Have you ever taken a REALLY GOOD picture and then someone sees it and says, "Oh wow, that's a really good photo. What kind of camera do you use?"
Whenever this happens to me, I want to kick someone in the shins and chastise them for not giving ME, the photographer, the credit I deserve! While good equipment (a good SLR camera, professional lenses, external flash, etc.) do make a difference, these items are not fully responsible for a quality photograph. For example, if someone were to give me Michaelangelo's paintbrushes, could I have painted the Sistine Chapel? The answer is simply, "No." I can barely draw stick figures, so his tools would not do much good in my hands.
The same goes for photography. A person who does not have a thorough understanding of light, aperture, film speed, etc., with a Canon 5D Mark II and an L series lens (in other words, seriously awesome and expensive equipment) could probably take better photos with a simple point and shoot camera. I once asked some random Joe in the Outback Steakhouse parking lot to take a photo of my family. He agreed, and so I gave him my precious professional grade camera. When I got home and saw the photo, my family and I came out blurry but the background was crystal clear, and sharp! Had I given him my regular point and shoot camera, it probably would have been a really nice picture.
My advice for people who ask me "what kind of camera should I buy?" is this: practice with what you already have. If you are a mom, who wants to take better pictures of her kids, learn your camera. Read the manual, and practice as often as you can. Of course, I will be updating this series to help you learn more about photography, and the camera's functions in general, but the best way to learn is by practicing. If, however, you are interested in becoming a professional photographer, again start with what you have. Once you learn the basics of "how" to use the camera, you can upgrade your equipment later.
To everyone, I would suggest as part of learning to use your camera to regard the [AUTO] or automatic setting as "the hot lava." Don't step in it it. Don't even go near it. Seriously, don't use it. Taking better pictures requires you to be a better photographer, and being a better photographer means understanding all aspects of photography; most importantly, how to use your camera. Canon, Nikon and Sony don't charge hundreds of dollars to put fancy buttons and options on cameras just so they can be ignored.
If your camera has an [M] or Manual setting (which allows you to control the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO), you're in a good place and one step closer to amazing pictures. My little "point and shoot" that I keep in my purse has a manual setting and it only cost me about $250.00! Seriously, don't go and blow thousands of dollars (yes, professional cameras cost thousandS - as in multiple thousands- of dollars) until you know how to use it.
So that's it for Lesson 1. Notice that I still haven't told what kind of camera(s) I use; it's not important. What is important, is that I use them all on their Manual settings.
Read your camera's manual. If you lost it, google it. Thousands of manuals are free too look at online. If you're feeling extra cheeky, check if your camera has a Manual setting, and practice taking a few photos and changing the dials. We'll go over what they mean later on.