my flickr photostream

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gotta Shoot Something

Braving the Elements
© 2010 Simon Hucko

[Eek, snow! I was digging through my photos for a shot of me with my camera, and this is the best I could find. Perhaps it's time for some more mirror portraits...]

I tagged this post with "gear," but it's more an anti-gear kind of discussion. I'll start with a story.

I was walking around campus the other day and wound up seeing another photographer. We made the usual exchange - smiled at each other, and then checked out what gear the other was using (sort of like dogs sniffing each other's butt). He saw my camera and said "argh, Nikon?!" I shrugged and responded "gotta shoot something." I didn't really give much thought to that statement before making it, but reflecting on it later I realized that it's actually a rather profound thought.

Photography is an interesting art because it relies heavily on technology and gear in addition to artistry and creativity. It takes a lot of stuff to make a photograph, especially a digital one - at the very least you need a camera, a lens, a memory card, a computer, photo editing software, and a photo sharing site. Because the art relies so much on the gear, people tend to associate the gear with the images that they get. How many of you have thought "I'd be a better photographer if only I had a [insert new lens/camera/accessory here]?" I'll admit it, I spend my fair share of time keeping up with the latest and greatest, and I've even caught myself thinking that my photos might get better if I had a newer camera. The sad reality is that they won't. (The only legitimate excuse I have there is needing higher clean ISO and/or faster zoom lenses for theater photography.)

Since photography gear is relatively expensive, the decision to buy into a particular brand is not trivial. Once people sink a few hundred dollars into something, they start develop a sense of loyalty to it. According to a psych class I took in college, people feel the need to justify their decisions, and will actually feel more positively about something after investing time/money/emotions in it (see cognitive dissonance). This unfortunately starts to breed fan boys - people who believe that their brand is the best, and that you'd have to be a fool to use anything else. People like the photographer that I had my brief exchange with. I think he was just joking a bit and making conversation, but the sentiment is definitely out there.

My point here is not that gear isn't good (hey, if the gear didn't matter then the pro's wouldn't spend $5k+ on a DSLR), but that it isn't everything. This post was inspired by David duChemin who recently announced that he would be transitioning over from Canon to Nikon (see his post here). To quote David, "Gear is Good. Vision is Better." It's not what you shoot with, it's what you shoot with it that counts. You have to choose a camera to take photos with - whether it's a $10 disposable film camera or a $30,000 digital medium format camera will depend on your budget and your vision. Cameras are just tools, and you should use the tools that will help you best realize the image that you want.

Worry less about the gear, and more about the jaw-dropping, inspiring photos that you make with it ;)


[title of blog] on flickr


  1. "How many of you have thought "I'd be a better photographer if only I had a [insert new lens/camera/accessory here]?""

    I think we all get that way, and not just with gear. "I'd be a better writer if I didn't have to work," or "I'd be a better parent if I had more money." Even "I'd be happier if I won the lottery."

    But studies have shown that none of those things are true (for the most part). We are who we are, regardless of the accoutrements.

    So yeah, I like your point: focus on the photos, not the gear. :)

    (Also found the branding part interesting. I wonder if that's why luxury brands haven't been as hurt by the recession as people expected... And I can only imagine that that's why some of us Apple-lovers become single-minded freaks. :P)

  2. Bang on Simon
    It does make me laugh that people want so much when they can achieve the same results with a bit of forethought vision and application -aint this meant to be a hobby and I love the phrase...........
    "It's not what you shoot with, it's what you shoot with it that counts".

  3. @ Kristan - I'm not sure about the luxury brands bit, I think it has more to do with who was most impacted by the recession (when corporations start cutting jobs, it's usually the new hires and middle management that get the boot, not the overpaid super-execs at the top). Just a guess, though.

    @ Irv - Thanks, I thought it was rather clever after I wrote it ;) Photographers are kind of like golfers: they're always looking for that magic piece of gear that will instantly improve their game. Unfortunately for the weekend-warriors of the world, practice and experience can't be bought.

  4. I have a Nikon also. My dad - who worked for a newspaper for over 40 years - always had one so that is what I wanted and got.

    Who did you run into on campus? His name wasn't Steve, per chance?

  5. @ Nicki - No idea. Didn't exactly stick around to chat after he bashed the best camera brand in the world ;)