A comment I often hear from people when they look at my photography.
Wow, you must have a really good camera.
This is another one of those comments, I am not really sure how to respond to. I might just nod my head and agree. I might offer some camera/lens buying tips if the person I am talking to asks for some advice. Normally the conversation ends there. But I am going to let you in on a secret.
The camera does not make a great photograph. It’s the photographer controlling the camera makes a great photograph.
I am going to reach a little bit further and say:
That when taking good pictures, I would say 20% is the camera and 80% is the photographer’s skills taking the picture.
Meaning, you can’t expect to go out and drop several hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on camera equipment, shoot on auto mode and expect great photos. You just can’t.
And reaching out even further…
If you are going to keep your DSLR in auto mode you might as well save your money and get a point and shoot camera.
To get better pictures you have to learn how to shoot in manual mode. You need to understand ISO, f-stop/aperture, shutter speed, white balance, light, composition, etc. You need to learn these things, and keep learning. You need to keep shooting and shooting, refining, and tweaking. I am still learning everyday. Every time I take a picture, I ask myself “How could I have made this a better picture”.
You can have a really expensive DSLR and take a really crappy picture if you don’t know how to use it.
You can take a really good picture with beginner model DSLR if you know how to use it.
(of course the reverse is true as well - 20/80 remember)
Just until late November 2012, I shot with an older model Canon Rebel XS . And not meaning to toot my own horn (toot, toot), once I figured out how to shoot with that camera on full manual mode, I got some great photos out of it.
Good enough that people wanted me to pay me to take their photos. And to me that is one of the best compliments you can get.
Wow, you must have a really good camera
Hmmm, not really. I mean, its not a point and shoot if that’s what you mean. But in terms of DSLRs its not the most expensive camera out there, in fact I think it was the least expensive Canon out there at the time.
But I learned how to use it. I mean really learned how to use it – on full manual mode. I ditched my kit lens and put my money into a couple of really nice lens. I studied how to use light and about composition. I learned how to edit my pictures in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. And that is when people started to notice my pictures. Not when I got my DSLR but when I started to know how to use it.
So was it my camera producing really good pictures? Or was it me, the photographer?
Now I did upgrade my camera this past November ( Canon 60D) . I am still not at the top of the line, the most expensive. But my plan is to gradually upgrade.
So if my ol’ Canon Rebel XS was taking such great pictures why did I upgrade?
I outgrew my camera. I maxed it out. I knew I could do better and do more but my camera was limiting me. So I upgraded. And I will upgrade again once I am ready.
So here are some points to take away:
- If you know nothing about photography and want to compliment a photographer on their pictures, just keep in mind, it’s not all about the camera. And I would argue that its more about the photographer (80% more)
- Dropping hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a new camera (and lens) will not make you a great photographer. Learning how to use your camera on manual mode, learning about light, and composition (and maybe a little about editing) will.
- For those of you with beginner model cameras don’t be intimidated by those bigger, more expensive cameras. Learn how to use that camera, and people will be surprised to learn that you didn’t have the best, but you did awesome with what you have. Be awesome with what you have. Upgrade when you can. Baby steps are OK. Look into upgrading your lens before your camera body. (I would also argue that a nice lens has a major role in getting a really good picture. Even a nice lens on a less expensive body. Remember to pick a lens that will grow with you as you upgrade the camera body).
- After you shoot (either on a beginner model or advanced model DSLR), ask yourself “What could I have done to make this picture better?” Figure it out, experiment and do it. Over and over again each time asking yourself that same question. “What could I have done to make this picture better?” Or even better, if you surprise yourself with a really great picture ask yourself “What did I do to get that picture?” and do it again!
Here is when I got my Canon Rebel XS – May 1, 2009
Some of the first pictures I took with it:
I hadn’t figured out how white balance works…hence the yellow picture.
Another white balance issue…this time too blue
In the fall of 2010 I started to play with editing… and most cases over editing!
And in early 2011 I started to get some pretty good pictures here and there…
And I just kept on working at it. Shoot and learning how to use my camera…and the pictures got better.
And by spring of 2012 I was feeling fairly confident on manual mode.
And then I upgraded to the Canon 60D (November 2012)
I am excited to get my Canon 60D out this spring! It will be fun to see how my photography keeps growing and changing as I continue to develop my skills as a photographer. Because I know that its not my camera doing all the work (not even 1/2 the work) in taking good pictures, but my skills as a photographer. So in the mean time, I will keep shooting and practicing and loving this hobby more and more every day.
What do you think? Is it the camera or the photographer that makes it a great picture? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
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