Friday, September 11, 2015

Gear vs. Craft: What makes a good Photographer?

I wanted to touch upon this subject for a while now, but with all the travel and photography posts never found the time for it. What makes a good photographer? What is considered to be a good photo? How important is gear and how much can you achieve with simple cameras?



The beginning of my photo journey...

When I started out in 2008 with this blog I had a point and shoot Olympus camera (I got that camera in 2005). Looking back now, I didn't even have a good camera with the standards back then, much less nowadays. But still I was as happy as could be, that I had moved on from my film camera. I took that point and shoot everywhere with me. No holiday, no vacation was safe from me and my clicking. And why should it be? A point and shoot is as simple as it gets. You can take it anywhere, it doesn't take up much space and you can get good results. Of course, once the photography bug catches you there is no stopping, and further advances had to be made.

An important upgrade

My next big upgrade was into the semi professional dslr class, with the Canon EOS 350D Rebel. I got it back in 2010 and used it for the next three years (and it's used even today by my sister when she travels without me). That was a revelation. I had arrived into the big league. Or so I thought. Jumping from a point and shoot to a dslr is no easy thing. I was happy with the Automatic setting on the dslr for a long time. It wasn't until 2011 when I finally bought some good photo literature, that I started exploring Manual mode or those funny Av and Tv letters on my dial. Yet, with all of those advances in gear my style didn't really change. I basically had the same type of photos on my computer. After discovering the RAW file format, things changes quickly. After editing and polishing those simple images I wanted to learn more. Like with all things that are interesting to us, once you get to the limit of a thing that interests you, you move on to the next one...


Entering the "professional" sphere 

It was back in 2013, during our visit to Budapest, when I got the Canon 6D. It is full frame, it is professional, it is great, yes, yes, yes...but with that also comes higher costs for additional gear, like lenses and other accessories. Everything comes with a price. I discovered timelapse photography, dslr video, and many other things. So the conclusion would be that better gear made me a better photographer. But that isn't the case. It's the drive to better yourself that makes you good. You simply play in the price range that you have to. But this doesn't mean you are limited.

Here is an example. This next photo was taken with my old iPhone 3GS. Caveman technology when compared to today's phone cameras. But still, I love this photo. I love the warmth, love the feeling I get when looking at it, I love the place it depicts. It transfers emotions, it brings out feelings. That's what counts. Could I have taken a better image with the Canon 6D. Yes. Would be regarded as a better photo. Yes. Is it a better photo. Not necessarily.


What makes a good photographer?

Often I get e-mails or comments that ask me what gear I use. I typically shy away from telling and not because I think I'm high and mighty, but simply because to me it doesn't matter. Of course I do tell everybody, but I also tell them, don't expect to take the same kind of photos just because you got a good camera. Excellence (and to be very clear, I don't consider myself to be great or professional at all!) comes with experience, and they can never exist without each other.

Even with my point and shoot back in 2005, ten years ago I was a happy camper. I cherish those images today and think they are good. Here is one from the archives. The shot was taken in Hvar in 2007.

Or this next one, taken the same year in the old town of Mostar. I love these, they not only bring back memories, but also show, you can achieve a lot with little things.


Conclusion

My point is, and I do think I have one, is that there are no rules. If you want to be a professional photographer of course you will get good gear, don't think you will make it with a point and shoot, but also semi professional shooters and hobby photographers should expand their gear if their love for photography is big. In the end my points are:

  • Good gear can get you better shots, but it doesn't make you a good photographer
  • If you are inexperienced or are just starting out, get inexpensive gear
  • As you are advancing your photography invest in better gear
  • Better yourself by reading, learning and simply doing.
  • Go out and shoot! Compare and make notes.
  • Read up online for techniques and different styles of photography
  • Take photos you want to see!


I hope you enjoyed this unusual ramble on this blog and I hope I didn't come off as preachy, because that wasn't my intention. I wish you all clear skies and sunny days.



P.S. If you are in the mood for some photo inspiration, head over to the Tutorials section of this blog, to get some.

37 comments:

  1. Nice to hear about your experiences with photographing. I agree with you, it's not always the best gear who gets the best photos. The person behind the camera is also very important.
    I enjoy your photos!

    Have a nice weekend!

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  2. Being a good photographer has escaped me. I wish i knew the secret.
    What I do know is that I use Canon out of necessity and not because I am happy with the equipment.
    I really enjoy a day out with the older film cameras, they have a tactile quality that Canon and Nikon do not have. Leica may be nice to use but unless I can borrow one I am unlikely to find out.
    What I do find a bit perplexing is that people pay for Holga and Lomo cameras when for the same money they can get an excellent old camera with a few lenses.

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    1. I wouldn't necessarily like to go back to film since it's very time consuming and the images don't allow for much error when taking the shot. Although I will say that I love the look of film and digital will never come close to it. But that's a small price to pay for all the convenience and technical superiority of digital cameras.

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    2. Mersad, unless you are shooting colour transparency film like Velvia then exposure is as easy as guessing. Film also has a much greater dynamic range than digital and the detail it captures on fine grained emulsions has to be seen to be appreciated. Digital is fine for the internet but is a retrograde step as far as quality is concerned. The exception may be Phase One backs but they cost as much as a small house and you still have an awful lot to spend on lenses and bodies.
      You can get a Hasselblad and a big box of 120 film all processed and scanned for the price of a middle of the road DSLR. If you want to play with 35mm there are dozens of excellent cameras just begging for a new home.
      I am slowly going back to film. I admit it is mainly for the pleasure of using filters, leaf shutter lenses and beautifully tactile and noisy cameras.I love the sound of a 50mmx50mm mirror bashing around.
      I will see if I can find a large format camera with a couple of lenses and lens boards I will miss the big mirrors but will gain a lens on a set of bellows to get everything as it should be with scanned files at over 1GB.

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    3. I didn't want to give the impression Velvia was intolerant. If you over expose any film you wont go far wrong. If you set your light meter to half box speed it usually takes care of things as long as you incident read the light and expose for the shadows. If there are a lot of the latter then just shade the meter bulb or wind it in.
      Film is easy and easier still if you remember to expose for shadows and let the highlights look after themselves. It's the opposite to digital and film is very forgiving.

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  3. HI Mersad I did enjoy hering how you started and the different camea you have worked through to achieve your great photographs. Certainly the better the camera in the right hans probably will make a better quality print if one knows how to process it correctly an creatively. However, I think that a photo photo need a person who has a good 'eye' to see a gooo photograph. Does that make sense? I always laugh when people say. 'that's a good photograph, you must have a great camera!'

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    1. It absolutely makes sense, I know what you mean. Cameras are tools and "the eye" our vision.

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  4. Dearest Mersad, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your photographic journey! Great tips...and, of course, your photos are gorgeous! :)

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  5. Love your approach to photography, and you have come a long way! :-)
    Incidentally, I republished yesterday a post from September 2006, pictures taken with my very first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot. I remember how hard I tried to get the camera to zoom in, with little available light in the dusk.
    What surprises me again and again is that I remember the moments I took certain pictures, even if that moment happened a decade ago. And it brings me back to the reason I started my blog: I wanted to capture a beautiful moment in my new hometown each and every day (never expected that anyone but my friends would ever get to see them).

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    1. I think it's wonderful how a blog can grow and how these images will be preserved in our digital diaries so to speak. I think we all started with point-and-shoots and as you said your mission was to capture each day in your city. That's a creative mission and you can accomplish it with many tools.

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  6. Great topic and post, Mersad.
    I’ve always felt it’s the photographer, the one who sees and creates, to be most important. Good gear, undeniably, helps.
    I believe a work of art can be achieved even with a Kodak Brownie (which was my first camera, many moons ago).

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    Replies
    1. It's a balancing act for sure. But I agree that one shouldn't feel limited to express creativity just because high end gear is not there.

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  7. I really miss my point and shoot. It was more comfortable (for me) than the big thing I have and never use. I confess to using the phone camera more than anything - simply because the P&S is no longer with me.

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  8. A good post, and good advice.
    Thanks for being a regular visitor at image-in-ing. You always inspire!

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    1. Thanks so much Sue. I try my best!

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  9. Da hast du ja sooooo recht! Ich kenne so viele Menschen , die die teuersten Kameras der Welt haben, soviel Geld für das Zubehör ausgeben, dass es mir schon weh tut, und trotzdem total langweilige Fotos machen. Es ist mit Sicherheit immer auch ein wenig Ansichtssache, was ein gutes Foto ausmacht, aber im wesentlichen muss es etwas bei der Betrachtung mit einem machen. Deine Fotos tun das und deshalb mag ich sie auch so. Das Iphone Foto ist super! Der beste Beweis für das was du sagst! GlG Anne

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  10. I agree with you 100 percent.. it is the person who has the camera not the camera. when i got my first digital kodak in 2002, it was 3.1 mp. point and shoot. i still have beautiful shots from that one.. digital was new then and so was I... to become a professional like you, you have to want to learn and read and follow tutorials. your photos are amazing because of learning the skills, lighting being so important. i am more of a snapper . i have the eye to see like Margaret said, but not the determination to learn what i need to know. and most people do think it is the camera. i took and online photography course, 12 weeks when i bought my first Rebel in 2006.. the teacher took photos with a point and shoot that rivaled DSLR because of his talent and skills... you are learning more every day and thanks for sharing it with us snappers

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  11. Hello Mersad, great post and wonderful tips for the photographer. Your images are always a treat to the eyes. Thanks for sharing this post. Happy Friday, have a great weekend!

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  12. Thanks for this candid talk on photography. I am by no means a professional,nor do I want to be,but I enjoy capturing the beauty I see around me.Many times that may mean using my iPhone,because that is all I have with me at the moment.having said all that,I would like to have more knowledge of the different settings and confidence to use them.

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  13. Thanks for this candid and informative post, Mersad. Most people are capable of learning a skill and can do quite well with devotion to it. But some are born with an innate ability. For them, the skill develops quickly and fully. In the photography realm, I think you're one of those.

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  14. Great post and your information spot on.

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  15. Thanks Mersad...I'll have to come back to this post, as I am I am waiting to make a move. I never thought about photography, I just do it but I want to do more. Your post has me thinking...

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  16. This is a great post. I agree, it's not the gear but the person behind it. I think you need to pay close attention to the available light and adjust accordingly (or maybe not take the image if the light is truly crappy) You need to study and practice techniques. Some of my better photos were taken with my tiny point and shoot Canon.

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  17. A great post indeed, Mersad!! Some very helpful information!! I only took up photography five years ago and have a couple of very basic cameras, but I do so enjoy taking them wherever I go and I'm mostly pleased with the results!! Thank you so much for sharing your photographic knowledge as well as your awesome captures!! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

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  18. I my case it's dumb luck!

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  19. Basic cameras, point and shoots, even phone cameras can yield surprisingly good results--- the photographer is more important than the camera. I started when I was about 11 years old. Start simply--- and turn off AUTOMATIC just as soon as you can.

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  20. So very true Mersad, people starting out in Photography would be wise to purchase simple and inexpensive equipment and as their skills improve, they then can upgrade. Great shots are taken by the photographer, the camera and lenses are just tools.

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  21. Well said. - I am by no means a professional photographer nor do I have the fanciest camera. However I was told by a photographer that it's not the camera but the person behind it that makes a good photo. I am hoping to learn more & grow as a photographer and in time upgrade when funds become available. Till then I try hard to produce what I think are good photos and hope others enjoy them as much as I do. - Thanks for sharing your thoughts and as always your amazing photos.

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  22. The best camera is the one you have. Don't waste money on a new one until you have outgrown the one you have...ie you know what you need and why you need it and can explain why you can't get it now. That is my constant advice!

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  23. Great advice, Mersad. I like your perspective. Even though I have a professional level camera and lenses, I still use my iPhone often and am generally happy with the results. I think a lot, perhaps most, of photography has to do with your eyes rather than your gear.

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  24. Good advice, Mersad. The camera doesn't take the photos, the eye behind it does. But that eye can be enhanced by good equipment.

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  25. Ich finde das Wichtigste ist auch das Gefühl und Auge für ein Motiv...da kann ansonsten eine noch so teure Kamera her, es wird nie klappen.

    Du beweist jedenfalls die Perfektion bei deinen tollen Fotos. Danke dir dafür.

    Herzliche Grüsse

    N☼va

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. Thank you admin for sharing your story and tips with us. Your story inspire me a lot. Photography is a very personal thing. A photo can change your career and business status. I am focusing on product photography. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but pictures can also be worth a thousand dollars if done right.
    You could get more info and support about product photography from http://briandumas.photography/product-photography/

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  28. High end gear is quite out of my reach, and always will be, so I manage with a Canon and try to be the best I can...being especially aware of lighting and the effects. Still, the pleasure I derive from capturing moments is priceless. If others enjoy the moment too, that is a bonus. Lovely series of photos.

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  29. I sure love to see what you do! You've been given a gift from God to be able to take the photos and bring so many pieces around the world. Thank you.

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  30. This is such a great post! I too started with an awful digital camera - I think that first one was a HP. 2002? I think? I used that along with my film SLR for a really long time (can you imagine how tedious that was? And how silly?) before I moved through a series of better digital cameras. I'm shooting with a Nikon D5200 right now and have been for almost 3 years. I think it's time for me to upgrade. I'm at the point where I want to buy good glass, but I don't want to wast money if I buy a full-frame camera...or a mirrorless (Karen Hutton has switched to Fuji and raves about it), I don't want to buy glass I can't continue to use. So many options out there.

    In the mean time, though, I keep working on improving my craft.

    Thank you for joining us for Photo Friday again this week!

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