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@Soaring: I had always thought the lower the ISO, the less noisy the image, so I found your reference to multiple of 160 interesting. I’ll have to try them when I shoot again.
@browneyedgirl89: Megapixels are way too overrated. It’s a marketing gimmick to get unsuspecting consumers to buy into the idea that more MP is better. I’ve successfully resized a 6 MP image at 240 PPI to a 16″ x 20″ with amazing results (no pixelation even when viewed from just a couple inches away). Theoretically then, you could take 10 MP to 20″ x 24″ or even 20″ x 30″ and 18 MP to 48″ x 60″ or even larger. Since one rarely views such images closer than a few feet away, some pixelation is not going to be noticed except by the most discerning of photographers or artists. I’ve used OnOneSoftware’s Perfect Resize to scale images quite large (300% – 400% in each direction) and the results have been amazing. There is other software that does the same thing but PR has been great for me at an affordable price.
I shoot a lot of sporting activities, so the first thing for me is shutter speed, then aperture (usually 2.8) and then ISO (topping out at 1600 but only when ABSOLUTELY necessary). This is usually done in low light indoor arenas from the stands. I find that the 36 MP Nikon D800 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II (VR being Nikon speak for Canon’s IS) 1/500, f/2.8 and ISO 800 to be fantastic for this given the D800’s noise handling at higher ISOs. The D800 tops out at 5 fps with a grip, but I get the shot more often than not.
@rrjo: I know exactly what you mean about anyone with a camera received at Christmas setting up shop on New Year’s. It happens here too. Continue to practice, shoot for free, develop your own style and in time you’ll have people outside of family and friends who recognize the value of your work and be willing to pay for it. Many aspiring photographers these days aren’t willing to put the time investment into building a business when all they see is dollar signs.
@everyone: Google “photography what I really do”. Note that in the “six perception” images that come up, the last step is post production, even if it means just a little bit after striving to get it right in camera in the first place.