Don’t Blame The Camera!

All too often I get people asking me questions like “what kind of camera should I buy to get awesome pictures of my kids?”  Once in a while, especially when Im shooting with my big white telephoto lenses, people come up to me and and say “wow, that’s a really big camera, you must be a professional.”  Even professionals (or wanna-be professionals) LOVE to intimidate the unsuspecting consumer with a bunch of technical jargon, or a caseful of equipment to compensate for their terrible lack of skill.  People aren’t 100% to blame since the advertising industry spoon-feeds you on a daily basis that the camera you currently own is crap, that your lens is inadequate to get the job done properly, and that if you love your kids and the environment, you’ll switch to the new, all improved, full featured, full flavored, multi-colored, multi faceted, low cost, high quality, leather wrapped, combination handkerchief and pencil sharpener digital beer holder and camera.  In reality, most real photographers shoot with equipment deemed obsolete by the commercial world but the equipment still produces fantastic images.  Some guys I know still use Leicas from decades ago and the lenses they use are still some of the sharpest glass ever produced.  So why do people assume that getting a better camera yields a better photo?  Well, the explanation is actually simple.  Higher end cameras are able to reproduce data (in terms on cameras, those are called pixels) in far greater detail, which on paper, sounds like a great idea.  In reality, unless that detail is harnessed and used to the shooter’s advantage, it often leads to a poor photograph.  Think of it in terms of a musical instrument, lets say a piano.  What’s the difference between a $200 piano and a $20000 piano?  Both have an equal amount of keys and both play the same notes, but the expensive piano (besides being built better and out of more expensive materials) is going to sound a lot better.  So, if we take these two pianos, and let someone that is terrible at playing the piano have a go….the expensive piano is going to highlight the terrible playing much more clearly.

The point I am trying to make is simple….if you have a reasonably modern digital camera (including a cellphone) then with a little knowledge you can compose and create a beautiful shot without having to use a heavy, bulky, and expensive DSLR.  The secret to photography is simply having an eye for something interesting….. and a bit more dedication to getting the shot than most sane people are willing to allocate.  A small example is one of my photos from the landscape section….someone asked me how I got the Teton Mountains with such a beautiful sunset…or how I got such a perfect sunrise in Kansas..well, the answer is simple…in Kansas, I woke up at 4am, went all the way out to the site, and sat there for over one and a half hours until the sun began to rise.  In the case of the sunset in Wyoming, I sat there, waiting, for hours.  I moved around and hiked to get the perfect vantage point.  I was eaten alive by mosquitos, and swatted one billion flies…all for the sake of that one shot.  However, one doesn’t need to be that extreme to get an excellent image.  A simple eye for interesting detail as well as properly framing the shot can often yield a very nice photograph, as you can see in this case, it was simply a doll sitting outside, next to a pile of garbage…I simply moved some garbage, and created this rather creepy, but somewhat interesting photo….


So, the moral of the story?  If you are unhappy with the way your photos are coming out, unless it is some sort of a technical shortcoming of your camera, chances are, all you need to improve your results are a little guidance and a little understanding of how to achieve your desired outcome.  Thanks for reading, and as always, remember, life is a journey, take the dirt road.