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Old Jan 31, 2010, 1:32 AM   #1
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It often comes up on the forum that the entry-level cameras are "good enough", or that you should spend more money on lenses and less on the camera, or that buying a more expensive camera will not make you a better photographer. All true. But...

Let's not forget. There are two hobbies/disciplines here.

1. Cameras and equipment. (technical)
2. Making great images. (art)

#1 can be pursued to good effect and great joy without the person involved displaying any talent or skill in #2. The reverse is true also.

There is a gender difference in my experience. There are many female artists/photographers who have huge amounts of talent and know less than the average male on a photography forum about #1.

All that you need for #1 is to be slightly technical and have some money. Hence we see many people on forums and at camera clubs who own thousands of dollars' worth of equipment and can take technically perfect pictures of the most boring things imaginable. These people should be applauded and appreciated, because they contribute to lowering the cost of cameras for talented and poor young artists in category #2.

#1 people are often collectors, and are always obsessing over the technical merits of lenses. For them getting a sharper lens WILL improve their photography because if it's sharp it's good.

#1 people can usually be identified by how many photographs of cats and dogs they post on the forums.

It is much easier to be very good at #1 than at #2.

There is no reason to be embarrassed about being interested in or good at #1; it doesn't stop you from being good at #2, and in fact can occasionally come in useful.

The only annoying thing that really winds me up is when someone is an expert at #1 and thinks they are good at #2. This is like those people who audition for American Idol and cannot hear how incredibly awful they sound. The best example of this is Ken Rockwell, who is an unutterably awful photographer and mildly competent technically. He keeps going on about how un-important equipment is, but keeps on posting pictures that are so poor that he would doubtless throw himself into a canyon if he ever bumped into the photographic equivalent of Simon Cowell.

P.S. I have no illusions about my own abilities. I enjoy both #1 and #2, but certainly find #1 easier to pursue. I am trying hard to improve #2 however, and actually spend almost as much time and money going on courses, going to galleries and buying books of pictures by great photographers (and studying/enjoying) them as I do on thinking about camera equipment. :-)
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 2:02 AM   #2
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I kinda suck at 1, I tend not to get technical on things. When I buy something I research the hell out of it before spending my money. But I tend to keep my gear a very long time. As I really do not want to re do my research for an upgrade.

But photography is my 4th hobby. So I do not spend as much time as I would like on it. It takes a back seat to traveling, motorcycling, and mountain biking.

I know my wife is way better at 2 then I am. More artistic talent then I have.

So that said, we all choose our own path. Some are tech junkies and gear heads. Some are very talented, and then there are the ones that just like photography as a hobby to relax and collect memories. I fit in the last one.
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 9:46 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic View Post
It often comes up on the forum that the entry-level cameras are "good enough", or that you should spend more money on lenses and less on the camera, or that buying a more expensive camera will not make you a better photographer. All true. But...

Let's not forget. There are two hobbies/disciplines here.

1. Cameras and equipment. (technical)
2. Making great images. (art)

#1 can be pursued to good effect and great joy without the person involved displaying any talent or skill in #2. The reverse is true also.

There is a gender difference in my experience. There are many female artists/photographers who have huge amounts of talent and know less than the average male on a photography forum about #1.

All that you need for #1 is to be slightly technical and have some money. Hence we see many people on forums and at camera clubs who own thousands of dollars' worth of equipment and can take technically perfect pictures of the most boring things imaginable. These people should be applauded and appreciated, because they contribute to lowering the cost of cameras for talented and poor young artists in category #2.

#1 people are often collectors, and are always obsessing over the technical merits of lenses. For them getting a sharper lens WILL improve their photography because if it's sharp it's good.

#1 people can usually be identified by how many photographs of cats and dogs they post on the forums.

It is much easier to be very good at #1 than at #2.

There is no reason to be embarrassed about being interested in or good at #1; it doesn't stop you from being good at #2, and in fact can occasionally come in useful.

The only annoying thing that really winds me up is when someone is an expert at #1 and thinks they are good at #2. This is like those people who audition for American Idol and cannot hear how incredibly awful they sound. The best example of this is Ken Rockwell, who is an unutterably awful photographer and mildly competent technically. He keeps going on about how un-important equipment is, but keeps on posting pictures that are so poor that he would doubtless throw himself into a canyon if he ever bumped into the photographic equivalent of Simon Cowell.

P.S. I have no illusions about my own abilities. I enjoy both #1 and #2, but certainly find #1 easier to pursue. I am trying hard to improve #2 however, and actually spend almost as much time and money going on courses, going to galleries and buying books of pictures by great photographers (and studying/enjoying) them as I do on thinking about camera equipment. :-)
Thoughtful post but let me highlight this paragraph which is misleading...

All that you need for #1 is to be slightly technical and have some money. Hence we see many people on forums and at camera clubs who own thousands of dollars' worth of equipment and can take technically perfect pictures of the most boring things imaginable. These people should be applauded and appreciated, because they contribute to lowering the cost of cameras for talented and poor young artists in category #2.

To a certain extent this is an artificial seperation. I know a couple of real artists whose work suffers from a total ignorance of the technical side of photography. I tell them to read the manual of their camera - "I hate manuals," was the response of one very talented lady. From time to time she comes over with a beautiful image which has faults simply because of this lack of knowledge.

And how can one learn about your tools without picking up knowledge of all the related tools? So a painter cannot simply say, "I use a camal hair brush, I really don't know or care about the other brushes."

If they don't have knowledge of what a tool can do, the artist is working with one arm tied behind their backs. So, I find these defining numbers kind of confusing. There are in all fields, those whose interest is focused on equipment. Photography far more than any other field allows people to unintentionally pose as "photographers." But just as in painting, some people seem to feel that if you put a frame around a creation, "It's Art," doesn't make it so...

But unlike a painter who can't "get lucky," so to speak - Anyone with a camera can take a great photograph, even if they can only do it once...

There are a lot of side possibilities in this can of worms which you have opened.

Dave
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 1:05 PM   #4
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Good post. And thanks for pointing out Mr. Rockwell, who for the life of me I cannot understand how he has such a following. Photography is no different than other hobbies where good equipment make it easier, but does not guarantee success or even that one will become passably good. I've played golf with guys who have thousands of $'s of clubs, $70 a dozen balls, etc, who couldn't break 100. Sometimes we get so hung up in the minutae of how great our gear is we forget about how things like technique can be just as important. Forums are loaded with pixel peepers and gear snobs that seem to believe without the very best, photography is just not possible. In reality, for most users, consumer level gear and lenses are all they will ever need. At most print sizes or for web viewing, lens and gear shortcomings are largely irrelevant.
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 2:59 PM   #5
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I've often thought that it's time for someone to start a website listing all the stupid things Ken Rockwell has said.

I couldn't do it; I couldn't stand to read all his drivel.
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 3:27 PM   #6
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I don't know what the point would be. His site is essentially that already. :-)
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Old Jan 31, 2010, 3:31 PM   #7
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I believe there are more than just two sides to it, and most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes anyway. Personally, I enjoy getting the most out of the equipment I do have, and try to find ways to extend my abilties to get better results out of the equipment I do have, rather than obsess about new gear I may not be able to afford anyway.
I think of it more like auto racing - a duffer with a Ferrari can certainly get around the track faster than a pro in a stock VW. It was always more entertaining to me to race against others with similar cars - that is how I learned to improve my driving skills, and have fun at the same time. (that last is, to me, the most important point)

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Old Jan 31, 2010, 5:18 PM   #8
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Lots of truth in Craig's post. There will always be those that place more emphasis on top notch equipment than top notch photography, as well as the inverse. As a hobbyist, I am concerned with the final product, and as I print many of my pictures at 11x14 up to 30x24, I am always aware of resolution. I have to find a sweet spot between equipment and talent within my budget, which usually drives me more toward better glass than camera features, most of which I can live without. In other words, my camera doesn't have to do EVERYTHING, just everything I need it to. So my camera body doesn't have to cost a lot. Someone working for National Geographic may not be able to beat my photos technically or artistically, but his more expensive equipment would certainly fare better under harsh weather conditions, and perhaps survive other conditions my camera would fail in. Why do I need a Nikon D700, or Canon 1D, when all I shoot is family gatherings, kids and pets?

Like Craig, I am thrilled that there are those out there in group 1 driving down the cost of equipment for the rest of us. Thank you all for listening..

Edit: In the above statement about the Nat. Geo Photog, I use myself as an example, in the generic sense..
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Old Feb 6, 2010, 4:58 PM   #9
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I would put myself as a #1. Mostly since I have no talent, or eye for good pics. My wife is the opposite, she is very good at spotting those "cool" pics.

I am more of a brute force type of photographer, take as many pics of something as you can, and hope at least one looks ok.

I am a contractor and in our business they are called "tool whores" people that just buy tons of tools just for the sake of buying tools. I am also a #1 on that side too, I love having good tools, but at least on that end I am good with them too.
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Old Feb 6, 2010, 11:49 PM   #10
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An interesting discussion, I hadn't quite thought of the equipment heavy/collectors being "technical" vs. the artist. It's always seemed to me that one should use the proper tool for the task, if possible. Better to use the proper sized wrench than a pair of pliers for tightening certain things, and its better to use the proper lens for the task (this isn't necessarily the fastest, heaviest most expensive prime lens, either).

Instead, I've always thought of the technical as being the person who knows the theory of photography, the guy who understands what aperture is, what the effects of changing it will have on a picture and how it interacts with shutter speed to create a technically correct exposure. This person is very capable of creating specific effects that they want. While they can reliably get what they want, they don't necessarily use the right technique for the conditions/subject and while their pictures are technically correct, they may not be artistic or interesting.

Then there's the artistic person who could care less about all that stuff, and just has a great eye. They see something, put the camera to their eye and snap - a creative picture.

I'm a technical person while my other half is much more of an instinctive artist. It drives me batty that he can out-shoot me and he only has a vague idea of what he's doing.
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