Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Enthusiast photographers and camera angst

click photo to enlarge
The general public seems to believe that a "better" camera produces "better" photographs. It's a view shared by many enthusiast photographers and quite a few who earn money by selling images, two groups who should know better. It seems to be forgotten that one of the reasons for the tiers of cameras produced by manufacturers, and for the frequent renewal of their model ranges is the desire to feed on the belief that as far as producing finer photographs goes, newer equals better. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. It is usually the case for enthusiasts that the camera is the least important element in securing higher quality photographs. It's true that if you specialise in particular areas of photography - for example wildlife, aviation or even weddings - you are better served by one model rather than another, but for the generalist photographer there are many cameras that will meet their needs. And therein lies the problem: too many photographers don't identify their own needs, but instead believe what they are told in online forums, magazines and the like. A new camera will, they convince themselves, allow a step forward in their photographic development. The holy grail for many seems to be an increase in "sharpness". Others fret about "noise". Then there are those who fixate on dynamic range, bokeh, burst rate, and a plethora of other technicalities. When I read such things I'm reminded of the hi-fi buffs who spend their time listening for the flaws in their equipment rather than to the music!

It occurred to me a while ago that there is a fairly easy way for the enthusiast photographer to remove the angst of camera ownership: simply look at the recommended models that produce output acceptable to a large stock agency. Here's the list for Alamy, one of the biggest, updated for June 2010. It shows most of the DSLRs that have been produced since sensor size commonly reached 8MP, and quite a few other models as well. If your camera is on that list (and in many, if not most, cases it will be) then it is, by a definition that should be acceptable to the majority of people, a very capable machine. So quit worrying, enjoy using it, and start working on the important aspects of photography such as subject, visualization, tone, colour, light, composition, etc. If your camera isn't on such a list (or is one of Alamy's unsuitable cameras) then, before you think about scrapping it, think about whether or not it provides for your photographic needs - these are all that matter - and if it does, then carry on using it.

Today's photograph shows a carrion crow sitting on a building surveying the throng of people below on the promenade at Skegness, Lincolnshire. He (or she) was perhaps hoping for a discarded chip, hot dog or burger fom the early evening crowds. What caught my eye, and pleased me, was how the crow was not deterred by the anti-bird devices fixed around the building's edge. I decided to try a shot that heavily emphasised the bird by framing a composition that is mainly cloud.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On