12 Jun 2012

What does it take to shoot good photographs?

I get asked by quite a lot of my friends how I get my photos to look so different/better than the photos that they take with their own expensive dslr's when they have the same (and more often better) camera. Shouldn't the camera take just as great photos regardless of who uses it?

Well, the short answer is. No!

The slightly longer answer is, cameras don't take photographs, people do.

A little simplistic maybe, so let me try the long winded approach. Bear with me.

A lot of "pro" shooters are complaining lately that the proliferation of good, cheap cameras has spelt the death knell for their industry, and while there may be a little truth in that I would like to point out that despite oil paints being widely available to the general public, and millions of aspiring artists worldwide taking up brush, paint and canvas, there is still only one Picasso, or Van Gogh, or Renoir. These geniuses set themselves apart by becoming the best at what they did, which is be creative, pioneer new ways and practice, practice, practice... and then practice some more. Very often to the neglect of friends, family and the material pleasures of life. Are you willing to pay that price?

Similarly, there are a number of photographers worldwide that have sacrificed and practiced themselves ahead of the pack and left the rest of us in their dust! But we try anyway, and have fun while we are at it! I truly believe that if I make the same sacrifices as the artistic greats of old, I can rise above the rest as well. In the meantime, with fame and fortune beckoning, I practice, and study, and work hard at honing my skills, and I think I have improved dramatically since I started on this journey.

This reminds me of the old joke about the man in the suit trying to find Carnegie Hall and when he stopped and asked a neaby beatnik how to get to Carnegie Hall the beatnik said the immortal words: "practice man, practice!"

It has been said that photography is a very lonely sport. Get used to being alone. A lot. You can't be creative and look after the kids at the same time. Or the wife. Photographers are up early, out in the cold and rain and back late. Then they spend a lot of time in the darkroom, or (these days) in front of the computer in the study. Always be willing to learn a new technique, don't think you know it all.

Then maybe one day you will also be able to sell photographs for millions of dollars.

Disclaimer: I don't think I am there yet by a long shot, but I am improving every day. And other people are starting to take notice!


  1. Bravo!

    It is the person, not the machine......... Whenever I'm out with photographers and their big expensive lenses on dslr's that they only know how to shoot in auto mode.......I am reminded of a challenge that Popular Photography did about 30 years ago, where they sent a professional out with an instamatic camera to see what he could create with such a low tech instrument. The images were fabulous.

    I also recently met a camera snob who said he couldn't own a film camera because he couldn't afford to collect Leica and Hasselblad. I guess he would rather miss out than compromise.