Who Needs A Professional Camera?

Look around you, how many cameras are in your immediate vicinity?  For me it’s six (my office is also the studio, so it’s kind of a loaded question), but for most people it’s at least two.  You probably have one in your phone, one in your computer, maybe even a point and shoot kicking about at your desk. When everyone has access to cameras nowadays, why would you need to go out and buy a $1000 DSLR?  The simple answer is, you don’t.

People are always clamoring to get the new entry level DSLR from Canon/Nikon/Olympus/Sony boasting an absurd amount of mega pixels for a relatively lower price than the last generation, maybe adding in a couple more autofocus points, video capabilities, new colours, all for what?.  To make your pictures better, the colours brighter, your memories clearer? Now, I am a self-professed photography snob, pixel-peeper, whatever you want to call it, I’ll admit it, I’m the one looking through magazines to find flaws with professional work. But that’s professional work, unless you are charging clients for your services, a professional camera is not needed for the budding photographer.  I understand parents wanting to preserve memories of their children in the highest resolution possible, and amateur shooters wanting to better their skills in hopes of one day being able to charge people for their talents.  There are exceptions, and no rule is without them, but without fail I will be out at a festival and I will see someone with an $8000 Nikon D3x, and I will wince a little. I wonder if that person is going to go home, go through the hundreds of photos, pick the best ones, retouch them, print them and frame them, or if they will simply dump the photos never to have them see the light of a screen again.  I love photography, but I feel that you can’t be a photographer and a tourist at the same time.

I can’t shut my brain off, if I bring my “real” camera out for the day, I’m not having fun or being spontaneous, I’m treating it like a job, trying to get shots that I might want to frame, shots I will look at later on in life to fondly remember that day.   But that doesn’t happen, because I’m usually not shooting the people I’m with, I’m looking at composition, interesting scenarios, I think to myself “I can take pictures of my friends with my phone, real cameras are for real photos.”  I get home and though I might have a bunch of great shots, I lack the drive to put the hours it takes to get these photos ready and go through my workflow so that they will be flawless.

I can’t even remember the last time I printed out photos, save for my portfolio, or shots that have gone to print in magazines, publications, etc.  I can safely say that for most people out there as well, photo albums aren’t needed anymore.  We have facebook to catalog our lives, (or Friendster if you’re really hardcore).  It’s cheaper and easier than trying to print everything out and organize them into albums.  Now I know I’m ranting and most of you have probably thought about what I’m saying here at some point and time, but I’ll try and sum this up.  When my screen dimension is 2560×1440 pixels , (3.7 megapixels, and that’s viewing the photo full screen) why would you need a 18 MP camera when it probably wont be printed out anyways.  You can argue, “But Nathan, what if I did want to print it out, then it will look better than my 8MP point and shoot and I will be glad I brought it!”  True, but only at sizes larger then 8×10, which is pretty big for most home photographers.  Here’s a quick gallery, try and guess which set of photos were taken by a pro camera, which were taken by a novelty toy camera, and which by an iPhone.

Difficult isn’t it? It may surprise you, but all of them were taken either by an iPhone or a cheap disposable camera.  You buy a 1967 Gibson Les Paul, but it doesn’t mean you can play like Jimmy Page.

I understand that it seems odd that a photographer such as myself would be trying to dissuade people from buying expensive cameras and trying to improve their craft, but I have seen amazing photos from point-and-shoots, iPhones, even cameras that came in cereal boxes.  You don’t need to have $10000 worth of gear to make a great photo, you just need to have an eye for composition and a passion for the art.  Spend your money on learning more about the art of photography then on the newest most expensive photo gear.  (Click on it, you know you want to.)  You’ll be happier in the long run, and have more money to print off the photos you do love.  Remember, it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.



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