Last year, in this very space, I wrote an article discussing the tendency of many novice photographers to believe that the only thing standing between them and magazine cover image success is a new piece of equipment or two: a new camera, a new lens, a new piece of software. Unfortunately, there are a lot of subtle—and some not-so-subtle—messages that are formulated specifically to further this belief. After all, photographic gear manufacturers have a vested interest in selling their products.
Unfortunately it is rarely the case that the purchase of new equipment will bring image-related satisfaction. Even though I’ve addressed this point in the past, based on the number of inquiries I’ve had relatively recently from people asking me what new camera (etc.) will solve their problems, it would appear a refresher is in order.
Exceptions to the Rule
Let me start by noting that there are some exceptions to the rule. Sometimes a new piece of equipment will fill the bill. For instance, someone recently told me how dissatisfied they were with the pictures of kids and pets that their low-end point and shoot was delivering. The problem was that the camera was so slow to lock on the subject and fire a shot that the moment was gone before the shutter could be tripped. This problem was completely addressable with a new camera—one with faster (possibly phased-based) autofocus and less shutter lag. The only real dissatisfaction being expressed was that shots were being missed because of the limitations of the camera. Eliminate the limitations and you eliminate the problem.
This, however, isn’t the kind of problem that is typically being presented to me. Ordinarily, the problems are more about how “boring” or “flat” or “poorly exposed” (etc.) one’s photos are. Those aren’t equipment problems; those are photographer problems. Getting a new camera or lens or software package, or any type of gear, for that matter, isn’t gong to provide a solution because the same person who was using the old equipment is going to be using the new equipment.
We live in an era when imaging companies constantly that photography is easy—especially if you use their equipment. “Start taking great pictures.” “Just point and click.” It simply isn’t true. Photography is fundamentally about seeing. It’s about recognizing what makes a good image and figuring out how to apply the technique necessary to go about capturing it. Your gear is of little or no help with that process. If you find your images “boring” or “flat,” it’s not the camera or the lens that’s producing the problem. There are ways to attempt to address the difficulty, but new gear isn’t one of them.
I recently posted an entry on my own blog discussing my experiences with the Nikon D800E, which I purchased in the middle of last year. If you read the article, take note that I bought the camera because of what it would help me do when it came to image end use—not because I thought it would make my photography better…because it wouldn’t.
If you’re dissatisfied with your imagery, consider what you can do to improve your eye and your technique before you reach for your wallet.
Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday. To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog: Lightscapes Nature Photography.