Today’s post is mostly for my fellow photographers, but I hope it’ll be interesting even if you’re not into photography. One of my very favorite instructors from the professional program at the Washington School of Photography, Sam D’Amico, wrote a fantastic article in his newsletter this week, “It’s Not the Camera That Takes the Pictures.” I especially love his carpentry analogy. Read on, and note that photographers shouldn’t be afraid to take credit for their work, and people should give photographers more credit for the art they create!
It’s Not the Camera That Takes the Picture
by Sam D’Amico
When, during the course of a conversation, people mention that their camera “takes good pictures” I politely suggest that their camera usually has less to do with a good picture than they think. If cameras took good pictures, wouldn’t they be good pictures all of the time? It’s the person working the camera that’s responsible for the picture.
If the photograph comes out good or bad, assuming the camera is operating correctly, we (the photographers) are ultimately responsible for the photographs we make.
When people ask me what camera I would recommend, I’m reluctant to make a suggestion. I can tell them why I prefer the cameras I work with, but I encourage them to research different types of cameras and to make choices based on their individual approach to picture making. I usually add that if they want to realize the full potential of making photographs that they should make sure that their cameras could operate in a fully manual mode. (Set ISO, F-stop and shutter speed.) I also suggest that they should also consider a model that doesn’t lock them into a particular product line. For example, if you wanted to purchase a separate flash unit, could you use a flash unit such as Vivitar 285? A Vivitar 285 is under $100.00 and, in my opinion, is easier to work with than a more complex and expensive flash unit that some camera models require.
There are many equipment choices out there. If you want to work with a disposable point & shoot that’s fine. I think, since there are no exposure or focus controls, that’s a great way to work on framing, a major component of photographic composition. Whatever works for YOU is what you should be using. But you need to make thoughtful choices based on the way you want to work. It’s not the equipment as much as it is the photographer. If you gave me a hammer, saw, wood, and some nails I’d probably injure myself. If you gave those things to someone skilled in carpentry you’d get a piece of furniture. The camera is just a tool. It’s not the camera that makes the photograph it’s the photographer.