How important is having a good camera?

Gulls on Catwalk

Gulls on Catwalk

Many I talk to at shows think that I can create great photographs because I have a “really nice camera”. It’s true that I have professional equipment, but how important is that to making compelling photographs?  Answer: It’s not. What is important is training my brain to see great photographs. This comes from knowledge and experience. This photograph of gulls was taken with an inexpensive “bridge” camera, a Minolta Dimage z2, now available for a whopping $60 used on Amazon.

Abbie in Sunlight
Abbie in Sunlight

Here is another from that trip to Disneyworld (our honeymoon) with the same camera. Light, composition, story, mood, emotion, expression, moment – these are the things that make a great photograph. Not technical details. These photographs could have been taken with any point-and-shoot.

Chipmunks on a Trunk
Chipmunks on a Trunk

This photograph is one of my very first. I believe it was taken in 1997 with an inexpensive Minolta SLR that I got as a high school graduation gift from Wal-Mart. Light, story, moment, emotion, expression – these are the things that matter the most when creating a compelling photograph. And no, it’s not simple or easy. It’s very complicated and it requires vision and a lot of thinking and decision-making.  Sometimes split-second decision-making.  Sometimes patience.

So why do I have expensive equipment? A few reasons. Here is a list from least important to most.

1. Status Quo – I’m a professional and I desire to be taken seriously. That’s difficult to do when shooting with a pocket camera.

2. Dependability/Durability – I sometimes shoot in wet ,cold, and dirty environments and I need gear that will work and survive.

3. Image Quality – If I’m going to put so much time, effort, and money into creating my photographs, I want the image quality to be as good as I can afford. That comes from having high quality lenses.

4. Ease of Use – Counter to intuition, the more professional the camera, the easier it is to operate. Consumer-grade cameras usually have a lot of buttons and cater to those shooting in auto exposure mode. A professional camera is generally much easier and faster to use when shooting in Manual exposure mode because it’s designed for that purpose. The less I have to think about the operation of the camera functions, the more I can think about composition and creativity.

5. Print Size –  Any camera can print a great 5×7, but when I’m making prints that are 70″ long, I need as much detail as I can muster. That’s the biggest advantage of having a nice sensor.

So, let me assure you, upgrading equipment to the latest and greatest does not allow you to create great photographs. You’ll just be creating larger versions of what you are already doing.  You’re better off buying a used $17 book on composition from Amazon. Or better yet, let me do the hard work and you can just sit back and enjoy!