2011, Photography

Those who knows Steve Huff’s blog do also know that he has several contributors that supply a wide range of articles from inspirational posts to technical stuff. Not too long ago someone (Randall Kelley) posted an article titled “A Better Camera“.

Olympus C4000z

He tries to get in length why he disagrees with the statement that a better camera doesn’t make you a better photographer. And he tries to mention two points why he thinks a better camera makes you a better photographer. The first reason for him is that a camera and lens that produces radically improved images will show your errors much more distinctly. And with the second reason he basically implies that the statement “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer” is either meant to talk only about your talent and perhaps to make you feel a bit better about not being able to swing to “high end” equipment. He says that good equipment, and especially equipment that pushes you to make more of your own decisions, will improve your results if you are willing to learn and if you persist.

To me he connects the abstractions better camera and personal improvement in a very linear fashion. Like those who are skillful will become more skillful with better equipment. But to me this remark leaves no room for creativity. I think an artist knows very well what to use how to create that what he or she envisioned. Will a photograph contain more details than a sketch? Of course it will, but then it won’t be a sketch anymore. Execution is not only the tools being used, but also the intention of the artist. The Victory Boogie Woogie painting by Mondriaan could well be done with very expensive tools, but that wouldn’t be so obvious since his intentions where different, while it would be very obvious that Rembrandt used excellent tools for the “Nachtwacht“.

Olympus C4000z

Yes, a camera that performs better at high ISO’s and fast lenses will likely decrease the chance of motion blur and camera shake, but what if you intentionally want motion blur in your images? Then you as a photographer should know how to get it.Even with a cheap camera you know when you caused the problem or your camera. A high quality lens will for sure resolve more details and lead to sharper images, but that all doesn’t make a lot sense when you intent to make sketchy images. Moriyamo Daido as an example purposely uses small compact cameras to shoot free and unrestricted to realize his vision and says that a larger camera will makes his photography more deliberate.

If you know how to push your self and how to make your own decisions your equipment will only form a small fraction of your decision making, I strongly believe so. In his article he says: “It’s like getting a new prescription for eyeglasses after years with a bad one. You can really notice things you missed. And IF you choose to take that to heart and start looking, you will observe better. Photography is a lot like acting, in that a good observer picks up detail to add to their work that is missing in someone who is not as observant.” To become a better observer I believe it is better to understand more about your subject. Studying helps you understand what detail(s) to depict or to ignore. No better lenses or camera will help you with that.

Canon Powerhot A70

As he mentions that the statement “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer” is partly there to probably justify the fact that you can’t buy a more high end camera, I think his reaction and article is just there to justify such expensive purchases. Lets honestly face it. Are there for an amateur photographer proper rational reasons why you want to buy a high end (read professional) camera? I can’t come up with no other reason than desire. Do we need the reliability a professional needs from his equipment? Do we need the sturdiness of our gear? Do we need all the bells and whistles? Likely not. We don’t shoot in war zones or at marriages everyday. We don’t have customers expecting the best from us whenever needed. If you are a competent photographer you are also aware of the shortcomings of your equipment and know how to deal with it. That is part of the craft.

Sometimes our choices have more to do with our desire to be an accomplished, respected, and preferably, professional photographer. We think we are taken more serious when we have a Canon 1D or Nikon D3s around our necks. Other photographers might think you are exceptionally good when you have a Leica M9 in your hand. It feels different and great to have great tools. We want great tools even though we know we can do it too with less. I used to windsurf when I was younger and thought it was fascinating to have a board and rig that was also used professionally. Did it make me a better windsurfer. Honestly not, but it sure was fun to feel like a better windsurfer. It looked good and people knew my stuff was good. And that is it to me. Pure emotion. If you think you need all the quality to make crops of your photographs (like he shows in his article) you might instead have better bought a longer tele lens instead. Or from an even more photographic standpoint of view: “You were not close enough.” I think there are hardly any rational aspects to choose a specific camera or lens, only emotions. So maybe I belong to the group that disagrees with his assessment, because I can’t afford a high end camera. And yes, I would love to have a Leica M9 or even a M8 would be fine. But I know I can work on my photography too with a micro fourthird camera or my GRD3.

Olympus C4000z

But if you really want to become a good photographer I stick to my words: “Practice, practice, practice!” And the good thing is that you can practice too with a cheap camera. Do you want to have the desire to have a better camera or to become real better photographer?

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma