Film to Mirrorless (DSLR)


Welcome back to Film to Mirrorless. Last time I talked about getting into photography as a high school student. I really enjoyed shooting film, and learned a lot from it. Like I was saying it slows you down and cost you money every time you push the shutter.

After a twenty year hiatus from shooting, I bought my first DLSR in 2009. My cousin Steve had been shooting, and posting images on facebook of his sons high school football games almost every week. This started the juices flowing in me, and making me want to buy a camera to see if I still loved shooting like I used to. All four of my children were playing sports in school, so it just made sense to give it a shot.

This shot is what I started shooting (High School Sports)

I did my research about DSLR cameras, and what brand to buy for what I was looking to shoot with it. We do not have a local camera store in my town so I traveled to Best Buy to see what they had to offer. I ended up buying a Canon TSI with the kit lens. My first event I used it for was My daughters High School Graduation. Needless to say the camera was not good. I knew right away that I bought the wrong Camera, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of cash if I wasn’t going to get back into shooting. We went back to best buy and traded it back in for the Canon 50D with the Canon 300mm lens.

Now the 50D was a descent camera for shooting sports with a good FPS and fair focusing.Our son was playing football, so this was my first try at shooting for real with a digital camera. First thing I did was ask the High School AD for permission. The school already had a photographer covering most of the years sports. I had meet him before so I started asking him for tips on shooting and what setting I should use. I wasn’t trying to step on his toes, and he helped me a ton. Thank you Rich Barnes. He is one of the best lacrosse shooters I have ever seen. He has moved in to shooting NCAA sports as well as some pro stuff.

I have to be honest using the DSLR wasn’t easy at first. There were many nights that I was on yotube trying to learn the ins and outs of the camera. Instead of dials, a lot of the settings were in the menu. That took some time to get used to. Also spot metering , matrix metering what are you talking about? 19 focus points really? This is all great now but at first I was like way to much to remember. All of this technology takes away from shooting, and enjoying the shoot. So after some time and a lot of bad images it all started to click.
This was taken in Unadillia during the GNCC race in 2010

With digital there is no more darkroom to print my pictures, so now I need to get a fast computer, and figure out what software to use with my images. Everything that I watched on you tube, or listened to on podcast said MacBook Pro. Wow the price of those things were crazy. If I was going to do this photography thing I needed to go all in, so MacBook Pro it was. Next was the software. I tried lightroom 3 at first with a trial version, but I could not figure it out at all. So I bought Apeture, which is a apple product, how hard could it be? Once again I spent hours on YouTube watching every thing that was available on Apeture.

At first I just made small adjustments with the sliders. I was shooting JPEG , not know anything about RAW. JPEG was cool but I soon found out that I needed room to move with my not so good exposers that I was getting. Ok I thought I had everything I needed to become a “PHOTOGRAPHER” again, boy was I wrong. I remember shooting a football game on a Friday night, and coming home after the game and looking at what I captured from the game. The pictures were dark, blurry, and the noise was not useable. Wow now what do I do? Everybody said that I needed fast glass. So I started looking at what canon had to offer, 70-200mm 2.8 is $2,500 really how the heck can I justifies buying that, or where the heck am I going to come up with that kind of cash? There was only one way to raise that kind of money, sell something. That’s what I did set our snowmobile on the corner for $2,800, and the next day it was gone. Now the only thing to do was to order that lens, and I’m am so glad I did. Canon makes some nice stuff, and that has to be one of the best lenses on the market. That lens has been my work horse for the past 4 1/2 years.

Canon 70-200mm at the Nitro Nationals in 2011.

Now I was all set to be a photographer, but what about a flash, memory cards, black rapid strap, batteries, monopod, this whole digital stuff is pricey. I continued to shoot sporting events and learned something every day about the camera and post processing. I forgot to mention how can I sell my images when I get good enough to do so? The next year I started getting some interest from people that wanted to buy some prints, so I created a site on SmugMug to sell my images. $150 for a year of that, lucky I sold more than enough the first year to pay for it. I hope I am not discouraging anybody from picking up a camera, just beware it is not easy, or cheap.n


With digital, the learning curve might feel big, but really it is not bad. I used to shoot a roll, develop it, and then see how they looked. Now you shoot and can see what adjustments you need to make right now. Shooting in RAW is a blessing as well, if you missed it a little you have the leeway to bring it back in post. It is nice to know you have that insurance. I still try to get it right in post, less computer time if you do.


The next couple years I really put my head down and started shooting for different people, and at different events. I covered Speedway motorcycle racing for a full year both ice and on the dirt, lacrosse, football, softball, for a small town newspaper. I ended up being the sports writer and photographer for three years. This was a non paying gig , but it was a great experience. Then I ran into a racer that ran the flat track races at Square Deal Riders. That has been great for me, I love shooting for them along with the riders it has been great, and I hope it continues for many years to come.

I have since bought a Canon 7D and sold the 50D, the 7D has been a great camera along they way. It performs like a dream, and has never let me down. It has been used for weddings, motorcycle racing, drag racing, family portraits, you name it and it’s has shot it. Also I have moved on to lightroom, making it my go to post production software to use. I love it and recommend it to anybody that is shooting a ton of images. This road from Film to DSLR has been fun and frustrating to say the least.



Do your home work before plunking down your cash. Figure out what you want to shoot and how much you are planning on shooting. Check out renting some equipment from places like borrowlenes, lenesrentals, that is a great way to play with the equipment before you buy. Now that we have talked about DSLR’S I need to tell you that I have made the move to Mirrorless cameras. I still have my 7D, but I don’t use it much at all. Only for sporting events that I need the long lens. Other than that it’s mirrorless all the way, and I love it.



Check back later with me to see how I made the switch, and what system I bought into for my future in the digital world of photography.

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