Does the Photographer Matter?

Photography over the last decade experienced many innovations.  The advent of digital photography created an explosion of interest for many people.  No longer are we bound by the expense of film and development.  We can take an infinite amount of photos and delete the disappointments with ease and with no expense except for the time used to take the image.

Reflecting on academics

The sophistication of today’s camera surpasses the simplicity of past models.  This development is a double-edged sword.  It allows us to capture images without understanding ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture, the three elements necessary to properly expose an image.  I, and other, photographers hear people comment how easy it is to take a picture.  Some people believe if you purchase an expensive enough camera, you can rip it out the box and start creating postcard-quality photos.

Kings College

Some have made the following statements regarding my images. “That’s a beautiful picture.  You must have a nice camera.”  or my favorite response “Those were some nice photos.  YOU didn’t take them did you? (This was from a family member!)”  I receive the comments in the spirit in which they were given.  However, have you ever seen a beautiful painting and thought, “Wow, this artist must have some nice brushes!”  People didn’t concern themselves with Michelangelo’s equipment used to paint the Sistine Chapel; nor did anyone care about the make and model of Miles Davis’s trumpet.  Yet, photography seems to be the exception where more credit is given to the tool than the artist.  When was the last time you visited your favorite restaurant and concerned yourself about the type of stove used?

Iron Fence

I’ve worked with a friend for a few months to help him with his photography.  He has a great point ‘n shoot camera.  He believes he needs a better camera to improve his images.  I urge him to improve his photography skills before upgrading his camera.  A better camera not only makes taking great shots easier.   It makes taking bad shots easier as well.  If you do not understand the principles involved in taking great shots, guess which ones you’ll end up with the most.

Punting along the river

I challenged him some time ago to use my camera and I would use his.  We went to Cambridge, UK.  It is a beautiful area with a river running through the city and the historic Cambridge University situated along the river.  I gave him my Digital Rebel XT and a choice of lenses.  He chose to use the lens with a 15x zoom so he could have wide angle and telephoto capability.

Red Peppers

He was initially frustrated with the controls, but he found his comfort zone and he believed this was the missing ingredient for his recipe in taking great photos.  I enjoyed using his point ‘n shoot camera and I looked forward to seeing my images on the computer.

Kings College

We downloaded our images and began to examine the results.  As we looked at his photos, he realized what he saw on the LCD wasn’t showing up on the computer.  The reality is the equipment didn’t make his shots better.  He’s realizing the challenge is how to transform what he visualizes into a good photograph.  A great camera can do many things, but it cannot interpret our vision.

Downtown Cambridge, UK

Every person purchasing a nice camera does not need to read photography books and take classes.  Yet, capturing beautiful and lasting images takes time and it’s not the camera, but the photographer that matters.

Every photo in this post was taken with his camera, Canon S90.

“Gear is Good, Vision is Better.” – David duChemin


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5 thoughts on “Does the Photographer Matter?

  1. Roger, you are so right on this. It is not the tools that make a great artist, but how that person uses the tools to create the picture on his canvas.

  2. Hmm, Interesting article. One would think after reading this all you need is to develop a “camera eye” and you can get away without using an SLR.

  3. I agree with you. The pictures you took with the S90 are just a beautiful as your other photos. You are very good at your craft.

  4. Good article Roger. I think the photographer makes a big difference. The quality may be close with different types of camera’s but it takes a photographer to see the photo before it’s developed. The angle, the clarity, the sun, the shadow, the haze, etc. The mood is set by the photographer and not the camera. The functions that come with a camera has to be learned and understood to set a mood in a series of photos, each telling there own story if the skills are there… great insight and information. thanks for the knowledge…

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