It aint’ the camera folks

One of the things that I hear all the time is that the camera does not make the photograph, the photographer does.  I want to reiterate this again –

“It is NOT the camera”……  honestly, it’s not.

I judge a lot of photographic competitions, and I look at a LOT of pictures.  I also, (given the opportunity) look at the EXIF information. (EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File Format) – On each and every shot, the camera records not only the date and time, but all the other camera settings used to record the photo. That includes the shutter speed, aperture setting, ISO setting, if the flash was used, the focal length and lots lots more.  Lots of web applications allow you to see the EXIF information – as does Lightroom and Photoshop.  So when I’m given lots of files to look at, I always check this information as a matter of course.

It’s not that I’m being particularly nosy, it’s just that I’m interested to see what cameras people are using.  I don’t use this as part of the judging process – after all, I’m only really interested in the end result when I’m scoring, or marking images.

There’s an interesting conclusion I’ve come to – it doesn’t matter what the camera is…. I’ve seen great shots taken on an i-pad, and technically very poor shots taken with a Hasselblad.  There is in fact no relationship between the image, and the camera it was shot with.

The only time it really does matter – is when you come to produce prints.  You can get fairly decent ones from an iphone – great ones from Canon or Nikon flagship cameras – and the issue here is size.  Size matters.

Projected images are sized to the projector – and we can get away with images shot on the ipad, and compact cameras – however, if you want to produce a 40” print, you’re going to need more pixels, more quality, and a better camera.  But for smaller prints, maybe the ones you have in your home, any camera is capable of making images.  And, if you really want large images, then make a panorama, and stitch them all together……    think though, how many really large images do you want, or can fit into your home.

Camera quality counts of course, but more important in my mind is the lens.

Some photographers think that the better the camera, the better the picture – is that so?  No – it’s all down to clever marketing from the big companies.  They would have you believe that you can’t function without the latest in their new range. The added gizmo – the higher ISO capability – the GPS – the wifi……  Does the average photographer really need ALL of those things.

Essentially, you should choose the camera you use, not for all its features, or even how expensive it is – you should choose based on what you want that camera to do for YOU, and importantly how it feels in your hand.  Does it ‘fit’ you – is it intuitive to use.

I would always choose a new lens, over a new body.  In the end analysis – camera bodies will come and go, but the glass will stay with you.  Buy the best you can afford, as here you most definitely get what you pay for.  Remember that there is no such thing as a 50-500 zoom, that is going to beat (in terms of image quality) a 50mm prime.

After all that’s done – it’s down to software, and what the photographer does with it.

Photographers largely fall into two camps – those that process, and those that don’t.

There’s a group of guys on Facebook, who swear by their ‘SOOC’ (Straight out of camera shots) – these are the ones who allow the camera to do all the work – though admittedly they are swapping lens, and changing focal lengths during a long exposure time. A very skillful business.   Any in camera processing though that goes on, is the work of Japanese engineers at the time the camera is built – and many good results come from that………

Secondly, there are the people for whom the taking of an image is only the start of the process – images are broken down, and put back together in new and creative ways. This might be as simple as cropping, or as complex as combining many different photographs into one image.

This isn’t about heavy handed work, and the ‘lets slap on a filter’, it’s about totally transforming what they took at the outset into something different.

The extreme is the over the top HDR (High Dynamic Range) images – usually created by taking a number of shots of the same image at different exposures and the combining them together to create something altogether otherworldly.  Sometimes it works, but mostly it hurts my eyes.

In conclusion – I’d say that I’m very honoured to be allowed to see so many images that other people have taken.  I love seeing their creative ideas.  There is so much to learn from what other people shoot, how they shoot it, and what they shoot it with.