Wow! You Must Have a Great Camera!

I am extremely lucky to have several cameras, lenses, computers, printers and lighting packages. My favorite is naturally, my cameras. They range from a 1914 Autographic Kodak Jr. to a Pentax K3 and my iPhone (which I love!), though I do have my eye on a K1 and/or a 645Z medium format. I know...everyone reading this will probably think, why would you shoot with Pentax instead of Canon, Nikon, Sony or any other popular brand. Frankly, I've been a Pentax shooter since 1978 - way back in the dark ages - with real film and a real darkroom! Besides, I like the way it feels in my hand. I've tried two of the top brands and I didn't like them. Just personal preference. Not to mention they were almost double the cost of my trusty Pentax and the reviews state exactly that...comparable to the top brands, hands down, at half the cost. Also, I like being different.

All that said, it isn't the equipment, accessories and toys we buy that make the photographer, it's the skill level they possess. I can't tell you how many times I've had people say, "Wow!  Your work is amazing! You must have a GREAT camera!" Really? That's a bit insulting when you think about it. No one takes into account that you have to know so much technical stuff these days, in addition to the usual rules of photography. It makes me want to slap somebody when they say that!

Being a photographer is so much more than having great equipment and toys. First, we are visual artists. Yep, I said it...the "A" word! It takes an eye that most people don't have. People walk through their day and don't notice much of anything. Non-photographers hate going places with me since it takes two to three times longer to get anywhere because I'll see something and have to stop to shoot it - and not just with my regular camera, but usually also with my infrared camera and my iPhone. So when I stop to shoot something, most people tell me, "I didn't even notice that." Well, there you have it. An artist's eye is the first thing.

Next, we have to have a handle on the composition and light. I took a still life class once only to realize how much I didn't know about lighting, even though I had taken a lighting class previously. When looking at my work, the instructor would look and me, point and ask, "what is that"?  I'd look at it and say, "I didn't even see that." His favorite response was, "what else have you got to do, but see?" He was right. Seeing the image in the viewfinder in addition to the light in the scene is a major deal. Is your viewer going to look at your work and say, "what is that" or "the light doesn't feel right". Trust me, that's not a good thing especially when it's such an easy thing to fix. And incidentally, a portable reflector (preferably a 5-in-1) is a great accessory for your kit.

Finally, once the shoot is done, comes the post-processing. This is what comes after you decide which images make the cut once they're downloaded. Another instructor I had once said it's best to shoot in RAW (with the most information to work with), shoot clean, then make any [minimal] changes you need to in post. It's better to get your shot as close as you can to what you see in your mind's eye in camera, rather than try to achieve it in post. Sometimes it just doesn't work. I mean, really...who wants to spend hours sitting at the computer processing images? I'd rather spend my time out shooting. I have to wonder at people who have an amazing image and then they tell me it took them 20 hours(!) on the computer to get it the way they wanted it. Yikes! That's almost three whole days! On ONE image! Way easier on your numb butt to do it right in the first place, wouldn't you agree?

Generally speaking, my post-processing involves doing a minor exposure adjustment, if any, tweaking the shadows and highlights, blacks and whites, contrast, clarity and vibrance/saturation. 

Here's the process:

  • Shoot (in RAW)
  • Download
  • Embed your copyright
  • Do a general keyword pass
  • Do a quick pass of the downloaded images and star the ones you like, then step away for a couple of days
  • Post-process your images
  • Backup your work
  • Print (lab or your own printer)
  • Sell
  • Repeat
  • That's it...easy peasy.

So the next time someone says "Wow! You must have a great camera!", your response should be "no, I'm an artist with a great EYE and skill set!"

Until next time...