Should I Get That DSLR?
As a photographer, I see quite often, both in the photography forums and in real life, people asking about DSLR's, and which one they should get. The big question to this isn't how much your budget is, but what you use it for. This is a great time for budding photographers, what with used and starter DSLR's being now very affordable, but it may not always be necessary.
"I am not a photographer. I am not really interested in learning all the ins and outs of photography. I just want to take a good quality photograph."
In my opinion, if you are this person, you likely do not need a DSLR. The great thing about DSLR's are all the manual controls you have, the shutter speed, aperature, etc. These things are things that require you to learn about your camera, study into what each facet does, and practice using them. If you aren't really interested in photography, you probably aren't going to do this. If you're just shooting on full auto, all the time, you might as well be shooting on a nice point and shoot or bridge camera.
The other fantastic thing about the DSLR's are the different lenses you can get for them. This often requires some study into what the lenses do and what aperatures they have. This is a great adventure for any budding photographer, and always exciting, but if you aren't one of those people, you might actually just stick to the lens that came with it. Again, that's not using the big features of the camera that makes it worthwhile to photographers.
Also, if you are getting other equipment for your camera, it can get quite expensive! You can get a body for fairly cheap used ($200 ish), and a lens ($100 ish for a 50mm f/1.8 on a Canon), but lenses can run from anywhere between the $120 - 2000 mark. If you're interested in getting a good shot of a person during the night, you want to get a flash that you can bounce, and that will run you a few hundred dollars as well. Unless you're a keener and want to bounce your flash with a mirror while you're trying to take a photo. The point is, extra equipment will cost you. And, if you aren't interested in buying used, you're going to be looking at spending $500+ for the camera with a kit lens.
"Okay, but I want to take a good quality photograph!"
Sure, let me show you some!
Every one of these photos is taken with a point and shoot camera. If you are one of those people who would get a DSLR and only shoot automatic, you might as well be shooting with a really nice point and shoot. Don't be fooled by megapixel count or something like that (unless you want to make billboards, and chances are, you don't). It's absolutely possible to take fantastic photos with your point and shoot, if you know what to do. You'll be getting the same results, because you'll be shooting the same way. DSLR's aren't magic tools that will suddenly make your photographs better.
That being said, here's a few tips (especially for portraits, as a lot of people who fit this category want photos of their friends and family).
1. Take your photos in a place where the backgrounds are not distracting.
2. If you must shoot in harsh daylight (midday), try to shoot in the shade so you don't have harsh shadows.
3. Try to have some distance between your subject and the background, so you can have the effect of a more blurred background.
4. Take a quick (and I mean quick) read at a composition tutorial. It'll do wonders.
5. Try to shoot in natural light. Shooting with indoor lights will give you an ugly yellow colour cast.
6. Read your camera's manual. Please, please do this. It might help you solve whatever issue you may have by learning what you can do to change it.
And for budding photographers out there who are out shooting on their point and shoot cameras, don't worry - you have a tool in your hands that you can use to make wonderful photographs as soon as you understand the limitations of it. Have fun, and shoot well.