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Archive for Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind the Lens: Gear does not a photographer make

The aesthetics and inspiration for good photography is not a quality of the camera. The best camera is usually the one you have with you and the one most familiar to you. This graphic image, of a woman writing on a condensation-covered window, was snapped using a cell phone, not an expensive professional camera.

The aesthetics and inspiration for good photography is not a quality of the camera. The best camera is usually the one you have with you and the one most familiar to you. This graphic image, of a woman writing on a condensation-covered window, was snapped using a cell phone, not an expensive professional camera.

July 18, 2010

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A photographer went to a dinner party where he showed his photographs. The lady of the house said, “Those are very nice pictures, you must have a great camera.” He said nothing, but when leaving, he offered the following compliment to the woman: “The meal was very nice. You must have great pots and pans.”

To believe that better equipment will get you better photographs is incorrect. Better equipment can make taking photographs easier and more enjoyable, but the camera alone will not create better images. Photographers love talking about equipment, and we all get camera envy. Who wouldn’t like the latest digital camera on the market? But any camera is capable of taking good photographs within the limits of its mechanical features and the abilities of the photographer. Here are some reasonable things to expect from more expensive, higher-quality digital cameras:

• Faster shutter button response. Less of a delay between triggering the shutter and when the photograph is actually recorded.

• Quick and accurate auto-focusing.

• Auto and manual exposure to give you more creative control.

• Larger CCD sensors for higher-resolution images. Larger prints are possible and low-light image quality is improved.

• Improved lens coverage and quality. Better wide-angle lenses and longer telephotos available.

• Faster motor-drive. More frames-per-second to capture sports action.

If the lack of these features are hindering your photography, you may be ready for a different camera. But be realistic. Here is what a camera won’t do:

• Motivate you to take photographs.

• Choose a meaningful subject.

• Creatively compose a scene.

• Press the shutter at the right moment.

If you feel you lack these abilities a new camera won’t help. If you enjoy photography continue to use the camera you’re comfortable with and seek out methods to improve. Attend photo shows, study work of notable photographers, take workshops, read about photography. Observe. Becoming a better observer will help you become a better photographer regardless of what pots and pans you own.

A nice place to start would be the current photography show at Signs of Life, 722 Mass. “Images — Masters of Photography” features local photographers Daniel Coburn, Rich Mitchell, Tim Forcade and Kevin Sink.

Comments

roundaboutlady 4 years, 5 months ago

Mike, you mentioned all the bullet points that only a photographer (not the camera) can do. The shot you took of my whippet jumping off my back, catching the frisbee back in '89, was an award winner (AP Photo)! Talk about pressing the shutter at the right moment. Your shot captured her muscle flex, highlighted by the sunlight, just as she launched off! It's my most prized photo shot- even better than the Sports Illustrated photo of us in front of the Washington Capitol Building that same year.

annapopiel 4 years, 5 months ago

come and visit with Tim Forcade during the Gallery Talk Thursday July 22, 7:00pm, @Signs of Life, 722 Mass

Janet Lowther 4 years, 5 months ago

Good points, Mike, 'though sometimes your equipment does make the photo possible.

For example, the capabilities of the equipment come in to play when you are shooting a concert or theatrical production where flash would not be welcome. Some cameras just can't do it on account of slow lenses or insensitive imaging devices.

My little "carry everywhere" camera works well for most things, and can do some things just not possible with my old Leica, but every once in a while the exposure delay almost drives me berserk. Taking pictures of folk with fleeting expressions is an exercise in futility. The expression I want is always gone by time the exposure is recorded.

I guess I'll have to look for a camera with a faster response. . . Unfortunately, the response time is not often reported in reviews.

Mike Yoder 4 years, 5 months ago

jrlii, You're right, you may need to get a different digital camera with the faster shutter response. Steve's Digicam (www.steves-digicams.com/) does a pretty thorough job of testing cameras and shutter response time is often listed in hundredths of a second ratings, making it nice to compare with other cameras.

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