You Must Have a Good Camera!
Have you ever had someone come up to you after looking at one of your images and say; I really like your photograph—you must have a very nice camera. Every time this happens to me at the art gallery that I am a member of I smile and note that they must have a good car—they managed to get to my gallery without getting in an accident. OK I admit I have a bit of a sarcastic side but the fact is a camera is just a tool that captures what we see, it doesn’t create the image; the photographer does! And most of us cannot afford those top of the line cameras and lenses costing many thousands of dollars anyway.
I use the best equipment that I can presently afford, shooting with a Nikon D-300. The lenses I own are a Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6, AF-s Nikkor 18-105mm 1:3.5-5.6 and the AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm 1:4.5-5.6. The challenge for me is to create the best possible image I can using the tools I have at hand. So how do I create that image that prompts someone to say; you must have a good camera?
First of all you have to know and be comfortable with the tools you are using, know their strong points and weaknesses. I do not have that 600mm lens that captures tack sharp bird images from hundreds of feet away, so I work with what I have. That involves using the limitations of the long lens that I do own and working within its capabilities. I cannot get that close-up portrait so what do I do? In some cases I can use stealth and patients creeping up on my subject to get that nice close-up or I can frame the subject in such a manner that my picture tells a story of what that subject is doing or how or where it lives. For me, more often that not it is the latter.
After 20 minutes of stalking this Great Blue Heron I was able to get close enough to capture this portrait.
If you do not already know the artistic rules of composition take the time to learn them. Know what the rule of thirds is and how and why to use it in your compositions, learn about leading lines why and how they work to draw the viewers eye into your creation. Learn how and practice using light to draw the viewer’s eye to your subject. One of the best art teachers I have ever had was in high school. He was tyrannical in requiring us to learn the rules of composition. Then to top the learning experience off his last assignment for us was to go out and break those rules. The caveat was that we had to be able to explain to him exactly which rule(s) we had broken and in doing so how and why that had improved the overall composition of the image we had created.
Most of all we have to retrain ourselves to see what we are looking at. Our eyes take in much more information than our brains can handle so from early childhood we teach ourselves what information is important and what to ignore. Have you ever taken a photograph and when you got it home looked at it and said “I never saw that sitting in the image”. The reason you didn’t see it while taking the picture is that you trained yourself not to see it. Our task now is to slow down and retrain ourselves to see everything that is in front of us.
If you take the time to know your equipment, learn the rules of composition, have an understanding of your subject and take the time to see what you are looking at you will soon see the quality of your creations of photographic art improving. And you too will be having people complement your images with the phrase—You must have a good camera.
Bryan S. Peterson is a fine art photographer based out of Gig Harbor in Washington State. He owns and operates Wandering 101 Photography.