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Photo Tip of the Week

You Must Have a Very Nice Camera

Maybe you've heard this one before, but it deserves being retold. A patron at an exhibit of photographs was impressed enough to seek out the photographer to express his admiration. At the end of his effusive praise, he concluded with the observation that "you must have a very nice camera." Perhaps true, but there's usually a bit more than that involved in getting good shots.

When you think about it, a backhand compliment like this may be well-intentioned, but it leaves so much out that deserves credit. It's like telling a chef that they have a nice oven or a carpenter that they must have a great hammer. But these are just tools.

In addition to a camera, let's take it as a given that a photographer will also need a lens and other gear. A camera is merely a fancy light-tight box with a hole that allows light to reach the sensor or recording media inside. You will need a lens to focus that light. Then there's perhaps a tripod, filters, and so on. And let's not forget the memory card in that camera. I'm not going to attempt a comprehensive list, but there may be an assist here or there. Photographers love gear. You almost have to.

But let's set aside all forms of equipment and see what we have. You're going to need a subject for that photograph. Granted, you could randomly fire off the shutter while moving your camera to and fro, but that only means you didn't put much work into subject selection, not that you didn't have one. However you choose to describe it, that stuff within the frame is your subject.

They say there are good pictures to be made almost anywhere, but a great location certainly helps. Some people mount expeditions to the far corners of the earth searching for a good location, while others find their muse in their own backyard. Of course, not everyone's situation is the same. But I think too many photographers get caught in the trap of believing the location makes the image. "You must have gone to a really scenic place to get images like that," they say in admiration of someone else's work.

Sound familiar? Whether it's someone commenting on your winning images or you on others, there are all kinds of things to credit for success. Yes, it helps to have good camera gear. And yes, a photogenic subject in an attractive setting help, too. When I'm out shooting, I'll take all the help I can get.

But let's take stock. A camera is just a tool. You can take great pictures with any camera, but it helps to have the best one you can reasonably justify. It's easier to capture the full potential of an image when you're not being held back by your gear. There's no sense in making your task any more complicated than necessary. And yes, you can take a good picture pretty much anywhere. But it sure is fun to go somewhere special occasionally. I wouldn't mind getting bunches of good shots at each location.

But the most important ingredient in cooking up a good image is you. Surprise! Perhaps you already knew this, but it's worth a reminder anyway as we head into the new year. The world has seen a lot of changes over the past couple of years. And the end isn't in sight yet. Sometimes, it can be hard to know what you can count on. OK, not a surprise there, either. It's up to each of us how we respond.

So the next time someone says you must have a great camera, tell them, "yes, I think so, and I'm enjoying getting everything I can out of it."

Date posted: January 2, 2022


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