Without a shadow of a doubt we continually sold to that the next camera is better resolution, better quality, better hardware, it has wifi, nfc, Bluetooth. The lens is crisper, sharper, higher grade glass. The body is waterproof, snow proof, cat proof! You name it, it’s either here now, or coming soon.
But is the camera the thing that makes us the best photographer? I guess the manufacturers would like us to think so. They would like you to buy better cameras, more lenses, and upgrade at the earliest possible point that debt allows.
For me, I don’t have a budget to go buy new cameras, lenses, and well, anything else that they say will improve my photography. Recently I got into a discussion about cameras with someone and they were continually saying that the next camera would be better. I found my self joining in. I’m normally ambivalent about cameras as I have a philosophy that was born in the age of film, where photographers that defined influences to a generation and always had a quote ready to back up their philosophy.
I was primarily influenced by Ansel Adams, and some of the great black and white photographers. Adams always had a well thought through comment that later became a famous quotation. I’ll quote it verbatim although I had to look it up. “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it”. For me you need to add to that as a secondary point that the glass in front of the camera is the next most important thing.
The actually body of the camera, while it has whistles and bells, or can be left on automatic, is the least important part. But manufacturers would well like you to believe that it is the start and finish of a good image. How wrong! Think about it for a moment. The image you want to capture is going to travel through the lens too the camera. The lens is guided by what you see. The camera body is simply the recording unit that does what it’s told. Well, it should be, but with the world of digital photography it’s so much more.
If all the iconic images that persuade us to either dabble in photography or try to make money in the profession are of a bygone age, then doesn’t it stand true that they were made with basic technology and that the skill was the persuading force behind the composition?
There will always be the exceptions to the rule in the same way that there are always exceptions in composition that work yet break the rule. Future generations will discover their desires through new photographers that use leading edge technology, but will then delve into the past and really have their eyes opened. There is a thriving passionate world of analogue photography again. Italian film makers are producing new emulsions to create negatives of slides. Polaroid has been reinvented by Impossible Project. Lomography is no longer an underground experiment. Why?
The point is that with an art form like photography, and it is an art form. People have a desire to experiment, learn, craft, develop, and bring out unique images and styles that stimulate. Yes, you can do all of that in Photoshop. Isn’t it a little like buying a packet mix cake? As long as you have the ability to follow instructions you should be able to make a reasonable cake? I know right now I’ll be receiving a lot of flack for that comment from the professional Photoshop folks. But I see that area as a separate skill base and artistic interpretation. You can be incredibly creative and produce a stunning image from scratch in Photoshop, which is far closer to the digital version of a painter than anything else. I use photoshop, and while a little crudely, effectively produce images that use a base photographic image to generative a new interpretation that is inside my head.
Where was I going? I think after all this posturing it’s a simple request. Learn the basics, understand light and how to use it. Know what the fundamentals of aperture, shutter, ISO, and metering do. Don’t leave the camera on program or automatic. Don’t by the most expensive camera body you can. Invest in learning, good quality glass (lens), and remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder not the cameras programming….