my flickr photostream

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What's your Excuse?

photo: Corey / Martin

Last night I was browsing through photos in the Wedding Photography group on Flickr when I came across the above portrait. I clicked through to see it larger and was struck by the connection of the subject to the camera. The depth of field is pleasingly shallow without being so razor thin that half her face is out of focus. The lighting is soft yet directional. I would be proud to have taken that shot, which is generally how I measure other people's photography.

Then I glanced over at the exif and couldn't quite believe what I read. I clicked the link and examined it in detail. This was taken with a Canon Rebel T2i (a basic consumer DSLR) and the 18-55 kit lens. A closer analysis of the lighting suggests that she was standing near a window, no flashes or fancy studio tricks.

That's right, an entry level camera with kit lens and a window were all that the photographer needed to make this great portrait.

edit: I'm not 100% sure about the window light anymore, I did some looking through the photographer's stream and he shoots about 50/50 available light/flash. Even if it was a strobe in a softbox, though, you could get the same effect with a window.

It's easy to play the "if only I had this (lens/camera/flash/accessory) I would be a better photographer" game. Heck, I'm guilty, and have been fighting serious gear lust lately. Would I shoot a wedding with a Rebel and a kit lens? Probably not. (There's a reason that the pro's use professional gear.) Am I inspired to take my photos to a new level using only the gear I have? You bet.

What's your excuse?


[title of blog] on flickr


  1. Yup, I completely hear you and agree with you on this. Not only for photography, but for writing too. Back when I had a PC, I lusted after Macs big time. Now that I have one? {shrug} I love it, but it hasn't changed my writing in any tangible way.

    Tools are important, but they do not an artist make.

    (Also, yes, this is a lovely portrait!)

  2. This is a topic that is said often by all different sources - including famous mainstream photographers. Chase Jarvis has helped quite a bit, but I can't believe how many people still think that gear is a part of their failure. My mentor used to remind us that Ansel Adams - for all of his incredible and inspiring works - used a camera that is, by today's standards, pretty awful. Yes, it was a good camera for the time, but it can't do half of what a modern camera can do. But does the camera really mean that it isn't art? Am I less inspired by a photo because it was taken with a Canon G11 vs a Nikon D3x? The gear has little to do with it.

    Another interesting aspect of gear lust is a misconception of what impact gear has on your photo. Camera body has surprisingly little to do with the outcome. Lenses have more of an impact. Light has the most impact - and it's either free (if you're shooting natural) or relatively cheap (even the most expensive flashes are a fraction of the cost of your lens/camera body setup). Food for thought if you're looking to improve your work.

  3. @ Kristan - exactly.

    @ Travis - all good points. I could sit here and easily justify spending $5k on photo equipment (and honestly, some of it is much needed given what I do and where my aspirations lie.) But in the end I'm sure I'm not getting 100% out of the equipment I have and I *know* there are many areas I can improve in that have nothing to do with what camera and lens I own. Photography is an interesting art as the technology is so hard to separate from the rest of it, but in the end the technology is nothing but a tool to realize the craft and vision you have in your head. Something I will continue to struggle with, I'm sure.