Expensive Equipment Alone Does NOT Make a Good Photographer

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Have you ever been taking a photograph with your camera and had someone come up to you and say something similar to this, “Oh, you have an amazing camera.  So that’s how you get such great photos.”

Well I am hear to go on the record with my opinion.  Yes, good equipment (a quality SLR, professional series lenses, external flash, etc) – THEY DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  Sort of… They make a difference if you know how to use them.

A person who does not understand light, focusing, depth of field and metering could have a Canon 5D MKII and an 85L lens and get way worse photos than if they just used a point and shoot.  Even my husband (he may not like me saying this) will get better results from our point and shoot than my SLR.  When he uses the SLR and takes a photo of me, guess who is blurry?  Me.  Background may look perfectly sharp.  But give him a point and shoot and he does great.

On the other hand, give a professional photographer (who knows what they are doing), an entry level SLR (like the Rebel series) and a kit lens, and they can often turn out works of art.  Sure, if you give that same photographer the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D MKII and a professional or L series prime lens, they will be able to get shallower depth of field and allow the subject to pop more. The color likely will be a touch more vibrant.  And the subjects may appear a tad sharper as the focusing “should” be a tad more accurate.

So what am I saying with this ramble?  Practice with what you have.  Learn your camera, learn your lens, learn to see the light, focus your camera, etc.  Once you do, if you can afford it, sure – get better, more expensive equipment. You will notice your photos get even better.  But I have seen too many photographers who are “not there yet” get the most pricey gear and wonder “why do my photos not look like ______ (fill in the blank).”

Of course I have not even touched on the “after” part using photoshop.  But that is another topic for another day…

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 Expensive Equipment Alone Does NOT Make a Good Photographer

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and teaches Photoshop to photographers across the globe.

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43 Comments and 3 Replies



  1. 1
    Kim DeLoach says:

    PREACH ON, SISTA!!!! LOVE this article-#1 pet peeve of mine! #1 hardest time to bite my tongue!

  2. 2
    Katy G says:

    Great advice…I recently got the MarkII and the pictures were good, but still didn’t know how to use it to get proper exposure manually until reading a book you recommended to me. So thanks! Now to convince my husband I NEED those L series lenses. :)

  3. 3
    Beth B says:

    You’re so right! Thanks for the reminder Jodi! (Although, I’m dying to get the 5DM2!)

  4. 4
    Jessica says:

    Very good point. I am struggling right now wanting the d700 and a 70-200mm lens…but I’m trying to hold off till fall. Thanks for reminding me that I do have some learning to do before I upgrade! :)

  5. 5
    Tanya says:

    Absolutely!! So true Jodi!

  6. 6
    Linde says:

    Amen to that!!! I HATE when people say “wow, that is a nice camera, I bet you take good pictures”.
    So, I took this picture and posted it on flickr.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindesphotos/2460460876/

  7. 7
    Renee says:

    Absolutely correct thanks for posting this!!

  8. 8

    Amen sister! I started out with a point shoot and wanted desperately to be a photographer. I got amazing photos on my point shoot. Then..I stepped it up and got a 40D. NIGHTMARE! I literally had no clue what I was doing. Hence..my hunt to educate and start doing workshops. 2 years later…I’m proud of myself for seeking out workshops and learning from the pros. I can’t say enough about going to workshops and learning your camera…2 words: MANUAL MODE! Thanks for posting!

  9. 9
    Wendie D says:

    Well said Jodi…

  10. 10

    In this time of “Anybody Can Be A Photographer, Just Buy A Good Camera,” the ONLY thing that will distinguish you as the best will be what you do with your camera, and whether or not you know how to use it. This is a post that is so full of truth! It really touches on one of my pet peeves about photography—people who dump a ton of money into expensive equipment, expecting that the investment alone will make them a good photographer. You are right, Jodi–a great photographer will be able to create art with any level of equipment, because it’s the talent and the knowledge combined that will create the art. Not the camera.

  11. 11
    Ginna says:

    I just heard that from my brother in law the other day. I didn’t really appreciate him attributing my “better” photos to a camera upgrade! Ah well.

  12. 12
    Stephanie says:

    I agree totally! I don’t even have a Canon or Nikon…mine is a Sony alpha 300!! I didn’t want to invest a lot of money when I started out last fall and I thought if it didn’t work, that at least I’d have a decent camera. Well, I have learned it and I enjoy it, but at some point I will invest in a Canon and learn it too. So, point, the best equipment doesn’t always equal the best photography! Even mediocre equipment has worked for me, for now! Thanks Jodi!

  13. 13
    Lisa says:

    Great post Jodi. I just stepped up to the 5dM2 and while I absolutely love it, I still feel great pride in the photos I took with my Rebel when I was just starting out. Good equipment is essential, but so is a great eye, patience, and solid technical knowledge.

  14. 14
    Kim says:

    SO very true.. I always get ..wow if I get that camera can I take pictures like yours? And I wish it was that easy.heck I am still learning .. great post.

  15. 15
    Molly Keyser says:

    Oh so true. I love when people laugh at me when i shoot with my 50mm prime lens
    cause its not HUGE looking. But when they see the photos they are always amazed.

  16. 16

    It took me getting a D40 and really LEARNING it to fully understand the truth of this – and to understand how offensive it is to say to a photographer.

    Here’s my question . . . I’ve heard photographers advise to start with an entry level camera and use that until you “outgrow it” and you feel you can no longer take the pictures you want to with the equipment you have. How do you know you have outgrown your equipment?

    I can’t wait to read your thoughts on editing/processing. Before I really learned some basics of photography, I would take crappy pictures thinking, “Oh, I’ll just fix it in PS.” Now my goal is take better shots so I need to do as little post-processing as possible. Not that I don’t like editing, I just don’t have TIME to edit poorly taken shots. Looking forward to hearing more on this!

  17. 17
    Kansas A says:

    Great post Jodi and so true! I have no idea who originally wrote this but I love it: The real difference between an average photo and an amazing photo, is the photographer, not the camera.

  18. 18
    Tiffany says:

    LOVED this post!!! It was very encouraging! Thank you for sharing your opinion…because it was very well said!!

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Amy Dungan says:

    Love this Jodi! I agree 100%. It makes me nuts when people say what a great camera I must have. They have no idea about the knowledge that is needed to get that shot they like so well.

  21. 21

    Bravo! ‘Nuff said. Though, after working in the field for 17 years professionally, I think I can get away with the 1DS MK III :).

  22. 22

    I completely agree. I shot with a Rebel XT for years. I have only just recently started to feel like I have outgrown it and need more from my camera. Now I’m starting to upgrade my equipment. I don’t think I would have really been ready for a professional camera a few years ago. I might not have thought so at the time, but knowing what I know now, I really think it would have been too much camera for me.

    What cracks me up is how people will say “oh, what a nice camera you have” when I have a long lens on it. The camera could be crap, but because they see this big lens on it they think it must be really nice.

    Great topic Jodi!

  23. 23
    Denise Olson says:

    well said Jodi!!!!!!

  24. 24

    Learning how to focus and metering and all that other stuff is right where I am at. Learning slowly but moving forward all the time. LOL

    Thanks, for the reminder!

  25. 25
    Michelle says:

    Sing it! :) I’m far from “there” yet but do have people comment on my camera being the reason I take good pictures. Yah… it’s not the 1000′s of pics I take and HOURS reading books & practicing. ;) It’s not the 12 week class I’m taking… right. :)

  26. 26
    Elo says:

    and here I was feeling jelous of my friend getting a d700.. I have a long way to go :) thank you!

  27. 27
    gail says:

    This is a great post.

  28. 28
    Kassia says:

    Amen. A friend/photographer once said to me (when I was lamenting about not being able to afford to upgrade my camera)… “It’s not the pots and pans that make the chef…” It was a little side comment that was meant to make me feel better in that instant, but it really stayed with me. In a field like photography where very often people judge you by the equipment you have, it meant a lot. And that goes both ways! :)

  29. 29
    Kelly Ann says:

    http://www.cafepress.com/mycameratakes.221776221 <– WTD shirt, My camera takes really good pictures, I ain’t so bad either.

    Comic with the response to “Oh, you have an amazing camera. So that’s how you get such great photos.” http://web.me.com/aaronandpatty/What_the_Duck/Comic_Strips/Entries/2009/1/6_WTD_95.html =)

  30. 30

    Another thing to consider is subject matter. Say you’re shooting a bowl of fruit, perfectly lit on a set. Is your camera and lens choice going to matter? Not that much. But let’s say your shooting a wedding ceremony in a the back of a very dark chruch. Pray that you don’t have a P&S!

  31. 31
    Nicole Haley says:

    I just got an email the other day saying the same thing so this post definitely made me laugh! It’s all so true. Thanks for posting!

  32. 32
    Andrea Adams says:

    My favorite comparison is that no one told Van Gogh he must have nice brushes. Agreed that a good photographer can do more with better equipment (at least that is what I am telling my husband all the time), but the art is not in the equipment.

  33. 33
    honey says:

    SOOOOOOO true! I hear it all the time. Years and years of practice and reading and it’s the camera. I can’t tell you how many times i hear that. I think that is what leads people to believe they can ask you to do so many things as a friend because they think it is nothing more than owning the camera. The talent at the time of the shoot is only part of it … how about all of the talent and time (not to mention your actions) that go into editing. Love the comic … killed me!

  34. 34
    Danielle says:

    A-le-lu-ia!!!!

  35. 35
    Rose says:

    I am a beginner, and this post is awesome! I have a Nikon D90 and really just want to know how to use it inside and out. As it is I shoot on manual mostly, but thanks alot of generous bloggers, I’m getting more creative and testing out different functions, and seeing what I can do with this camera. :)

  36. 36
    Johanna says:

    happens all the time! I love wtd! thank you Jodi!! and the responses to that stupid comment are so great on the link from Kelly Ann above. I love the one…”I bought it at the same place DaVinci bought his paintbrushes.” now all I have to do is remember the smart comebacks! :)

  37. 37
    Jodi says:

    Oh – the other comment that “kills” me – is when I bring my camera to a school function – to get pictures of my kids… I always get asked’ “can you take one of my kids since you have the better camera.” OR even the principal or teachers asking, “since you have such a great camera can you just snap some of the event so that we can put some up in our classroom/office, etc.” I do not mind, but I much prefer when asked like this, “since you are an amazing photographer, can you…”

    Anyway, they assume it is one in the same. I mean shooting in a dark school multimedia room? I would love to hand the camera to someone (it has no flash) and see what they could do with it if they did not know photography. Fun experiment.

    Oh and then the post processing end… When you do that favor – they assume you just get home, dump them in an email. Nevermind the processing in LR and PS for say 100 school shots (yep – hours).

    It is the least I can do, but still, as photographers I know you will appreciate this.

    Jodi

  38. 38
    honey says:

    jodi, your last comment is so true. I ended up doing the whole yearbook because i have such a good camera. I love to volunteer but my husband swore if he woke up at 3am and saw me cloning zits off a 5th grader we don’t even know one more time …!!! Hours of your actions … I would be better off (much less work) running the pta!

  39. 39
    Hee hee! « says:

    [...] May 29, 2009 by Mim Reading my usual blogs this morning, I had a little giggle at this, on the MCP actions blog [...]

  40. 40
    JM says:

    I’m so glad someone mentions this every now and then! As the end quote on all my email states:
    “If you buy a camera you’re a photographer. If you buy a piano…well, you just bought a piano” it is so appropriate nowadays when everyone has a digital camera.
    I know many who have purchased the latest and the greatest and have NO IDEA how to use the equipment–as an example one person I know still has the camera’s flash pop up whenever light is low…
    Anyway, great post.

  41. 41

    I’m totally with you – I never get pics of my whole family so at an event recently I handed my old D80 to a guy with a D300 saying “I thought I’d ask you to take a pic of my family as you look like you know what to do” oh no – big mistake – he took 3 photos and not one was in focus and I was gutted. a good camera means nothing…

  42. 42

    [...] to the vision of the artist. To paraphrase Jodi Friedman’s recent blog post at MCP Actions Blog, A professional camera does not a professional photographer [...]

  43. 43
    photography says:

    Thanks, I enjoyed your post immensely. It’s nice to see someone writing something worth reading



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