"A new camera won't make you a better photographer"

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,520
Re: "A new camera won't make you a better photographer"

A better cello doesn't make a better cellist, only practice does. However, a cello that can't keep tune will usually inhibit someone from becoming a better cellist.

Better, more capable photographic gear will often permit someone to make technically better images faster and easier if they learn how to operate that gear properly. It won't however, make them a better artist. It won't help them visualize better, compose better, or communicate better.

If new gear provides more capability, and the person puts in the effort to learn how to apply that new capability correctly, they might become a better photographer depending on how they apply it. Better tools can eliminate restrictions and barriers. If all you have is a fixed aperture and shutter Kodak Instamatic, you can’t control depth of field, shutter speed, exposure (much) and so on. Those were limiting compared to a film SLRs back in the day. However, just having the film SLR didn’t automatically make the person a better photographer. In fact, it often made them worse when they didn’t learn to operate the more capable and complicated tool. Even if they did, the person with Instamatic might still be better at subject selection, composition, choice of lighting and more when they knew the limitations and stayed within certain parameters of what the tool could and couldn’t do.

It is easy to conflate 'better photographer' with multiple dimensions - which is why many debate it to no agreement. You can be a photographer, a craftsman, a professional, an artist, or some combination of these. So, if you are going to define 'better', then 'better' against which individual or combination of these dimensions? Without getting more specific, it is a useless semantic debate.

I am a better photographer if I can render results that please me and/or my client better. As long my tools have the function I need to produce the results I can pre-visualize and don’t limit me  (or make it so difficult it becomes too costly or time consuming). A better [camera, lens, monolight, background, prop, reflector tripod – whatever - fill in the blank] won’t make me a better photographer.

That said, if having more capable gear removes limitations, or allows one to experiment and practice more efficiently like it did when I went from film to digital, then the gear allows me to become a better photographer in conjunction with my own effort. So, let’s examine that in real life – when I got my Nikon 3.34MP 990 and later, a Nikon D1x 6MP DSLR along with an HP photographic ink jet, I was suddenly able to try hundreds of things photographically that I could not practically afford to try (re: time and expense) with my film cameras and wet darkroom. The easier and faster experimentation exponentially accelerated the growth my photographic skill set. I could practice the effects of various studio lighting far easier and faster, for example. The better technical images still came out of my 6x7 medium format camera, but the improvement was the result of my applying the newfound knowledge. The new gear didn’t make me a better photographer, but the new skills and knowledge it enabled me to gain, did. So OK, it better gear can definitely be an aid to becoming a better photographer, but becoming a better photographer ultimately comes from only within.

Michael Firstlight

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Tell me you know all about your camera and can use it well, and I will call you a photographer.
Tell me that you understand and can apply advanced concepts, and I will call you an enthusiast.
Tell me that you've mastered capture and processing techniques, and I will call you a craftsman.
Tell me you can do it with excellence, consistently, under any condition, and earn a major portion of your living from it, and I will call you a professional.
Show me images that reach the heart, touch the soul, and capture the imagination - and I will call you an artist.

 Michael Firstlight's gear list:Michael Firstlight's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM +28 more
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