It’s not about the tools you use. It’s about the photograph.
So many photographers these days are suffering from an acute case of G.A.S. That’s gear acquisition syndrome. Always needing to have that new gadget or camera. The “if only I had that, my photography would be so much better” thinking. I’m not pointing fingers here, I’m one of them. Or I used to be anyway. A professional photographer will for sure need the best of the best but what about us amatures that just love taking photos.
It’s not really our fault. Camera manufacturers want us to buy their new gear so they show us all the features and benefits drawing us into the desire for the latest and greatest regardless of whether or not we even need it. And so they should. They are in the business of selling cameras. We as photographers are in the business of making photographs. The newest and most expensive gear does not make you a better photographer.
The tools are important.
I propose we start thinking of our gear as simple tools. Like a carpenter who has a cabinet full of hammers, saws, drills, screwdrivers and such we must learn to treat our gear as tools to help us in our efforts to create that timeless photograph.
A camera is nothing more than a light proof box for capturing photographs. Sure, some are more sensitive to light than others, Some are smaller than others, some more robust, some shoot at really fast frame rates. These are all well and good if you need those features but they are all still a box for capturing a photograph.
Lenses are probably the most important of all the tools. It is responsible for transmitting the light from the scene to the sensor (or film plane if you are shooting analog) as sharp as possible for the make up of the lens. Each lens has it’s own unique properties that help you do this. Some are wide angle, some are telephoto, others are a zoom but they all do basically the same thing. The better the quality of the lens, the better the resulting image. More or less. Keep in mind here though that a wonderfully sharp image of a boring subject is still a boring photo.
There are many, many other tools we can use to make photographs. Tripods, speedlites, studio lights, etc. All these tools have their uses but they are still that, just tools.
Creative Vision is what you really need to focus on and develop (puns intended!)
If you want your photography to improve the most, I believe you must work on your creative vision.
This is, however, not as easy as it sounds. I’m not even sure vision can be taught. But, the best way I have found to try to develop my creative vision is to look at lots of photos. I mean lots. Thousands of them. Look at them find the ones that speak to you. Di-sect them. What is it about them that you like? What don’t you like about it. Try to replicate them. Yes learn by copying others until you develop your own style.
Photograph what you know, what you love, things that get you excited.
Here are some examples from my work that I feel were made when I was truly in the creative zone.
Sometimes getting a great photograph is part luck. Being in the right place at the right time. But you still need to make the image. Take the above photograph of mine for instance. My most popular by far. I just happened to be out at the lake the weekend this storm blew through and I just happened to recognize what the sudden wind gusts signified. Still though, I had to decide when to press the shutter button and how to process the image after if at all. I had viewed many storm photographs in the past so when this one came along, I already knew what I was going to try to capture with it.
I hope to get many more photos that make me feel like these do.