“You don’t take a photograph . . . you make it.” – Ansel Adams
Being great at anything requires dedication and continued action towards improving. There is no royal road for anyone. This is definitely true when it comes to photography. However, after more than 30 years of talking with other photographers I know there are vast misunderstandings from both beginners and even those who have been in photography for many years about what it takes to become great at photography.
One of the goals I have in providing content for the Find the Right Light website is to provide nothing more than plain, simple truth about photography that’s easy to understand. In doing so I hope to help you learn things about photography that took me a long time to figure out on my own.
To accomplish this, in both this and upcoming articles, I’m going to expose several myths about being a great photographer that seem to persist. I hope doing this helps you improve in your photography. Below is the biggest myth of photography that I believed when I first started out, that I know others believe too!
#1 Myth – I Need an Expensive Camera to Take Great Photographs
This myth is focused on gear.
My very first camera was a cheap all manual Pentax K1000. Even though I loved this camera because it was my first SLR, I knew it was inferior immediately because none of the great photographers I read about in books or photo magazines used this camera. Rather, they all used expensive, and professional cameras. Because of this, I knew that my pictures would never be as good as theirs.
For many years I yearned for the kind of camera the pros used. Even though I upgraded my cameras several times to newer and better models when I could afford to, I never owned a “professional” camera. Because of this, I convinced myself that I was gear-handicapped and would never be able to create amazing images like the pros did.
Now, after being involved in photography for more than 30 years, I wish I could go back in time and talk some sense into my younger self. I could have focused the oceans of energy coveting “pro” cameras I didn’t need and used that energy to become a better photographer.
The Truth – A Camera is Just a Tool
Your camera will NOT make you a better photographer. (Go back and read that sentence again, maybe several times, because it is profound.)
A camera is just a tool in the photography creating process. A person that can make a great image with a pro camera can also make a great image with a consumer camera, or a point and shoot camera, or a phone or even a toy camera. A great artist will create great art regardless of the tools they use. The tool is not the art. It is only used to create the art.
What evidence can I offer to support this truth? (Remember, I am a lawyer by profession so I always think about proving things through evidence.) Your Honor, I offer the following images as proof that the camera you use does not determine whether your photographs are great.
Here as some photographs I created with a $449 Fujifilm X100s, which is a fixed-lens camera (23mm f/2.8) (click on animage to enlarge):
And these are photographs I created with the Canon G10 which is an old point and shoot camera you can get on E-bay for about $80 (click on an image to enlarge):
Finally, here are some photographs I created with the even smaller Canon S110 which currently sells for around $60 (click on an image to enlarge):
Need additional evidence to convince you that it really doesn’t matter whether your camera is expensive or not? Ok, try this experiment. Take the most expensive camera you own (it doesn’t matter what brand it is), set it out on your kitchen table for 24 hours. At the end of the 24 hours, turn your expensive camera on, push the playback button, and take a look at all the great photographs your expensive camera took by itself while it sat on your kitchen table.
“What?!?” you say! “My camera can’t take photographs by itself!”
Bingo! You just learned THE greatest lesson you can ever learn in photography: your camera will never take any photographs by itself. Your camera, no matter how expensive it is, can only do what YOU use it to do.
So don’t waste your time worrying about the camera you have. It doesn’t matter whether it is the latest $10,000 HUGE sensor medium format camera or just a $60 point and shoot. Your camera will only create the images you use it to create.
This lesson is free. You are welcome!
(Note: Before any of you look at the section on this site about the gear I currently use and call me a hypocrite, I will point out that with the money I earn from my photography I could purchase any camera I want, but I still use older Fujifilm cameras. I do tend to spend more money on lenses than on cameras because I know that a good quality lens will last longer than any camera I put it on. If you still think I am a hypocrite, let me know.)
As always, feel free to comment, critique or criticize. Thanks for reading.