What is needed nowadays to be a great photographer...?

Started Jan 27, 2014 | Discussions thread
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hoakin1981 Regular Member • Posts: 368
What is needed nowadays to be a great photographer...?

I decided to post this question here mostly motivated by the controversy created by the recently published photos of the Russian mom and her kids, shown on DPreview as well of course.

I have asked myself the same question dozens of times and as time passed, I realized that my answers changed every time. In the beginning I thought it was all about the gear, the better you have the better photographer you are. Then I reconsidered, its about talent, pure talent and great vision that makes a great photo. Later on I realized that with proper PP you could make aesthetic marvels from just good raw files so I said, it has to be the PP proficiency then!

Back in the old days things were simpler, you had your 35mm or 120mm film and a camera to shoot with. Of course the film development played a huge part but provided that that part was done proficiently enough it all came down to pure photographic vision.

I have read on many photo related sites that its the photographer that matters, not the camera, and that even with a simple 1st generation P&S 3 megapixel camera a true artist can make masterpieces. Well, I used to believe that, but I am not so sure anymore.

If by todays standards a photographer wants to be great at what he/she does, its not that simple. You must have it all I am afraid.

  • Vision
  • Talent
  • Top of the line gear
  • Top of the line glass
  • Top of the line camera bodies
  • Excellent PP skills

The photos made by the Russian mom obviously reflect the above more or less. The body is a FF Canon 5D MarkII or MarkIII (not sure) and its safe to assume that the glass in front of it is equally good. There is obvious talent/vision present and no one can deny that a lot of PP has taken place.

Would the Russian mom be able to make such lovely photos with a simple P&S? I don't think so. Could she do it if she had the equipment and vision but lacked the necessary PP skills? Again, don't think so. Of course the results would be very good in those cases as well, but they would not be this good.

So who cares you say? I don't, you don't, but she does. And why? well because maybe a children's book editor who wants a nice cover for one of his kid books to be published cares as well. Or perhaps one of those companies that make big posters for kids rooms to put on the walls. This list obviously goes on forever. You need quality, and hard work. Talent, but also the tools.

You do not see these days many new photographers become famous for their street work for example. What sells now are photos from war-zones and disaster sites which are on a whole different ball game of course for many many reasons. I seriously doubt we will see a new Henri Cartier-Bresson anytime soon. There is no room for one.

Its very hypocritical I think to say that none of us would not absolutely love to have one of our photos published. Either on a magazine, or a book, or posters or whatever..

Lets face it, this recognition is important because it is a difficult achievement not easily conquered. Who does not love it if a shot posted on flickr gets 1000 views and 500 comments on the first 2 days.

Of course there are exceptions, surely there are many photographers who only shoot for themselves, who do not care what other fellow photographers think of their work, and who are content with this. But this is the minority I am afraid. With today's availability in photo sharing opportunities like facebook, flickr, 500px and all stock selling sites present, even self-publishing, its difficult to be that much detached from all.

The competition is fierce, and the bar is set way too high and gets higher each day. What can you do if you cannot afford a FF body for example? If you have the talent but not much else?

What can you do, if you want it all but you don't have it all?

Thank you for your time.

Canon EOS 5D
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