Friday, December 5, 2008

The Camera Doesn't Matter

Too many people are caught up in the "better equipment means better photos" syndrome. I've had people at youth sporting events tell me that if they had a camera like I have they could take photos as good as I. When they do get a better and more expensive camera they find out that their photos are no better than when they had the little "point & shoot" model and they cannot understand why. If I try to explain to them that the camera doesn't matter I usually get the response of "well look how good your camera takes photos"; and they can't understand that the camera is just a tool that the photographer uses.

Andreas Feininger the famous French photography once made the following statement:

"Photographers are idiots of which there are so many - say, "Oh, if only I had a Nikon or a Leica, I could make great photographs." That's the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. It's nothing but a matter of seeing, thinking, and interest. That's what makes a good photograph. And then rejecting anything that would be bad for the picture. The wrong light, the wrong background, time and so on. Just don't do it, no matter how beautiful the subject is."

Yes, having a good camera can help in the process but it's the person behind the camea that takes the photograph. Just to give an example of this I've included this photo. It was taken on a back country road in Garrett County Maryland with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33 a 3.2 MP point & shoot camera through the front windshield of a moving vehicle. It was a scene that caught my eye and it looked like I was riding in a black&white photo, except for the little Red sign. So Many people have asked me how I got the Red sign in a black&white photo and they can't believe that this is a color photograph.

Camera manufacturers and retailers want you to believe that a more expensive and better camera is going to give you better photographs. However, if you can't take good photographs now a more expensive camea isn't going to help. You need to learn to use what you have now and then move up as you get better in creating your photographs. The camera really doesn't matter. What does matter is what you do, how you see, and having the ability to capture that moment in time.

If you would like some examples of what good photography looks like, check out the sites under "My Photo Links" and you will see some excellent examples of what great photography is when the photographer doesn't worry about his camera(s).
I do love my world, even the cold winters, and so will you. Yeah, this is my world and you are welcome to it.


  1. I reject your thesis that the camera doesn't matter. While I will agree that a "better" camera won't magically make someone a better photographer, and that big part of photography is the framing, the subject, and the lighting. But there's also the part of the photographer being able to get the camera to capture the image which he wants.

    My mother has a cheap digicam. Somehow she manages to get out-of-focus and over-exposed shots out of it even in the fully automatic mode. But when get a hold of it, I can make the little thing shine. Though I hate every minute of its use. The f/4.3 lens has such a huge depth-of-field that there's no way to selectively focus on the subject of the photo; not that it would be possible without a manual focus control anyway. It's light sensitivity is so low that a flash is pretty much required for any indoors shot, but it's built-in flash gives everyone the deer-in-the-headlights look. It's an awful camera, holds me back creatively, and keeps me from getting the photo I really want.

    Take for another example: the image you've attached to this post. The composition is right on, nothing to fault there. And technically it is probably as good as that camera could do. The exposure of the trees on the right is wonderful, but in preserving the details in those shadows (although there's another clue to it being a color photo--the poor demosaicing has caused color artifacts in some of the fine details; a higher resolution sensor or better processing algorithm would have prevented that), you've had to sacrifice those in the highlights in the center of the road and the bank on the left. Had you used a camera with a 12 or 14 bit depth you could have preserved the full dynamic range of the scene. So, yes, you captured a very nice photo, a scene that will never happen exactly the same again, but if you had a more advanced camera with you at the time it would have only been captured all the better.

    Read this essay for what I consider a reasonable take on the matter of the camera:

  2. A camera (or a lens or a light source) is merely a tool. Poor craftsmen make poor crafts, even with the best tools. Good craftsmen can get good results even with inferior tools, albeit with great effort.

    Craftsmen with superior tools...well, that's the best of both worlds. Hone your craft, strive to get to the next level, and the better camera will take you the rest of the way.