Better Pictures – Your Camera Doesn’t Matter (very much)

I am an amateur photographer, and mostly take pictures of my family and friends. That being said, photography is a hobby that I have enjoyed for more that twenty years, and I have spent many hours in darkrooms enlarging photographs. I got my serious start in high school, where I was the head yearbook photographer. I have spent years reading about technique, learning about ISO, f-stops, shutter speed, depth of field, diffraction, etc.

Occasionally, I take a picture that someone likes. The first question that I am asked is “what kind of camera do you have?” Just as the brand of scalpel is irrelevant to my daytime job of surgeon, the name on the front of my camera is fairly meaningless as well. (For the record, I use a Nikon D700 for most of my pictures, and a Bard-Parker #15 blade for most incisions.)

The camera is a tool, and how the tool is operated has far more to do with the results than the┬átechnical┬áspecifications of the tool. I use the camera that I do because it can do certain things quickly, such as bracketing exposures, setting auto ISO for variable light conditions, setting dynamic AF points so that the AF will track a moving subject. In addition, it is a full-frame DSLR, which means that the viewfinder screen is much larger than a cropped sensor DSLR, which is nice if you have to look through it for any length of time. That being said, most of these features aren’t very important in themselves. I can accomplish these same tasks on a lesser camera, but it would take more fiddling around.

The sun sets over the horizon as my friend Jon Cluett takes a picture of the sunset with his iPhone.

The photograph above was taken a month ago while I was on a trip to Florida. It was shot with my Nikon D700, ISO 1600. F11 at 1/800 sec. 28-105 mm lens at 75 mm. No flash. The high ISO settings were actually fairly irrelevant. Fortunately, it didn’t significantly hurt image quality. The high shutter speed does freeze the water nicely (no motion blur in the water). This photograph has been processed in Adobe Lightroom, which is a cousin of Photoshop. I pumped up the saturation, added a gradient filter to increase the darkness and saturation of the sky. That’s about it. Below, you see one of the pictures taken by my friend, Jon.

A quick snap using the Apple iPhone 4S camera, as taken by Jon Cluett. This photo has been processed in Lightroom.

The photo above was taken by my friend Jon using his iPhone 4S. The picture above was actually downloaded by me from Facebook, processed in Lightroom, and then posted above. If I had Jon’s original photograph from his phone to work with, it might look a little better. I would argue that Jon’s picture is fairly close to mine in terms of appearance. My picture is probably more interesting, as the silhouette of Jon against the water makes for a more interesting subject, and the horizontal framing of my photograph allows a greater expanse of sky to be captured. Still, the important things that might make one picture “better” than another are mostly down to technique, rather than equipment.

Published on Apr 13, 2012
Filed under: Photography
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