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Why your Camera isn’t a Superhero

A Guest Contribution by Draycat

7361147094 a8705ae0ca nThe day my first SLR camera arrived I was excited. I’d already put my point and shoot at the bottom of a drawer knowing that I wouldn’t need it anymore – this would be the beginning of a new era; no more crappy pictures for me.

For the first few minutes I just sat admiring the box, anticipating what this was going to do for my ‘photography’. Then I slowly removed everything from the box with the same care that a surgeon would do removing a kidney, and then sat again admiring all the curves and buttons on the camera body. This was a new experience for me and I wanted to savour the moment.

I had always worked on the premise that all the best images had been shot with good cameras so now that I finally had one I expected it to do magic for me. I’d seen so many great images taken with SLR cameras that part of me felt that my photography would transform overnight and within a few days National Geographic would be calling me begging me to shoot for them. I would become an image superhero, transforming to the photographic equivalent of Spiderman from Peter Parker just by lifting up the camera. All my friends would wish they could take pictures like me, and all because of my new SLR.

After waiting what seemed like two days for the battery to charge, I carefully inserted it into the camera and went out for my first photographic Spiderman adventure in my local area. I shot flowers, traffic lights and bicycles. Then went home to see what these potential Pulitzer prize winning shots looked like. I started up the computer, put in the memory card, clicked on the folder and waited for the magic to appear.

One by one the pictures came up on the screen, and with each one I grew more and more disappointed. There was no magic – in fact they looked exactly the same as my old point and shoot pictures. And what was worse was that it was actually more difficult to shoot these ‘exactly the same as my old shots’ photographs because I suddenly had to consider these strange alien concepts like aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Not at all what I was expecting. I ripped up my new superhero costume designs and unpacked my carefully prepared ‘packed in case National Geographic call me to suddenly fly out’ suitcase. It was going to be a while before any of my images would look anything like the amazing images that I’d seen.

I went on the internet and ordered a book – a kind of beginner’s guide to photography. Then I picked up the manual and started to read…..

The point? Well sometimes we focus too much on the gear – the latest bodies, lenses, accessories, but the reality is that often it doesn’t actually improve our photographs. Our camera isn’t a superhero – it is simply a box that records light.

It is us that determines what that light looks like and ultimately that is what makes great images. So next time you find yourself in a camera shop looking at new equipment ask yourself realistically ‘how specifically will this help me to create better images?’ If you can pragmatically answer then go ahead and knock yourself out, but if you can’t then perhaps it’s time to practice more with what you have instead of buying something new. Learn and practice the basic principles of photography because they will serve you well no matter what equipment you have. Remember many of the great photographers shot fantastic images with cameras most of us wouldn’t even look at today. Make yourself the superhero, not the camera.

Draycat is British photographer, teacher and writer currently based in Tokyo, Japan. See more from him at his Website on Twitter on Facebook and on Youtube.

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