My mom spent my entire lifetime taking family pictures. And we have photo album after photo album filled with pictures of people missing either their heads or their feet.
Finally, in the early 90s, my mom invested a couple hundred dollars in a 35mm point & shoot camera (most money she ever spent on a camera). Oddly enough, the new, fancy camera still cut off people’s heads or feet in the pictures she took. Mom blamed the camera.
We laugh, of course, because it was obviously Mom who was cutting off the heads or feet of the folks in the picture, not the camera. It was all in how she framed her shots.
Reader’s Digest had a story once, in one of their humor sections… a famous photographer had some folks over for a slide-show presentation of his trip to somewhere exotic (Alaska, Antarctica, wherever). As the guests were leaving, someone’s wife said to him – “Those are wonderful photographs. You must have a very expensive camera.” He smiled and thanked her. A while later, he was invited to a dinner party at that family’s house. He attended, and enjoyed a delicious meal. As he was leaving, he said to the hostess: “That was a delicious dinner. You must have very expensive cookware.”
It’s absurd to think that fancy cookware is all that’s needed to make an excellent dinner. Why then, do folks think a fancy camera is all that’s needed for good photos? It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer. A skilled photographer can take excellent photos with a crappy camera. Granted, good photos are easier with a good camera, but it’s ultimately the skill of the photographer that counts.
Case in point… for years, I had a 2.1mp digital camera. Folks would talk about how important it was to have higher megapixels, and faster shutter speeds, less lag between the time you click the shutter button and when the picture is actually taken. People would talk about how they missed shots because their camera wasn’t fast enough. And they needed more megapixels so they could print bigger pictures, because a 2.1mp camera just can’t give you a good 8×10 picture.
Now, I’m not against better cameras, don’t get me wrong. But I printed many good quality 8×10 photos from my 2.1mp camera. And I got many good action shots (in bright light) from my impossibly slow camera.
Because I knew how to take pictures. I had learned over the years, by practice and by reading everything I could get my hands on about the art of picture-making.
If you want an action shot, you don’t wait until the last minute to try and get it. You anticipate it. If your camera is slow, then not only do you anticipate where the action will be, you half-press the shutter button to set the focus, and keep it there until the action happens.
For instance, each of these photos was taken with my very old, very slow, 2.1mp camera, using the method I just mentioned:
Every time I’m on a message board and I see someone post “Wow, great pictures! What kind of camera do you have?” I cringe, because asking that question implies that the CAMERA is the reason the photos are so good, not the photographer. If they’re asking me, I smile politely and answer the question. Maybe they’re in the market for a new camera, after all.
But I know for a fact that there are people in this world who think that if they can only buy the correct camera, all their picture taking problems will be solved. And it’s NOT true. A camera is only a tool, not a miracle-machine. It’s up to the person using the tool to create the good picture.
UPDATE: The camera I used for the above pics, as well as my current camera both have a “fully manual” mode. My original digicam was an Olympus C2100-UZ (ultra zoom). Lens by Canon, 10x Optical zoom, 2.1mp. And yet I printed some very nice 8×10 pics (and 11×17, as well) with it. A lot of the print quality rests in the processing of the photo before sending it off to print, in my opinion.
My current is a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ20. Leica lens, 5mp, 10x optical zoom (maybe 12x? Don’t remember off-hand). It supports additional lenses/filters, has a hot-shoe for external flash, costs 1/2 to 1/3 what a dSLR would have cost me at the time, and I don’t have to lug around a bunch of lenses. My back loves it. Yeah, I’d love to have the newer FZ-whatever, with slightly shorter lag-times, and more ISO equivalencies (mine sucks at low-light shooting), but this one is good enough for now.
I have another Panasonic that I take on business trips – it fits in my backpack or my pocket, and does what I need. It’s their Lumix TZ-1. Lens by Leica, 10x optical zoom, 5mp.
I won’t invest in a dSLR until I’m ready to go back to the world of manual shooting, and I’ve really enjoyed using the auto feature and letting my camera do the thinking for me. But my FZ20 supports fully manual mode, so as long as it’s doing what I need, why change it?