It's Not About the Camera - PATGO PHOTO

It's Not About the Camera!

April 2015

Ok - it's not entirely about the camera or the equipment. 

I get asked a question a lot that always goes something like this - "I want to take better photos. What camera should I buy?"

I took this photo in 2004 in Bryce Canyon National Park. It's not currently part of my portfolio because it was taken on an old point and shoot camera. Still - this is one of my personal favorites. It reminds me of something important.

In 2002, I was trying to decide if I really wanted to make that leap from film to digital. It was a difficult decision for me. DSLR cameras, which had not been around long then, were expensive and a lot of my photographer friends were wondering if they'd really "catch on".  The same way I feel about mirrorless cameras now. I was trying hard to justify making such an expensive leap.

By 2003, Canon was moving quickly toward more and more DSLRs.  In early 2003, Canon introduced the 10D and it was getting a lot of attention. I saw my first 10D during this trip to Bryce. A photographer by the side of me was shooting with one and I asked her about it. She let me hold it and shoot with it a bit and I was sold.  Later in 2003, the first Rebel showed up and it appeared that digital was here to stay.

But my first digital camera, that I purchased shortly after the announcement of the 10D, was a Powershot S30. One of Canon's top of the line point and shoot. It was really all I could afford at the time. The Powershot S30 retailed for $600 and had 3.2 Megapixels. The 10D retailed for $2000 (body only) and had 6.3 Megapixels.  The S30 was an amazing little camera and allowed me to learn what the digital world was all about. It received great reviews in its day. But it was just 3.2 Megapixels. That seems almost laughable now twelve years later.  However, I highly doubt that any photographer still has any of their 6.3 Megapixel Canon 10D photos in their portfolio either. 

The Bryce photo was taken with that Powershot S30.  Both versions of the photo have been edited. As you can see the one on the left is grainy and if you edit it to soften the grain you also soften the photo. The technology is just too antiquated for it to compete with photos taken with more modern and advanced cameras. 

But here's why it's still one of my favorite photos I've ever taken. I remember this trip well. I only took my S30 with me. It was time to move on to digital even if this camera was all I had to move on with. Although this was a point and shoot, the S30 had most of the basic settings my current DSLRs have. And on this cloudy, windy, rainy day I was trying to "re-learn" photography and being a bit frustrated that this little point and shoot was the only camera I had. In fact, I was actually sulking a bit that day. I was wishing I had in my hands the 10D I'd seen earlier but instead I had this dinky little camera. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Don't! Because just then I came upon this branch. Isn't it a fabulous branch? I love dead branches like this. I have thousands of shots of dead wood. My husband calls them my "firewood shots".  Look at its color, grain, shape. It's an amazing branch. It's almost as if it's trying to compete with that great mound behind it - almost imitating its shape and presence.  Seriously, it looks alive doesn't it?

I still have dozens of photos of this branch from that day. From different angles, heights, distance. Suddenly, I was a photographer again and it didn't matter what I was holding in my hands. The camera didn't matter. The moment mattered. The subject mattered. And whatever talent I may have mattered. My passion for catching "moments" mattered. The camera did not. 

Today my main camera is the Canon 5D Mark III. It's a wonderful camera.  But a very good camera and very good lenses really only enhance the technical quality of an image. RAW photos with high resolutions can make for some incredible photos which can be enlarged to remarkably large prints. But the camera is a tool and a camera alone does not take great photos. If you're waiting to buy that expensive camera so you can finally take a great photo, you'll be waiting for a really long time.  If you think you can buy a nice DSLR and take great photos of your own children without knowing anything about lighting or composition, just hire a photographer. You'll save yourself a lot of money in the long run. DSLRs are tiny complicated little computer-like tools and they take time, patience and training to master them. There's always something new to learn. I can't tell you how many people I know who have a nice DSLR sitting on a shelf in a closet collecting dust. It's been ditched for the camera on their smartphone.  If you're not looking to be a professional photographer, if you don't have the time, the patience or the money to spend on a nice DSLR there are some very good point and shoots out there. There are also some DSLR-like cameras out there that are much more reasonable and far less complicated.

However, if you love photography and you're saving up to buy that great camera on your wish list, don't sit around sulking until you can afford it - get out there with whatever you've got and practice. Use your imagination, your photography training, your talent and your passion.  Look at some of your favorite photos and remember - a great photo is about you and your vision. It's an expression of what you see and what you love. It's not about the camera!

Happy shooting!

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In