The best piece of equipment.

I recently stumbled on a blog and as I skimmed over the first sentence I just automatically finished it in my head. Do you ever do that? Someone is talking and you begin to answer because you're sure you know what they were going to say or ask and suddenly you find yourself wanting to shove your foot so far in your mouth that you swallow yourself up whole? Obviously I have no experience on what that might feel like...purely based on hearsay of course!

Anyway... The sentence began with 'the most important piece of equipment' and I immediately finished it off with, 'is you!' Turned out, I got the answer wrong for that particular statement but I was on to something all the same.

A camera is a tool. It does not have a vision and it cannot feel the emotions. It is merely a mechanism made of plastic, glass and metal... No matter how fabulous it claims to be, it cannot create an image with out your help.

I am positively fascinated by architecture. Never, when I have marveled at a structure, have I thought to myself, 'I wonder what type of hammer they used'.  Maybe it's because I'm not an architect. Maybe if I was I'd think to myself, 'hmmm, I bet they used the Stanley 3000'? But honestly, I don't think I would.  And yet as photographers, one of the very first questions we ask or hear is about our cameras. Why is that? Are we trying to say that it is the camera or the lens that produced and made an image what it is? Are we trying to imply that the image stands on the merits of the equipment rather then the artist?

Now before you start forming all kinds of opinions on me let me give a few ideas on why I think we do this. The first and most obvious is that of the budding photographer, when we are new there is a lot to figure out. The desire and need for learning seems endless, you may see an image and wonder how that was even possible (usually because of the constraints of your own equipment) so you want to know what was used. The other obvious is that when you really admire someone's work you become curious about what tools they use to create that work. There are other reasons of course that may be legitimate, good old-fashioned curiosity probably being #1. But should it really be question number one? At every wedding I've shot there is always that token someone, the one who comes up and hovers for a few before they ask 'so what kind of camera is that?' And then they want to talk about cameras and aperture and ISO, completely missing the fact that that camera they were curious about needs to be used to create a document of the moment's that I, the artist am seeing.

The point I want to make is that the camera is not the artist. The camera does not create the composition, find just the right angle and pause 1/2 way down on the shutter breathlessly waiting for the expression that she knows is coming. The camera cannot.  After all, it is only a tool. It is the creator, the artist, and the soul behind the camera that creates the image and evokes the emotion.

When you feel yourself wondering what camera they use, wonder instead (first) about the elements that make the shot so intriguing to you. Recognize and appreciate that it's not the camera that sees the art - it's you. And that is a wonderful thing because you cannot be duplicated! You can hand over your camera to anyone else and they won't see exactly what you see, nor capture exactly what you capture.

I love my camera.  Just as a painter needs his brushes, I need my camera! But my camera is not the only one to take credit in what is produced, I had a pretty big say in it too!


  1. If someone asks to see your wedding ring, and they aren't married, they are truly asking to see your ring and marvel at it's beauty. If someone is asking to see your ring who already has one, it almost feels like a competition. Who's is bigger.

    With cameras, if someone is asking because they don't have one, or don't have a nice one, they really want to know to marvel at its, and your pictures, beauty. If another photographer is asking that has a nice camera, it feels like they are asking to see who is the better photographer. Better camera=better photographer, right?

    I've made a point not to ask what kind of camera people shoot with. How much does it really matter, anyway? Just like you are saying, an artist is an artist. No matter what paintbrush they are using.

  2. Wow...I would have never finished that sentence with the word "You" but that totally makes sense~ I will admit I'm an equipment geek and always love to know what others use...primarily because I'm feeling so limited by my own equipment and wanting to make the best use of my money for upgrades. Thanks for the encouragement though~

  3. Leah, have I ever told you that you write well? You have many gifts girl! And so does Noelle. Both of you are quite the Go 4 Pro team and i adore you both, wishing you were my friends just down the street.

    It boosted my esteem to read this and deeply analyze myself to find that I indeed to look at element and composition first when I find a photo that impresses me.

    But lately, I have noticed that I have a quick trailing thought that says, "I wonder what lens they used" and that is because my brain is in shopping mode to find another lens right now. But if I was completely happy with mine I don't think I would think about the equipment when looking at a photo. When I'm unsettled with my equipment or knowledge of it, I think that is when it's a lot easier for me to look at a photo and first give thought to "I wonder what camera they have?" or "lens?" or "post-editing workflow?"

  4. I love your blog and all you offer here!! What an awesome resource! And I love this post, and admit I was caught off guard by the"most important piece of equipment" :}

    But I have to also admit...I have ooogled over other photographers images for a long time, wondering how they did what they've done. And recently I have upgraded my lenses (camera body as well, but notice more with the lenses) and have to say, they really DO make a difference. And I'm not bragging about what I shoot with, (50mm 1.2, 28-70 2.8 for the most part) but WOW!! Almost INSTANTLY I saw improvement in my images and was getting the results I wanted!!

    I guess my point is, good glass/lenses REALLY do make a huge difference...more than I ever realized!! So I encourage anyone shopping for a lens, not to skimp, as I had done for years, disappointed with the results. Research and even rent/borrow lenses until you find what you are looking for! It made all the difference in the world for me. I now can say "so, THAT'S how they did it!" :)