I learned some valuable insider secrets from a professional photographer friend of mine about a year ago when he came over for dinner. Of course, I asked him all kinds of questions and picked his brain that evening, hoping to get some valuable insight into improving my fine art landscape photography and my inspirational photography. In a previous article, I shared the #1 secret which had to do with how to creatively crop your photographic images. Today I’d like to share the #2 insider secret with you, which, by the way, did take my photography to a whole new level.My first real camera was an old classic SLR model. Several years later, I bought an Olympus OM-1 SLR. That was a great camera and I used it for many years. After getting married, I slipped into the habit of not using my SLR as much and instead started shooting more casual shots with a simple point and shoot camera. Then, in preparation for my new baby, I got a tiny 5-megapixel Pentax Optio S5i digital point and shoot. It was no bigger than a pack of cigarettes, was light weight, and could do some amazing things. I used that camera a lot for the next three years. It was my entrance into digital photography. For the first time in my life, I was shooting photographs, downloading them onto my computer, manipulating them, and then emailing them to people and getting prints made. I loved the new camera and the whole digital world it opened up to me.Now, back to my dinner conversation with my professional photographer friend. I eagerly showed him some of my best photographs and asking him for his input.Insider Secret #2 – Upgrade to a Digital SLR to take my photography to a whole new levelI can hear you saying right about now, “Duh!” This rather obvious “revelation” came to me at a time that I thought I couldn’t afford a digital SLR because I thought they cost $2,000-$4,000 to buy.In addition, I didn’t realize that I had gone as far as I could with the point and shoot digital camera that I had. My photographer friend, Larry, explained some important points about cameras that helped me realize that I needed to get my hands on a digital SLR as soon as possible if I wanted to continue to grow and improve in my photography.He taught me that there are three main “hardware” factors involved in the final equation of a good quality digital image. First, the number of mega-pixels that a camera can shoot at is important. However, this is not the only important factor, and it’s not as important as some people think. For example, I thought that I could just go out and buy a digital point and shoot camera with 8 mega-pixels and that would greatly improve my images. He showed me how that wasn’t necessarily true because the number of mega-pixels is only one of three critical factors in producing a high quality image.The second main factor in the equation is the quality and capability of the internal sensor in the camera. In other words, a digital SLR has a much better and much higher quality sensor than the basic digital point and shoot cameras have. It is the computerized sensor in the digital SLR that is able to capture light much better and give you a much higher quality image in the end. Inexpensive digital point and shoot cameras are very limited in what they can produce because they have a much more inferior sensor.The third critical factor in producing a high quality image is having a good quality lens on your camera. Most digital point and shoot cameras have very tiny lenses that do a fairly good job, but they are limited in the quality of the images that they produce. On the other hand, digital SLRs have much better, stronger, larger, and higher quality lenses and optics that will produce a much better final product.When you put all three of these critical factors together in a digital SLR, you end up with a much better, much more high quality photographic image than what a digital point and shoot can produce.My professional photographer friend basically told me that it was time for me to upgrade to a true digital SLR (DSLR) if I ever hoped to improve my photography and take it to the next level. He personally recommended looking into a Canon camera.After much research on the Internet, I finally decided to purchase an 8-Megapixel Canon Rebel XT as my first digital SLR camera. I was surprised to find that I could buy one on-line for about $700, which included the 18-55 mm lens, as well as a battery, a battery charger, a manual, and the software for my computer, as well as several different computer cables. I went ahead and bought it, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Grant you, it is an entry level digital SLR, but it is a good quality camera and one that I can learn a lot about digital photography using.All I can say is that I am so thankful for Larry’s advice to me to take the plunge and buy my first digital SLR. It was worth it – every penny! Some day I’ll upgrade to a better model, but in the meantime, I am learning all I can about my new camera and I am out shooting with it almost every day.If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, I encourage you to do it soon. It is worth it!