The latest ‘must-have’ camera may be nice to own, but AP reader Dave Bloor questions where great photography really comes from

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This nigella flower was photographed with a Nikon D7100. With the right skills, it could easily have been taken with an older Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd

A few years ago I rekindled a love of photography that I’d first discovered as a child. With my brand new Fujifilm FinePix S1730 I started taking photographs of practically anything that caught my eye, eagerly posting them on internet sites and awaiting praise or ‘likes’.

Not long afterwards I purchased a Fujifilm FinePix HS10 because, at least in my mind, it was the next ‘must-have’ camera. Did it improve my photographs? Well, no, not really. Since then I’ve purchased quite a few must-haves including a Nikon D90, a Nikon D5100 and my latest camera, a Nikon D7100.

Yes, my photography has improved no end, but I hasten to add, not because of the cameras. Instead, it’s because I’ve studied photography in more depth. I recently looked back with embarrassment through hundreds of photos I’d taken with my S1730 and all the other cameras I’d owned, when I realised something important: was the fact that most of the photographs were poorly composed actually due to the camera?

Was it the fault of the camera that most of the pictures were incorrectly cropped or horizons weren’t level? Was the camera to blame for the noise in the photographs, or was it the fact that I knew nothing about setting the ISO? The same applied to many other aspects of the pictures that I once thought were great. Closer examination of these, now ready to be deleted forever images, showed a lack of basic photographic skills – not at all a fault of the camera.

The secret isn’t in owning a fancy new toy. Rather it’s in using all available resources – whether magazines, books or the internet – to gain the knowledge and inspiration you need. It’s about knowing enough to get the best from the camera you already have. Learning how to control camera settings, lighting, depth of field, composition, and the many other aspects of photography, will combine to produce better photographs. As Ansel Adams said, ‘The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.’

Yes, a nice DSLR like the one I currently own (another must-have I couldn’t resist) does produce better quality images, but only if you know what you’re doing with it. It’s a bit like having a top of the range sports car in your garage and not knowing how to drive.

If only I’d taken the time to master the basics with my first camera before rushing out to buy the next best thing, I could have saved a fortune. In fact, I’d probably now be able to afford that Nikon D810 I really must have.

 

Dave Bloor has worked as a professional photographer for over three years. He’s an avid AP reader and is based in Cheshire.

  • entoman

    Thanks Tina. Good luck with your photography too.

  • Tina Edwards

    Entoman – Personally I don’t think stress or pressure would do much to improve my photography but that’s me! We all have our own ways of motivating ourselves I suppose. Congratulations on your success. I wish you well with your second book.

  • entoman

    Hi Tina, thanks for your comments. I understand what you say because I’m not competitive at all, I absolutely hate most competitive situations. I also hate having to meet deadlines. However, I got an offer to produce a wildlife photography book and jumped at the chance. The knowledge that my book can be seen by thousands of people certainly made me much more aware of the need to produce quality work. Consequently in the last couple of years my photography has improved dramatically, and I’m now working on my second book. So, although it can sometimes be stressful, the “pressure” definitely makes a difference, at least for me.

  • Tina Edwards

    Entoman – I agree with your first two points. However I don’t think your third point is valid for everyone.

    People who are naturally competitive may gain greater expertise this way. Some people (myself included) simply don’t have the competitive instincts of others. That doesn’t mean they lack the self-discipline to work at improving their photography.

    Everyone can learn from the expertise of others through various media. However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that, unfortunately, not all criticism arising from peer pressure is necessarily of a positive or constructive kind nor, in some cases, is it intended as such.

  • entoman

    Experience, good technique, and studying the work of others will make much more difference than a new “must have” camera or lens.

    However, in my experience, getting that “must have” camera often also improves your photography, simply because you tend to make greater effort in order to justify the expense.

    In my opinion, if people really want to improve their photography it also helps to have peer pressure e.g. if you shoot for competitions (or, in my case, for publication), you set yourself much higher standards, and your photography improves rapidly.