Importance of equiment vs Photographer skill

This is a discussion on Importance of equiment vs Photographer skill within the Making Money From Photography forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; Hello! I was wondering about selling photographs, and how much the equipment used really matters. Isn't it the photographer that makes the picture extraordinary more ...


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  1. #1

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    Unhappy

    Hello!
    I was wondering about selling photographs, and how much the equipment used really matters. Isn't it the photographer that makes the picture extraordinary more than the camera used?

    I realize that this may not apply to someone using a low-end cell phone camera; I'm referring to higher end point and shoot cameras and dslrs. Is is possible to get a sellable print from a point and shoot camera? I feel like there must be people out there that are able to do this.

    For example, at local art shows, I see individuals selling prints in various sizes of their work, and they must sell, otherwise they wouldn't come back every year. Anyway, I would like to sell prints of my work, and I feel that I could learn to take pictures that are quality enough for art shows without a dslr. I am not nearly as experienced as most of the people here though, which is why I am curious to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

    Part of the reason I am writing this is that I am getting money to buy a new camera in a couple of weeks. I have a low budget, and I was going to buy the Canon G9, but now I have decided to go with the G11. However, there is this part of me that thinks maybe I should try for a DSLR, but my budget is so low, I don't know if it would be worth it.

    I love photography, I love taking pictures, I am eager to learn.
    Canon G11


  • #2
    lost. always lost..
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    the g9, g10 or g11 would be a good enough camera to get you started. i just purchased a g11 myself to have for the occasions when i don't want to carry a dslr with me. if you don't know about aperture, shutter speed, iso and how a light meter works then you can learn on the p&s just as well as you can on a dslr.

    if you want a dslr then go for it. the body itself (for a canon 1000d) will cost $450USD, the same as a new g11. then expect to put a few hundred dollars down for a lens or two.

    either option you choose will allow you to learn the same concepts and either option will allow you to grow with the camera. at this point it all comes down to what you want. you'll be able to get fairly large prints with either camera and get good results.

  • #3

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    I can't really comment on what kind of equipment you buy. But as for the photog vs equipment. Every great photographer I have ever met has been asked this question by me and EVERY single one of them say that the photographer makes the shot. But thats according to photographers. When you sell your shots.. they are going to the public who look for "quality" in the product.

    I dono if thats much help but thats my .02

  • #4

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    Hi Jacki

    In my view more important than having the latest equipment is becoming completely comfortable with the equipment that you have. The best photographers constantly handle their camera, take test shots, review results and think about how the results could have been improved so that when they have a great subject in front of them the equipment is inconsequential - then it's all about subtle movements that will allow them to frame the shot perfectly or cope with the tricky lighting or deciding whether to push the ISO or to use a tripod etc.

    Adam
    www.adamcoupe.com/portfolio

  • #5

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    In any activity the tools are more or less important to some people than to others. I couldn't afford fancy gear when I was starting out so I got into vintage cameras as a way to explore medium and large format film photography. What I found out is that while a $5000 Ebony view camera is a wonderful thing, I was able to produce the same quality with a $500 Speed Graphic press camera. My experience is that practice and dedicated study easily makes up for fancier gear in almost all the situations I shoot in.

    It's also my experience that the guy holding the new $10,000+ camera is going to think that the gear is very, very important. I say they are bamboozled by the price tag and manufacturer's ad campaign. They say I sound like sour grapes. We'd both be right. I don't need a $10000 camera, but of course if I could afford it you bet I'd have one.

    Some tools are better suited for some situations. Weather sealing is necessary when shooting in Antarctica or in the rain. I think most sports photogs would agree that long focal length lenses and rapid fire shooting are very handy. I do a lot of hand held, low light shooting and consider fast lenses essential. I am confident that I could successfully shoot a wedding (meaning the clients would be happy with the photos) with a compact camera, but I would never want to. It would be a huge pain in the butt. A DSLR makes the job much, much easier.

    Here is an article where pros and enthusiasts couldn't tell which was from which in a comparison of 13"x19" prints shot with a Canon G10 (a couple hundred dollars) and a Hassy H2 with Phase One P45+ back (probably $30,000ish ?).

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml

    The example in the article above is a situation where the differences between the tools are minimized. There was plenty of light, he was able to use the slowest ISO, and print size wasn't huge. Change any of those factors and the differences between the tiny sensor of the G10 compared to the huge sensor of the Hassy/Phase One will be more noticeable. For low light, hand held shooting any of the 35mm DSLRs would probably beat both.

    Tool choice also depends on the personal preferences of the photographer. Clyde Butcher hauls 11x14 view cameras around for his landscape photography. Galen Rowell preferred 35mm cameras. Their gear is about as different as it gets, yet both are (were) very successful landscape photographers. The key is that their personal styles emphasize the strengths of the gear they choose.

    Most of the higher end compacts are now more expensive than the entry level DSLRs. Amazon recently had the latest Rebel kit on sale for $410. Used and refurbished models may be even cheaper. I can vouch for Canon; any DSLR they've introduced in the last 4 or 5 years is an excellent camera. It's probably the same for the other major brands.

    If you find the size of a DSLR cumbersome, and that would keep you from using it a lot, then go with a compact.

    If you were to take a college photography class they would recommend a DSLR or film SLR. The advantage of the DSLR is versatility. You will find the compact to be good for plenty of light, deep DOF, and medium size or smaller prints. As you have to raise the ISO because of low light, or want shallow DOF and larger prints the compact is not going to be as good as a DSLR. My 8"x12" prints from ISO 3200 with my Canon 5D DSLR are noiseless. I can see much more noise in ISO 200 prints of the same size from my Canon G7 compact. It's still quite acceptable, but I can infer that going much larger the noise is going to become more noticeable. I'm a firm believer that a noisy photo is better than no photo at all, but when I can I'll do my best to reduce noise and grain. I can also get extremely shallow DOF in many situations with the 5D. My shallow DOF options with the G7 are much more limited.

    In my opinion neither tool choice or technical skill are as important as the photographer's ideas. Fancy tools just require a bigger credit line. Technical skill requires time and practice, but anyone who is interested in photography is going to find time to practice. Amazing, astounding, profound ideas are much harder to come by. Technically flawless, yet mundane photographs are forgotten in moments. A photograph that compels the viewer to stand and stare and think is a much rarer beast. If you can grab the viewer by the mind and/or heart they will forgive a whole lot of technical imperfection. For instance Robert Capa's D-Day photos. A lab tech trashed his film, yet the importance subject matter trumps the poor image quality.



    "I donít use an exposure meter. My personal advice is: Spend the money you would put into such an instrument for film. Buy yards of film, miles of it. Buy all the film you can get your hands on. And then experiment with it. That is the only way to be successful in photography. Test, try, experiment, feel your way along. It is the experience, not technique, which counts in camera work first of all. If you get the feel of photography, you can take fifteen pictures while one of your opponents is trying out his exposure meter." -Alfred Eisenstaedt

  • #6
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    The point of a camera is to emulate what the eye sees. Light itself is not the subject, and without a lens, camera and exposure control the ambient light is arbitrary energy which is scattered and without recognizable relation to the rest of the physical world.

    If we all had blurry vision then we would all take blurry photographs and look at these blurry photographs and say "oh how beautiful!" Imagine if someone had eagle vision, the sharpest of our photographs would look pretty awful.

    Ofcourse any camera will have some way to focus light in a way which is similar to how we see it. So the issue becomes about other aspects of control over this chaotic photoenergy which gives us the impression of our surroundings in a consensual way. Having control over exposure is also important.

    But not everything about vision is about what is actually there, either. Our minds interpret what we see as important in emotional contexts. And there is no way to portray this aspect of vision with describing what we see. For this we need more control over the photographic system to express what we are actually "looking at". So yes, human control over depth of field, focus, exposure, ect is necessary to more effectively communicate information about the scene beyond what can be objectively described.

    You do not want to be limited in what you can accomplish (though some self control is a good thing), so you must ask yourself what limitations you are willing to compromise? Sure, perhaps not having access to premium lenses which you probably never will be able to afford is an alright compromise. Perhaps you can deal with limited depth of field - maybe you like having everything in focus anyway - but what about exposure? What about noise? What about effective resolution? What about macro?

    Regardless what the limitations are, we all have to deal with the limitations of the equipment we buy. So I think more important than the technology we choose to use is knowing how to use it within it's inherent limitations.

    That said, just as a poor photographer will make poor photographs with expensive gear, a great photographer will make great photographs with inexpensive gear. But this is not because the equipment is equally adequate for all settings nor suited for all types of images. Such an individual will understand and appreciate the kinds of images s/he can make with the equipment on hand. I think one of the best learned skills is knowing when an image just isn't possible with the tools available.
    bear with me. i don't have an escape button...

  • #7

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    Agree with all the previuos posts, to add my 2 cents - imo, there is a point in each photographer's life, where camera has technical limitations but photographer needs more from it. For instance - point n shoot camera has very limited possibilities lens-wise. The cheapest $100 kit lens from Nikon or Canon will easily outperform any point n shoot camera in any possible situation - the DoF control (which almost non-existant in PnS cameras), the optical distortion level - all this stuff, once the phtographer understands, just can't be achieved with the certain cameras (like PnS).
    So, of course, you can practice some basic (and very important) technics with PnS - like composition, color matching, white balance, night photography, even HDR and such, but that would be like practicing on demo-stand before you get to fly real things (like DSLR ).

    Then, when the question arises - which DSLR or which lens to chose, the possibilities are endless (so has to be your budget), but if you're just beginning to learn, if this is your first steps, get the kit - thats why it's called beginners kit - you ARE the beginner, you need beginners camera and beginers lens.

    And no, I don't consider PnS beginners camera, PnS is at its own pop-consumer market, for those who don't need and don't want to learn photography - the just want to push button and snap an acceptable picture for memos. Beginner's camera should be DSLr (beginners DSLr) with beginners lens, until you figure what will you need next.

    PS Pardon for my English, it's my second language.

  • #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by algalkin View Post
    PS Pardon for my English, it's my second language.
    Your second language? Your English is a lot better than a lot of native speakers.

    Jacki, I don't know about your budget but your post seems to come from a decided and probably dedicated point. If so, I think I must recommend your getting a DSLR if at all possible-if you're at where I think you're at, I think you'll be soon chafing at the bit for more versatility, direction and control in your photography.

  • #9

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    Thank you...I think I will look into DSLR's a little more.

    My budget is $450 maximum. The less I spend the better, but I can stretch it to 450. So, if I get a DSLR, I would need to find a body and a lens or lenses that suited me for that amount. Any suggestions? I know very little about the specs of the DSLRs on the market right now, and what lenses I need.
    Canon G11

  • #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacki View Post
    However, there is this part of me that thinks maybe I should try for a DSLR, but my budget is so low, I don't know if it would be worth it.
    Jacki - I could not afford a "good" lens set either, and while I am the first to admit it being a far departure from ideal, I am very happy using my a350 dslr with a 30 year old 50mm zuiko via an OM->A adapter i had lying around. It's not auto-anything, including aperture stop down, but the DOF alone I think is worth the investment.

    That in mind, ebay will have lots of decent if not very good lenses for much less than new. Manual Focus models especially. So i would suggest just buy the best camera body you can afford, get some cheap lens, and save up for a better lens later on.
    bear with me. i don't have an escape button...


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