I get a bit irritated occasionally at how uninformed people can be.
I try to tell myself that they just don’t understand and it’s not their fault that they don’t know better, but at times it can be difficult to remove the person from the ridiculous thing they just said.
In recognition of the fact that there are people out there who are uninformed about various things, things that occasionally peeve me, I guess it’s my duty to work to educate them.
You Should Know Better
So… it's time to introduce a new blog series. (Is it ironic to introduce a "new" blog series if the last thing I posted was 4 months ago? Probably so… but oh well.)
This series of blog posts will go along for a bit. At least if I can convince myself to sit down and type every few days.
The idea behind this series is that there are things that people do or believe that are just plain wrong. They also happen to be things that annoy me.
These things can usually be remedied by simply broadening a person’s understanding. I intend to attempt to do that.
So welcome to the first post in the “You should know better” series.
The World of the Hobbyist
I really enjoy taking pictures. Although I’m not what one would consider a professional photographer, there is nothing more relaxing and fun for me than to take a stroll with a camera, but I don't make my living from the photos I take.
In photography and in many different activities that can be either a hobby or a profession there is a constant desire for new gear. (This is a common problem referred to as GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome.)
Here is what a lot of hobbyists and beginners do, they convince themselves that they need some new piece of gear to make themselves better at whatever it is they are doing. I know of a number of hobbyist photographers who have better gear than what a lot of pro’s are using. Yet somehow their images aren't as good as pro photographers.
If I had a dollar for every time someone made a statement like this I’d be a very rich man.
“Nice camera… I bet it takes nice pictures...”
or a parallel statement.
Nice picture... I bet you have a nice camera!
The problem is this. When people make this statement they are somewhat correct. A camera can take nice pictures, however they fail to understand that nice pictures aren’t made because a photographer has a good camera, they are made by a good photographer who uses a camera.
Saying that a camera is the reason a picture is nice is like saying that a newly built house is nice because the architect had a nice protractor during the design phase.
Or… it’s like saying that a baseball player can hit home runs because he has a nice bat. (The analogy excludes corked bats.)
Or… it’s like saying that a painting is great because the paintbrush and canvas that was used by the artist is high quality.
Or… it’s like saying that Jordan was the best NBA player of all time… because of his Nike shoes.
Or… it’s like saying that The Martian is a great book… because of the computer Andy Weir used to write it.
Or… it’s like saying that a farmer’s field looks really nice… because he owns a John Deer tractor.
Hopefully you are getting the idea. A camera is a tool that a photographer uses. A tool doesn’t make things on it’s own, but in the hands of a skilled craftsman a tool can do wonderful things.
The Best Camera
Chase Jarvis, a world-renowned photographer popularized a phrase that lays out exactly how I tend to feel about cameras.
The best camera is the one that’s with you...
He made that phrase popular when he began shooting with an iPhone. He eventually published a book full of only iPhone pictures. (This was years ago... before the iPhone camera was as good as it is today.)
I’m firmly convinced that any camera in the hands of a photographer who knows what he is doing can be used to create compelling images. There is an interesting series of videos along these lines over on Youtube.
If all you have is the camera on your phone... try taking interesting pictures with it. Sure it's limiting, but maybe just maybe that limitation can be a strength for certain types of shots.
If you can't make a movie that tells a good story using a Canon t3i it's not going to be any easier when you're using a Red Epic.
Use what you've got. Concentrate on telling stories with your imagery... you can do way more with what you have than you think you can.
When the Camera Does Matter
Now... I have to say this because it is true.
There are limitations to what gear can do. This is as true with photography as with ocean exploration. You wouldn't expect to go into a deep channel on the bottom of the ocean with a submarine that is rated to only 100 ft below the surface.
There are limitations to what cameras can do. Here are a few of them.
If you are going to shoot sports you'll need a big buffer and fast auto focusing. (You can argue this one, but you'll get more keepers with a Canon 1Dx than with a t3i.)
If you want to take good star photos you'll need a camera that does well at high ISO, you'll also need a fast lens. (Sorry, its just the way it is.)
Want to shoot super slow motion at a high quality? You'll need a really good camera.
Want to make huge prints? You'll need at least some level of megapixels. (Probably not as many as you think.)
Going to be shooting in the rain. A weather sealed camera/lens combo is a must.
There are any number of reasons that a person might need to upgrade their equipment. But far to often we upgrade because we just want new stuff and think it'll make us better.
The Take Away
So here is what I’d like you to get from this post.
Photography is an art. Art and lots of other things are created using tools. A camera is a tool. Whether that tool is an iPhone, a point and shoot, a Canon DSLR, a Sony a6000, a DJI Phantom, or anything really… what it creates is subjective to the person controlling it. That means that camera’s don’t take good pictures. People take good pictures, cameras just happen to be the tool they use.
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