Saturday, June 4, 2011

How To Get Started In Photography, Part 3: Your Camera Doesn't Matter

Part 1
Part 2

Your Camera Doesn't Matter

It might seem odd that I placed the "choosing your camera" section here and not in Part 2. After all, in Part 2 I said you need to take pictures. Learning-by-doing is the best way to understand how your camera works and basic photography principals. If you don't have a camera, how are you supposed to take photographs?

The reason is because learning what makes a picture great--how to create art using photographs--is by far more important than what tools you use to create a great picture or work of art.

A great painter can use brushes, paint and canvas purchased at Walmart and still create a masterpiece. Sure, those supplies probably would not be his or her first choice, but given that limitation the artist can still convey the message and emotion of the scene.

Why? Because the brushes, paint and canvas do not make a painting great, a great painter does.

It's the same with photography. A great photographer can make a work of art using any camera. He or she might choose a $5,000 camera with a $5,000 lens if he or she has the money, but that photographer could still create wonderful art with a $1,500 camera and lens kit, with a $150 point-and-shoot, with a $25 Holga, or even a cell phone camera.

Chase Jarvis used a cell phone camera to create works of art that were recently published in a book. Several photographers have successfully used disposable cameras. David Burnett took an award-winning photograph of Al Gore that was displayed in the Corcoran Museum of Art using a cheap Holga "toy camera".

You don't have to have the latest Nikon, Canon or Leica to create works of art that can win awards, hang in galleries, or be published in books or magazines. Yes, if your budget allows, having a $5,000 camera with a $5,000 lens would be nice, but it's far from required or necessary.

The equipment is far less important than the skill of the one using it.

That is why "choosing your camera" is in Part 3 and not Part 2, because Part 2 is much more important and I wanted to emphasize it. And Part 2 can be summarized by two things: learning-by-doing is the best way to learn (so go out and take pictures so you can learn!) and you have to buy and read The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum. Those two things will have more of an impact on your photography than what camera(s) you own (or don't own).

What camera (or cameras) you decide to use will depend more on your budget than anything else. If you have $10,000 laying around and you're not really sure what to do with it, go ahead and buy a Leica M9 and their top-of-the-line lens to go with it. Most likely you don't and that's ok--you are not any less of a photographer if you don't have that camera (or any more of a photographer if you do).

I read in a photography forum yesterday one user tell another user, "You have the right Nikon to take great pictures." Nikon makes great cameras, but, nowadays, there is not significant differences between brands and even levels ("semi-pro", "pro", etc) of cameras. Any camera is capable of taking great pictures, Nikon or not. Is the photographer capable of taking great pictures? That is the real question.

If the photographer is not capable, it makes no difference what camera is in his or her hands because the pictures won't be good anyway. If the photographer is capable, it makes no difference what camera is in his or her hands because the photographer can use whatever tools are available to create art.

Ansel Adams said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." In 1937 he said (to a photographer who was worried about what lens to buy), "Any good modern lens is corrected for maximum definition at the larger stops. Using a small stop only increases depth." Ansel Adams was saying that the camera doesn't matter and the lens doesn't matter--it's the photographer that is important.

The take away is that, whether you are a beginner or experienced, a hobbyist or professional, always strive to improve yourself. Challenge yourself to take better photographs. Become a better photographer each time you take pictures. Then the question of "what camera should I own?" becomes unimportant as you realize it matters not.

I wish someone had told me that 10 years ago.

In How To Get Started In Photography, Part 4 we will discuss some different camera options and film vs. digital.

No comments:

Post a Comment