While meandering through a local camera store today, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between a customer and salesperson. The exchange was quite cordial and I was impressed with the advice offered by the sales associate. You see, a disgruntled photographer was frustrated with the details captured by her camera. When the customer slowly withdrew her $1600 camera and several equally expensive lenses from a bag, I immediately understood the core of her issues. She was frustrated because the pictures from the camera lacked the “punch and detail” she expected from the gear. The sales clerk looked at the equipment and took a few photos, and like me, quickly diagnosed the problem. Meanwhile, the customer suggested that the camera was inadequate, and it might be time to upgrade. To be clear, this camera was released less than 6 months ago, had a 24 megapixel sensor and was a full-framed DSLR. She was using a fine tool that could be the backbone of a professional’s kit. Yet, for some unknown reason the photographs were lacking; thus something must be inherently wrong with the tools.
With an ear cocked towards their conversation, I listened to the salesperson coach her client and advise that she invest some time learning how to process a raw image. I have little doubt that the core of the sub-par photographs reside with the deficiencies of the photographer rather than the capture device. The digital tools produced today are so good that people often confuse talent with the gear they own. While it is easy to push the button and take a picture, making images requires study and practice. Everyone wants to “go pro,” but few are willing to do what it takes. In his book that attempts to explain greatness, Geoff Colvine writes that “talent is overrated,… while greatness comes from deliberate practice.” It is a sad reality, but it takes thousands of hours behind a camera and computer to move beyond the taker of lucky shots into the realm of professional predictability.
About the Image:: Specifically chosen to match my thoughts, this image from Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park was made with a 4 megapixel Nikon D2H camera in 2004. The camera was one of the best digital wildlife cameras of its time, but it suffered for its lack of resolution. Yet, despite the small file and cropped sensor, the image reflects my knowledge about the place, exposure and post-processing. Although this picture was produced from a small 4 megapixel file, the photograph remains a treasured part of my image library.
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