What kind of camera do you use?
Sam Haskins once famously said, "A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures - they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove."
A truer statement has never been spoken about photography and while using the right equipment is important if you are a professional, buying an expensive camera will not guarantee you beautiful images. I've seen plenty of aspiring bloggers and photographers run out and buy the most expensive camera they can and their images don't evolve at all from the ones that they were taking prior. It's truly not important what camera you are using and you shouldn't feel discouraged from honing your craft without a big pricey camera. It's also famously said that the best camera is the one you have with you, and I believe that wholeheartedly as well!
Some of my favorite images I have ever taken were on my iPhone or on a point and shoot. Why? Because I was able to be completely present in those moments. I wasn't worried about my giant camera intimidating people or getting the image just perfect the way I would when I'm on a commercial shoot. I think that the most liberating way to take photos is to work with what you've got - whether it be a hand-me-down film camera, a Polaroid, an iPhone, etc. This is my favorite way to take photos!
I'm happy to share the equipment I use (below) because people are always curious but I strongly urge those interested in improving their skills, however, to find some classes at your local art school, community college, or creative center. Take a course on lighting, composition, styling, or art direction. Any and all of those things will serve you far greater than running out and buying the same camera as your favorite photographer. I luckily grew up with very creative parents that nurtured creative skills from day one. I had photoshop class in high school, I went to art school for college, and I have been working as a creative professional for over 10 years. This shows just how much there is to learn and learning should never ever end.
This quote is displayed prominently in my office. It was framed and gifted to me by my soon-to-be husband for my birthday. It's something of a mantra to me now and I cherish it completely:
"The only real voyage of discovery, the only fountain of youth, consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust
Most used Cameras:
- Several very old Nikon film cameras (my favorite by a long shot)
- A Polaroid camera
- An iPhone!
- A Canon 5d Mark IV and a Canon 5d Mark II
- A large variety of prime lenses
Something to note about lenses *** Zoom lenses are terrible in my opinion. Lenses with that many moving parts break, the image quality is garbage, and they are really heavy. They often come as a "kit" with the camera body but if you are investing in a new lens, a prime lens is the only one worth investing in.
Finding the right camera is all about finding what works for you! What has the best feel for you? Best ease of use? Will you take it with you? These are all simple but important things to consider. Whichever camera you buy, you need to understand it inside and out before upgrading and understand why you are upgrading. "I want pretty pictures" is a really unrealistic reason to shell out 3+ grand for a camera. If you don't fully understand the technical limitations of your current camera you won't be able to properly utilize any of the features of a brand new (more expensive) one.
Don't know where to begin? Start by renting a few different cameras within your budget from BorrowLenses.com , Adorama Rentals in New York, or from Samy's Camera in Los Angeles or San Francisco. It's important to try before you buy! I recently had to upgrade my professional camera and I made the mistake of not actually trying it out first. This camera has advanced so much and looks great on paper but I realized that I didn't really like it once I used it. I won't get into my laundry list but in short, I think a lot of my images from this camera are missing some of the subtle beauty of imperfection. My last professional camera had a back focusing issue that made a lot of images soft (I had to send it to Canon three times). I cursed this up and down and now, ironically, I almost miss it in a way. If you keep an open mind about your style changing or adapting, you can learn a lot from the quirks that all cameras will have.
I hope this post informed but more importantly encouraged you to work with what you've got! The possibilities are endless and it's fun to explore! It's important to learn from the process, and at that point you'll be on the road to creating your own unique and beautiful point of view. Instead of asking someone, "What kind of camera do you use?" ask them about their process for their photos and ask them, "How did you create that image?".