Upcoming Photography Class at NCSU’s McKimmon Center

Mark your calendars! March 6th & 7th I’ll be teaching a two day hands on workshop at NC State University’s McKimmon Center. This is a basic DSLR workshop designed to teach you everything you need to know to take control of your DSLR camera and create better photos! Here’s the link with more details and registration info. Look forward to seeing you there!

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Tripod Buying Guide

Below is a link to a tripod buying guide article from B&H Photo Video. The post & article are primarily for people who take my basic digital photography classes, since I recommend a tripod for the class photo shoot, where we do some low light / night photography. This is good info for beginners who may not know what to look for when purchasing a tripod for their camera. B&H is one of the top online camera stores and they have good pricing & variety, so I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase from them. Enjoy!

Tripod Buying Guide

Photography Classes Spring 2016

I’ll be teaching several photography classes at Wake Tech and NCSU coming up soon! Here are the details:

Basic Digital SLR Photography at Wake Tech:

Course Number 152770 on Monday nights from 3/7/16 – 4/25/16

Course Number 152772 on Thursdays nights from 3/31/16 – 5/19/16

Here is the link (search digital photography): http://www.waketech.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/register-online

NCSU Photography for Business Courses:

Basic Digital Photography for Business: Mon & Tues March 7th & 8th 9:00-4:30

Basic Adobe Lightroom Photo Editing For Business: Mon March 21st 9:00-4:30

Photographing Events for Your Organization: Mon April 4th 9:00-4:30

Photographing People for Your Organization: Mon April 11th 9:00-4:30

Photographing Product for Your Organization: Mon April 18th 9:00-4:30

Here is the link (click on classes): https://www.ncsu.edu/mckimmon/ctu/tts/

Private Training Sessions also available – Call for details 919 850-0492

General DSLR Camera Recommendations for Beginners


Hey there camera & photo enthusiasts!

My name is Charlie Dickens and I teach basic (and other) digital SLR photography courses at Wake Technical Community College as well as for NC State here in Raleigh, NC. I often get asked by students before signing up for the basic class, what camera they should buy, so I thought I would write a post on the subject so that others can benefit as well.

I’ll give some general direction & some specific examples to support, but this will be geared specifically towards DSLR cameras and not the newer mirrorless technology cameras or anything else.

There are lots of considerations to factor in when purchasing a new DLSR camera like budget, your aspirations in photography, what type of photographs you want to take etc etc. but this post should cover the 80-90% of you that are just getting into photography and want to take better photos and learn how to use a DSLR.

First, I recommend going with Nikon or Canon for various reasons, one of which is the numerous lens options & accessories available as you grow in photography. Sony, Pentax, Olympus etc. all have good cameras and lenses too, but Nikon & Canon are just simply head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in lots of areas when it comes to DSLRs. I shoot with Nikon personally, but (as much as it pains me to say this) Canon’s are comparable. First, I would suggest going at least one or two models up from the bottom model SLR. For instance, Nikon’s bottom model DSLR currently is the D3000. I would suggest the D5300 or D5500 so you have some “room to grow”. You’ll also get some helpful additional features by not going with the bare bones, bottom of the barrel model.

Second, I would recommend purchasing a kit that includes the camera and lens (since you can’t take many photos without a lens). On the lens, you will eventually want one or two lenses that cover the 18mm-200mm range. Kit lenses usually come in 18-55mm, and 55-200mm if you get both, however you can get an 18-200mm in one lens if your budget will allow. If your budget is limited, consider an 18-140mm as a compromise over the standard 18-55 that usually comes with the kit. If that’s too expensive, just start with the 18-55mm and you can add on later. I suggest a nice padded bag and lens cleaning kit too.

Once you’re up an going with a basic photography class and have your basic camera and lenses covered you’ll naturally want a stronger hot shoe detachable camera flash. I wrote another post with some good recommendations on flashes here: Flash Recommendations

Hope that helps and happy shooting!

P.S. Check out the link below for a great site for comparing cameras and lenses.



Upcoming Photography Classes at NCSU & Wake Tech

I’m super excited to announce some new photography classes I’ll be teaching this fall at NCSU and Wake Tech. The NCSU classes are targeted primarily for business with a photography for business theme. The Wake Tech classes are continuing ed / personal enrichment classes for individuals.

Basic Digital Photography Class at Wake Tech

I have a basic digital photography class at Wake Tech that will be on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-9:30pm starting Sept 30 at Sanderson HS. This class is great if you have a nice digital SLR camera and want to learn how to use all the features and functions to create better photos, or just understand how everything works. 🙂 Click the link here to see details and sign up. Just type digital photography in the search bar.

Photography for Business Classes at NCSU

At NCSU I’ll be teaching several classes coming up this fall including Lightroom photo editing, product photography, event photography, and people photography for business. Click here for details and look under the digital photography heading.


Camera Flash Recommendations

So now I have a nice DSLR camera, what flash should I buy….

I’m posting this article primarily for photography students in my second level (intermediate) photography class, but thought it would be good info to share with anyone else considering purchasing an affordable flash that you can grow into. Below are a few considerations to think about and a some actual flash recommendations. I’m not recommending manufacturer brand flashes because they are typically 2-3 times the price of comparable aftermarket flashes and the goal here is to stay affordable!


1. Purchase a dedicated TTL (through the lens) flash that has a manual mode and variable power output adjustments. This is non negotiable – you need both of these features. The TTL feature allows the flash to communicate with your camera on metering and light output for automatic flash shooting. Manual mode will allow you to take creative control of flash output. You will need to purchase the correct model that is dedicated to your camera brand (i.e. Canon, Nikon etc)

2. If you want to shoot off-camera with your flash, you may consider a flash with a sync port incorporated, or you can purchase separate adapters later for $15-20. Not a show stopper for now.

3. I recommend a flash head that has tilt and swivel features and also has a diffuser and reflector card built in (as shown below). These features allow more creative flexibility and control as you learn how to use your flash.



1. For the lowest price and with all the above mentioned features, the Yongnuo YN-565ex N is my top recommendation for Nikon owners, coming in at roughly $80. Here is the link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1110994-REG/yongnuo_yn_565ex_n_speedlite_for.html

2. Updated 10/31/16: For Canon owners, the YN-565ex C was discontiued at one point but now seems to be available again, so here is the link for it: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1110993-REG/yongnuo_yn_565ex_i_ii_c_speedlite.html This comes in around $80 currently.

Update 10/31/16: If you want to spend about $25 more dollars and get everything you would ever want in a camera flash, you can upgrade to the top of the line Yongnuo flashes for Nikon or Canon, which includes high speed sync (HSS) and a built in wireless receiver. With the built in receiver, you don’t have to wire up and purchase a separate receiver to the flash for off camera wireless triggering. (see links below):

For Nikon Camerashttps://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1247484-REG/yongnuo_yn685_n_yn685_wireless_ttl_speedlite.html

For Canon Cameras: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1187134-REG/yongnuo_yn685_wireless_ttl_speedlite.html

There are certainly lots of other brands, but not many that offer all the features and reliability that these flashes offer. Happy shooting, and remember, don’t flash people without permission 🙂


Update 11/14/16: Interested in some other options? Here’s a great article from B&H Photo on 7 recommended third party flashes: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/7-recommended-third-party-flashes?utm_medium=Email%201630700&utm_campaign=Holiday2016&utm_source=03-Sort%20161113&utm_content=Explora&utm_term=quality-oem-flashes

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Photography Class Photo Shoot

A couple of fun shots from the photography class trip downtown last night. The students love the field trip photo shoot and I love to see them putting all the classroom info together and applying it to create some great photos. I love facilitating those “light bulb” moments in photography!

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