband to see the amazing exhibit, Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars from the 1930s and ’40s at the North Carolina Museum of Art.  I recommend this exhibit to car lovers, art aficionados, motorcycle enthusiasts, and keen photographers.  In fact, I recommend this as a wonderful outing for camera clubs and photography classes.

When I went to the exhibit, I knew I’d be with folks who are amazingly tolerant of my photography habits but to take the edge off, I just took my phone.  There were photographers with DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras, phones, and even medium-format film cameras.  (I’d love to see the film results!)

Photography Tips for Exhibit Goers

If you are just learning photography, here are some tips:

1) Be patient.  (Pretend this item on the list counts for 1-5.)  If you want to photograph the cars and motorcycles without members of the public physically in your photos, reflected in the vehicles, or casting shadows in the frame and/or on your subjects, you’ll need to be patient.

6) Skip ahead if you see an unobstructed vehicle.  This will help with #s 1-5 above.

7) Don’t always shoot from eye height.  Think about your point-of-view and get down low or raise your camera above your head.

8) Be careful not to cross barriers.  The guards will come.  Alarms might sound.  Yes, I’ve done this – but not at this particular exhibit.  It’s easy to get so caught up in photography that you lose track of where you are stepping or leaning.

9) Get creative when supporting your camera.  Use walls, your knees, or a bit of string.  (For those who don’t know the string trick, tie a bit of string to your tripod plate and stand on the other end.  Pull upward to steady your camera.) But as you do this, please also refer to #8 above.

10) Don’t get too caught up with trying to get perfect photos as an exhibit-goer.  First, I’m not sure perfect photos exist.  (Maybe that’s a topic for another post sometime.)  Second, you won’t get a perfect photo in this sort of gallery.  Check out the amazing studio shots on the NCMA website.  THOSE are, if not perfect, then nearly so.  But they were not made in a gallery with the public wandering around.  Nor were they made with the exhibit lighting.  So do your best and enjoy yourself.

For Jim and anyone else interested, I’ve made a video.

Jim, here you go.  Please check out the video of my phone snapshots in this post.  I’ll send you a link to the stills, too, if you want them.  Anyone else interested in seeing the stills, please get in touch.  They are only phone snapshots.

Want car or motorcycle art photography?

Please contact me via the link on the menu.  I’ll use more than my phone camera for you!  🙂

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