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Great Images Aren’t About Your Gear

Over and again at so many seminars and shows over the years I’ve heard photographers say to a speaker, “Sure you can take a great shot, look at all the gear you have!”  or there’s the ever popular, “I wish I had their gear!”

Years ago in the Hasselblad booth, we had a photographer come up and ask us what a gear one of our speakers was using. We told him and he went out and bought the same setup. He came back to the booth at the next show and complained, asking why his images didn’t look anything like the ones in our booth or the ones our speaker had shown.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it comes to creative skills! He showed absolutely no creativity, shooting everything f8.0@1/125! He lacked the most basic understanding of the depth of field and exposure but expected the camera to do it all.

Joe Buissink made a point in his book, Wedding Photography from the Heart, about getting to know your equipment.

“Whatever gear you shoot with, know every aspect of every setting and that understanding will never fail you.”

I don’t profess to be a professional photographer and never have, but the image above proves at least one point – equipment doesn’t always make the shot. True, it’s not a portrait, a scenic or a bridal shot, but…

This image was taken with a $200 Fujifilm point and shoot twelve years ago.  It was shot at 6 megapixels and thanks to Photoshop and the skill set of a good friend, it held up for a 20×30 print.

I also had a technical problem at the time. I was in Tokyo and without a Polarizer – so I held my sunglasses in front of the lens and turned them until I killed the reflection off the water.  I couldn’t be more proud of the finished print.

There’s a very simple point – your gear doesn’t make your images, you do!  The magic of capturing an image is in everything you understand about photography, put together with your creativity and the unique way you see the world.

Joe Buissink is going to help me again in this post with a comment from his book:

“Anyone can learn to use equipment to capture an image, just as anyone can learn to cook.  But you don’t want to cook the same dishes that everyone else does.  Learn to take photographs the way truly fine chefs develop their signature dishes.  Train your eyes to see with your heart, listen to your subjects, and then create images that are unique.