Does photography take place in the camera or between the ears?
A friend once said to me that photography doesn’t take place in the camera it takes place between the ears.
I’ve known for a long time that the first part of this statement is true. That photography isn’t all about the camera should be self-evident. If it were true then winning Bake Off would hinge on the food mixer you bought, and a best selling novel would depend on your word processor or pen. That said the idea that photography is just about equipment still persists: “That’s a great camera, I bet it takes great photos”.
Professional photographers tend to use high quality cameras and lenses to help give their customers high quality photographs, but it’s the photographer that’s the key, not the camera. High quality cameras produce better quality images in difficult light conditions and high quality lenses can give sharper images than ones used in cameras for the amateur market. That said, how often are you going to shoot in very dark conditions or enlarge a photo to the size of a house? You can make poor photos with an expensive camera. Equally, you can make great photos with a cheaper one.
“There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept” – Ansell Adams
So if the camera is not the main factor what is? A lot of photography does take place between the photographer’s ears. A photographer will understand the camera’s limitations and how to overcome them. A photographer will appreciate the subtle effects of shutter speed and aperture. A photographer will understand composition and lighting. These are all factors that add to the result and this knowledge doesn’t come as standard issue with a camera. It comes through learning and practice.
As it happens, there isn’t a lot to a camera. It’s a lightproof box with something sensitive to light at one end, such as a digital sensor or some film, and a hole to let in light at the other. You can have a large hole and open it for a short time, or have a smaller hole and open it up for a long time. And on many cameras you can change the focus. Sure there are all sorts of bells and whistles on most cameras, but the essential idea is always the same – a box with a hole in it.
So if cameras are more or less the same and the courses or instruction books are available to anyone, how come photos are so different? Well that’s down to the magic ingredient. And what might that be?
It’s not just head knowledge – the bit between the ears – it IS the photographer. It’s the person behind the camera, the soul of the photographer, or spirit, or whatever other word you wish to use. When you hire a photographer you aren’t simply employing a person to press a button – you can do that yourself (selfie-stick anyone?). Nor are you hiring high quality equipment because you can do that yourself as well. What you get for your money is skill that saves you lots of time and frustration, use of excellent equipment, images that are formatted correctly for your web designer or your printer (their requirements are very different); and most importantly you get a unique vision and creativity that helps take your ideas and turn them into something special.
If any of this strikes a chord do give me call or send an email – details on my Contact page. I’m happy to help businesses get the best out of their marketing and new photographers get the best out of their hobby.
A few quotes to finish with…
“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures” -DonMcCullin.
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are” -Ernst Haas.