Friday, November 18, 2016

The Camera Doesn't Make The Picture

Confessions Of A Gear Head

I love camera gear. 

I love to use cameras and lenses. I love to experiment with them. I love to hold them in my hands. 

I browse rumor sites every week in search of information about upcoming gear. I'm curious about the features the next generation will offer.

It's fun to think about gear. It's free and harmless pastime (as long as you don't reach for your wallet). Unfortunately, it's also a waste of time. 

(Does that sound harsh, especially coming from a self-proclaimed gear head?) 

Here is the basic premise of my argument: Cameras and lenses don't make pictures; photographers do. Gear makes the process possible, but it doesn't deliver the final result. 

A good camera can improve the quality of the final image in critical ways, but it has to be operated by someone with skill and taste. Machines don't make photographs, and you don't need an expensive camera to take good pictures.

a photo of occupy wall street in new york zuccotti park
Occupy Wall Street - Zuccotti Park - New York (2011)

Browse a photo-sharing website. Pick ten or twelve extraordinary images at random. It's tempting to think that the finest gear was used to create those images, but that isn't always the case.

I'll bet that some of those shots were taken with modest gear.

If you'd like to take this sampling experiment further, do a search on expensive, top-tier cameras. Don't be surprised if you find some uninteresting and underwhelming photos in that batch. 

The gear doesn't make the picture.

Full disclosure: I do own some nice camera gear, but if I took even my best camera and lens outside, dialed in random settings, and pointed them in random directions, I wouldn't come back with many keepers. 

Good photographs require three inputs from the photographer.

1. Time and Energy

You have to be out there taking pictures, scouting for settings and subjects, experimenting with light and composition. You can't build a portfolio sitting on your couch dreaming about which lens to buy.

2. Vision

What are you going to shoot? What light will you choose? How will you place your subject in the frame? What do you want the viewer to experience when they look at your image?

3. Technique

You're out there. You've selected your subject, the setting and the light. Now you need to execute. How can you get the most out of your gear while you have this opportunity?

It's all about you, my friends. It's all about you. No go out and shoot something.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lenses:  Canon ES 24-105mm f/4L IS

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2016 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

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