It’s Not The Camera

I am a photographer. That’s my hobby.

I’m a good photographer. I’ve seen the work of great photographers. Their best shots are better than my best shots. I’m OK with that.

I take a lot of care with the mechanics of my photography. I try and think through shutter speed, aperture, lens focal length and film speed (it’s still called that) before I press the shutter. I don’t always get it right, but at least I think about it.

As a photographer there is a question I’m asked all the time. In fact, I received this yesterday:

Hey Geoff,

I just saw the most recent batch of pictures you had on your site, and they’re amazing. I was just curious, what kind of camera do you use? I’m sure you have said it before on your site, but I don’t recall. I really want to get into photography and your camera seems to take really great pictures. Any info would be great. Thanks!

Let me repeat the operative part: your camera seems to take really great pictures.

I know the writer meant well. I would guess every photographer gets asked this question from time-to-time. It misses the point. It used to bother me. Oh hell, it still bothers me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

There is an excellent shot of Helaine, Steffie and me, taken a few years ago in Newport, RI. The sky had turned blood red at sunset. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I set the camera and handed it to a passerby. His shot was great, but it’s really my shot. If he would have just pointed and shot, the effect wouldn’t have been as vivid. I took the picture!

My camera is a Canon Digital Rebel. It’s the original 300D. I usually carry 4 lenses which go from 10 to 300mm.

It takes better pictures than when I first got it.

6 thoughts on “It’s Not The Camera”

  1. I understand exactly what you’re saying. I used to take some really nice pictures with my point-and-shoot 4MP camera. Many of them have been framed and have gotten nice comments. I think you have to have an eye (or degree of luck) to get great shots. I now have a Nikon D80 and love all the features which I think make me a better photographer. I think people forget that you still have to set the camera up, find something interesting to shoot, do so at the right angle with the right settings and push the shutter.

  2. Hi Geoff,

    Your post reminds me a lot of my profession. I am a classical musician (cellist). Instruments are extremely important tools that we use, but a bad musician could have a great instrument and make nothing good come out of it. There is a famous story about Heifitz, the great 20th century violinist. It goes…..

    Someone comes up to him and says, Mr. Heifetz, your violin sounds very beautiful. He puts the violin very close to his ear and says, “I don’t hear anything.”

  3. Does anyone ever tell a chef or a great cook that they must have an excellent set of pots and pans?

    I have turned down requests to teach an adults night-time photography class a few times because it’s always better if someone was born with “the eye”–although of course good ole desire and practice can still oftentimes make nice strides. I have met a couple of people who could talk an impressive streak about the technicalities, yet nothing in their work really stood out.

    I wonder: are there people who ever have a day when they aren’t visualizing / converting at least some of what they’re seeing into photos, even when their cameras are not with them?

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