My brother, Stephen, is an excellent photographer with an excellent camera. He is always taking great pictures for our family events and we all beg him to share them with us. A few years ago, at our family reunion at the ranch, we all huddled around his laptop as he edited some beautiful pictures he had taken that day on a family hike. We all praised his pictures but followed it with "your camera takes such good pictures!" Stephen very patiently responded with:
"Telling a photographer that their camera takes great pictures is like telling a chef that their pan makes great food."
That really resonated with me as a chef and as a lover of photography. A camera is an inanimate object. It is a tool. Almost anyone can press a button, but the ability to take truly beautiful pictures requires skill and creativity... by a human. Don't misunderstand me - not all cameras are made equal. There's a reason why some cameras sell for thousands of dollars and some for under $100. Having a high quality camera will make a difference, but if you don't know how to use it, you won't get superior pictures from a "superior" camera.
This post isn't a tutorial for how to take pictures, nor is it a bashing of any aspiring photographer (in fact, I encourage any interested person to learn about photography). It's merely my way of encouraging us all to be aware of the skill and hard work it takes to create great pictures. I don't ever plan on being a "professional photographer" (note: please watch this hilarious video) but I want my kids to have beautiful pictures to remember their childhood. My mom was always taking pictures of her children and our lives. She loved photography and took photography classes to improve her skill. We even had a light room in our basement where she developed her own film and I have many beautiful pictures of my childhood to help remember it. There's something really great about learning how to take pictures of your family. Not everyone needs to do it for a profit to make it worth your time.
So, here are my thoughts:
- If you want to learn how to use your camera beyond the automatic button (and I suggest you do), here are five blog posts that I read to help me learn some basics about shooting in manual. They are easy to understand and great to refer back to, but remember to give yourself a learning curve. You have to spend some time taking bad pictures before you get a good one and then you'll be hooked and never go back to auto.
1. 31 Mini Lessons about Basic Photography (a great place to start)
2. Comprehensive Basic Photography Lesson (a must read)
3. 20 Things about Shooting in Manual
4. Specifically about Shutter Speed (eliminating blurry images)
5. DIY Photo Light Box (this one isn't necessary to take pictures of people or places but if you want to take pictures of objects or food, this might be a helpful read)
- Also, if you're looking for a good camera, here are my two cents. My brother is a camera aficionado and knows a LOT about cameras. I picked his brain for hours and he gave me a bunch of advice. The top two contending companies for the average user are usually Nikon and Canon. Both make great cameras but in the end I chose a Nikon, mostly because that's what I felt comfortable using (the programming made more sense to me than the Canon). I recently upgraded to a new Nikon since all my lenses are Nikon and I love it. It's a Nikon D5200 and I mostly shoot with a 35mm lens - in case anyone is interested. I realize that there are a lot fancier cameras out there, but I do like mine a lot for now.