Bedford Camera and Video hosts an annual Photo Expo in Little Rock on May 17-18. Photo courtesy of Bedford Camera and Video.
Category: Features

Improve your photos, and enter our Reader Photo Contest next year!

This month’s issue of Arkansas Living is filled with photographs from readers who entered the magazine’s annual photo contest. Perhaps you are one of those. Or maybe you are inspired by the entries and want to learn how to take your photography to the next level.

Austin Pittman, president of Bedford Camera and Video, says don’t hesitate — 2024 is good year to take the deep dive into photography.

“Jump in,” Pittman says, “A lot of people are intimidated by all the things that these cameras can do, but if you just put them in auto modes, they’re going to give some very good results.”

And, to help photographers move beyond the auto-only mode, Bedford, Arkansas’ leading photography specialty company, offers classes throughout the year, including one-on-one training opportunities.

For most of the people who take the classes, photography is a hobby, Pittman says. They are looking to move beyond simply snapping photos on their cellphones, although cellphones can produce solid photos, he says.

“The phone is great, and I use my cellphone for a camera,” Pittman says. “It is very convenient, you have it with all of the time, and it gets really good pictures if you are in a situation where you’ve got plenty of light, and you’re not zooming very far, and you’re not wanting to blow it up super big.”

The camera on a cellphone is limited in that its sensor and lens are small, meaning that they don’t have a lot of zoom range (up to 5x maximum on an iPhone 15) and cannot take in as much light as a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Pittman notes that even point-and-shoot cameras, once big sellers, provide much more zoom capability (up to 60x) and have larger sensors than cellphone cameras. However, sales of point-and-shoot cameras have dropped significantly because of the convenience of cellphone cameras, he adds.

Changing scenes

About 25 years ago, photography began to transition from film cameras to digital. In the last two years, Pittman says mirrorless cameras have become the rage. They have the advantage of being smaller and lighter than traditional DSLRs because they don’t have a mirror inside, Pittman says. The second advantage, he says, is improved autofocus “because you don’t have that mirror flipping up and down all of the time.” The improved autofocus also means that the camera can take higher quality video.

“It’s to the point that these mirrorless cameras are just about as good on video as they are on stills,” Pittman says. “So, they are using them to film their adventures, when they’re hiking and camping and hunting.” As with still photos, the video taken with the mirrorless camera has advantages over cellphone video, as well, he notes.

“If I’m taking a video of a bald eagle flying across 150 yards away, it’s going to be a speck in the sky with your cellphone,” Pittman says. “Whereas if you have a mirrorless camera with a big lens on it and the autofocus technology they have, it can track that, and you just get much better results.”

But even though digital photography has reigned supreme for two decades, film is not gone. Bedford has continued to sell film and develop it and is now seeing a resurgence in its popularity, especially among young people, Pittman says.  “It’s kind of like with vinyl records,” Pittman says, adding that the film enthusiasts range in age from 15 to 25 and like the “retro look” of film.

From basic to advanced

Based in Northwest Arkansas where founder Stan Bedford opened his first camera store in Springdale in 1974, Bedford has locations in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Rogers, as well as Tulsa and Oklahoma City in neighboring Oklahoma, and Springfield, Missouri. After Stan Bedford’s death, his son, Jason, took over a CEO. Employees at the stores, including the classroom instructors, are all trained photographers.

Bedford Camera and Video hosts an annual Photo Expo in Little Rock on May 17-18. Photo courtesy of Bedford Camera and Video.

The classes range from the basics of the camera settings to how to shoot manually and the fundamentals of lighting and composition. The classes are two hours long and last three weeks. One-on-one training is also available and is becoming more popular, Pittman says. In addition, Bedford hosts an annual Photo Expo in Little Rock where world-class photographers share their knowledge with attendees in classes and “photo walks.” There’s also a photography trade show. The event takes place May 17-18 at the State House Convention Center. Admission is $99.99. (Arkansas Living readers can get $20 off by using the code: VIPEXPO24).

From the heart

Cellphones also provide excellent opportunities for shutterbugs or casual users.

Randy Story, a teacher at Hillcrest and Strawberry in northern Arkansas whose work has been published by

Hillcrest High School’s Media Team focuses on learning photography and videography. Photo courtesy of Randy Story

Arkansas Living, became enamored with photography in 2019 and shares that interest with his students, who have formed a media team. He encourages them to take photos and video, and to enter contests such as the Arkansas Living photo contest.

Most of his students use their cellphones to take photos and video, although some have traditional cameras as well. He uses both.

Regardless of the equipment, Story says the key to a good photograph is to “begin first with the heart. If it looks like an amazing picture to you, go with it. Take a picture of it and see what happens.”