the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

OF FOOLS AND TOOLS

There are many roads to a final image, but only one destination.

There are many roads to a final image, but only one destination.

By MICHAEL PERKINS

PHOTOGRAPHERS LOVE TO BICKER ENDLESSLY ABOUT WHICH IS THE BEST ROAD TO TRAVEL en route to the making of a picture. I mean they flat-out love it. Here we are entering the third century of a global art that has amply demonstrated that vision, not hardware, is the determinant of excellence, and we are still splitting into warring factions on which camera does this, or which lens or process does that. It’s discouraging because it is wasteful. Put in another context, it’s like arguing whether your marinara won first prize because you stirred it with a spoon instead of a fork.

This ongoing us/them battle over which is the “purer” approach to photography is presently centered on traditional cameras versus mobile devices. Each side calls its star witnesses to testify on a variety of qualifying or disqualifying factors, as if anything matters but the pictures. Can I play that game? Sure, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that I had never hurled a bomb or two toward both sides in the skirmish. But when I do that, I’m only serving my own ego….not photography.

I make a distinction between cel phone and conventional cameras based simply on what I want to do in the moment, but such distinctions are never recommended as a universal yardstick. Very generally speaking, if I want the widest number of creative choices before the picture is made, I prefer a DSLR. If I can safely trust my instinct for the greatest part of the picture, adding creative tweaks after the shutter clicks, I am comfortable with a cel. Simple as that. I have made very satisfying images with both kinds of cameras, but my results are purely my own. And that’s really as much as any of us can swear to.

The manufacturers of both kinds of cameras know that different people approach picture-making with priorities, and that’s why they make cameras that have different approaches. Why should this be surprising? Is a Cadillac a better car than a Fiat? Who says so and why? Don’t both accomplish the same baseline task of propelling  you from point A to point B? Then they’re, um, cars.

Many pro photographers worship gear the way high priests dig incense and robes, so it’s no wonder that newbies catch the same fever. Looking at their worst pictures, they hate on their gear instead of questioning how they see. You’ve heard the if-only mantras. Maybe you’re mumbled them yourself. If only I had the Big Mama 3000 lens. If only I had a Lightning Bolt BX3 body with a Zeiss diamond cutter attachment! Boy, howdy, then you’d see some pictures. Yeah, well, bull hockey. Develop your eye and your pictures will come out better, whatever kind of camera they come out of. Choose to put yourself on an eternally accelerating learning curve. You’re the real camera, anyway.

Anything else is just a spoon or fork. Stir the pot with what’s at hand and start cooking.

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3 responses

  1. True. There is no doubt that there could be differences in image quality when you compare an entry level camera with a highly expensive one, but it is the person behind the equipment that makes the picture. Seeing vs. composing – isn’t that what all photography aspirants hope to learn?

    May 17, 2015 at 10:15 AM

  2. Great pic too btw…where was it taken from?

    May 17, 2015 at 10:16 AM

  3. It’s a gigantic mechanical city model called “Metropolis II” which was on display at the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art for most of 2013. It featured thousands of miniature cars (about Matchbox size) zipping through futuristic freeways and around imaginary skylines. I shot it in daylight-plus-fluorescents but processed it as a faux night shot, since it looked more dramatic with a muted range of color. As to your earlier point, image quality in mobiles will eventually be a strong alternative to full-function cameras, especially once someone markets a true optical zoom. But, yes, it’s all down to intentions and results, not gear. THANK YOU for visiting!

    May 17, 2015 at 11:12 AM

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