Saturday, April 14, 2007

Quick Tip #1: Cameras Don't Take Pictures, People Do

[I'm starting a Quick Tip series. These are brief posts about fundamental photography concepts I've learned (or am trying to learn). Most will have pictures to demonstrate the idea (but not this one).]

I'm sure you've heard of the old saying: Guns don't kill people, people do.

(or, if you are in Texas, the bumper sticker reads: Guns don't kill people, I do)

Well, the same goes for photography. The photographer defines the picture, not the camera.

Give your $1,000 dSLR to your 2 year-old son (or a trained monkey, pretty much interchangeable) and see if he takes any good pictures. If you are lucky, he might have some in focus. If you are unlucky, you'll be in the ER that night getting optical glass picked out of his feet.

Photography at its root is not about the camera, lighting, focus, sharpness, lenses, or extension tubes. It is about capturing an image that someone (most likely the photographer) cares about. Yes, absolutely, you need a camera and some necessary equipment to get good pictures. But you can make some good pictures with a cheap plastic point and shoot.

Show of hands, how many have had these thoughts:

  • "If only I had a 5D (or D200, or large-format) I could have made that shot work."
  • "I really need that second strobe to get decent portraits."
  • "I really need a 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. I can't get lacross pictures without it."
  • "I want to try out macro photography, but I don't have the money for a macro lens!"
This site is all about making due with a minimum of cheap equipment. Heck, even purchasing inexpensive equipment can be difficult for those of us on tight budgets. If you think about it, a camera is just a light-proof box with a photo-sensor (film or microchip) on one side, a hole on the other (lens), and a bunch of ways to control how the light hits the photo-sensor (shutter, aperture, etc).

Do you need a top-of-the-line camera to make emotional and engaging pictures? No. You just need an imagination to figure out what to point the camera at and how to control the light. If you want to try macro photography with a dSLR, just take your lens off, turn it around, and hold it in front of the lens mount. It blew my mind the first time I did it and actually took interesting macro pictures. Cost? Free!

I have had to keep reminding myself just to get out and shoot with what I have. I have plenty of equipment to make good pictures, all I need to do is figure out how to do the hard stuff. Like get the light to hit my model just right to bring her out from the background. Get the right expression on my son's face. Get to a scenic overlook at the right time of day. Get a rodeo clown to try ballet.

It is tempting to put off pictures until you have the right equipment, but the good photographers are the ones who make them now with what they have on hand.

[Oops. Maybe that wasn't so quick.]

No comments: