QUESTION: What Camera Should I Use?
"What camera should I use?" is a question a lot of photographers who are just starting out are wondering. Aspiring photographers spend a lot of time drooling over fancy cameras with price tags in the multiple thousands of dollars range, wishing that we could get our hands on that magic piece of equipment that will take our work to the next level and bring us lots of wowed clients. I should know -- that used to be me. There's lots of drooling, wishing, and sleepless nights agonizing over my "crappy" camera in my past.
Here's a secret for you -- lean in close to make sure you don't miss a word . . . . it's not the camera.
I remember when I got my first DSLR. I agonized over what to buy, looked at sample images, and finally picked one in my price range. It wasn't expensive but I had heard good things about it. I got it because I was looking to take something better than what I could get with my point and shoot.
I got bitten by the photography bug early in life, but what really made me want to take the plunge was . . . Well, it's a little embarrassing but here goes. I had seen pictures on someone's myspace that inspired me (this gives you some idea of the date of this adventure). True story, I had hunted down myspaces of some guys in a band I used to be obsessed with when I was in my early teens. This was back before public facebook pages where you could follow people, instead, artists had to make myspace profiles. I won't further embarrass myself by stating what band I was tracking down the members of . . . Anyway, one of the guy's girlfriend had a myspace as well. She took pictures that were kind of boho and vintage and I thought to myself: "if I had a camera that took pictures like that, I would be so happy." So I bought the aforementioned DSLR.
I got it home, freaked out over the camera, took some pictures and . . . was devastated. They didn't look anything like the pictures I'd seen people take with DSLRS. I figured my camera must not be so great after all.
I went through 2 more cameras and was still pretty sad. Nothing looked like it was supposed to. I spent hours online, looking at other photographers' work, wondering what camera they used and wishing so badly that I had one like that, so I could finally take the pictures I wanted.
Then I started to learn more about editing. Gradually I came to find that it's not the camera that makes a picture look a certain way -- it's just the light you find and the techniques you use to edit. Good judgement about when to use what sort of techniques to create a certain mood is also important.
Suddenly I was starting to get pictures I loved, even from my original DSLR.
To demonstrate what I mean, here is the exact same picture edited three different ways. The top two I purposely edited to be not very fabulous. The bottom image is edited in my regular way. All three pictures are exactly the same, just copies of each other. They came from the same camera and were taken at the exact same time. The only thing different is the editing.
In my opinion, what really makes a picture great is soul.
The camera is just a piece of metal, plastic, and glass that records light. The artist has the soul, and it's the way she molds the picture after the session that turns it into something special. The artist breathes life and color and a mood into an image with the right editing techniques. It took editing thousands of photos over the course of 6 years for me to really begin figuring out how to do that -- and I'm still learning something new every day.
So if you're despairing over having the "wrong" camera for the work you want to do, take heart! It's not the camera! It's all in what you do with it.
The best thing I ever did was start paying attention while I edited -- what made a picture look good when I liked the finished result? Where was I standing what I took the picture? What was the light like? What curves adjustments did I make? What did the histogram look like? As I started to keep track of these things I became more and more able to get the pictures I wanted without tears and struggle -- it became more second nature.
So what camera should you use? The one you already have. Learn the techniques, practice, go back over old sessions and re-edit them again and again. Find out how to give your work soul. Then you'll start to see images that make your heart sing. <3 I so wish I had had someone giving me that advice in the beginning, it would have saved me so much agony.
If you have any questions for me about anything at all, feel free to ask! Send a note to: firstname.lastname@example.org