One of my favorite photo expressions is: "Cameras don't take pictures, people do." It's one I share with many novice photographers.
Put another way, you can have the greatest camera in the world, but it's up to you to decide on what to include in a picture.
Thankfully, most cameras today offer simple point-and-shoot operation; many top-of-the-line professional models have a fully automatic mode, too. However, even automatic, foolproof, sure-shot, never-fail, do-it-all cameras require an important first step: reading the instruction manual to see what the camera can and can't do, and when it will work and when it will not.
I'd like to share with you a quote from someone who, my guess is, did not read the instruction manual that came with his camera. (Sound familiar?) If he had, he'd be taking great shots. I'm sure of that because this person is involved in art and in helping others to realize their artistic potential. (I could tell you who he is now, but that would spoil the surprise.)
He says, "Imagine not being able to work a camera. Imagine a tool such as that turning into a deadbolt in your hands. Alas, I can see art everywhere in history, in nature, in space, in textures, in shapes and colors and in people. But I can't get a decent photo. My eyes explode with a desire to record, to use my imagination to provoke the imagination of others ... nothing. Nothing but a dull silence of a shutter that will not click. No red light to glow, no bright flash to light, no satisfying click of the release."
Those artfully written words were crafted by actor and director Robert Redford.
"But my respect for photography as art remains strong," Redford continues. "Maybe stronger because I can't get the damn thing to work."
My guess is that Redford is not alone when it comes to getting a camera to work. I talk to many people who think their cameras are broken, right out of the box. One person told me that her brand-new 35-mm camera was broken, and that she wanted to take it back to the camera shop. After a quick look at her camera, I noticed that she had not inserted the battery. When I asked her about that, she said, "I thought you only needed the battery at night."
Another person I know got 12 rolls of film back from the lab that were severely scratched. Turns out she did not remove the plastic shutter protector inside her camera body, despite the admonition: REMOVE THIS PROTECTIVE CARD BEFORE TAKING PICTURES.
Today's moral: Read instructions carefully. If you don't, your camera, like Mr. Redford's, might turn into a deadbolt in your hands.