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Is it the camera or the photographer .. or both?

I recently posted this to the Inside Aperture blog at O'Reilly Media's website and got quite a response so I thought I'd throw it up here as well.

"It's the photographer that takes the picture, not the camera"

This is a very popular saying, and a lot of people agree with it ..... but I'm going to play devil's advocate and take the opposite opinion tonight.

Some people take the saying one step further and say that you can hand a cheap camera to a good photographer and he or she will come back with beautiful shots ... but you cannot hand an amateur $10,000 of camera equipment and expect the same results. There is certainly some logic to that statement but I don't agree 100% with it.

Yes, it's true that the photographer is the one that sees the image before him or her and recognizes it's artistic value and decides to take the photo, how to compose it, what angle to shoot at, etc. ... but I think the camera and all it's accessories do make a huge difference.

I've been a photography hobbyist since my childhood ... but when I got very serious about digital photography many years ago I decided to look at my budget and get the best equipment that I could afford and work with it and develop my skills until I was making the most of the equipment. I think this approach has worked well for me .. it's made me more serious about my photography and made me more eager to learn and get the most out of my equipment. I'm not sure I'd be where I am today in my photography education if I'd bought a point-and-shoot camera instead of the fairly high-end (at the time, for my budget) Olympus DSLR. Since then I switched to Canon cameras and every upgrade brings me better and better images. Sure, I'm learning more and becoming a better photographer, but with every upgrade in hardware (especially quality glass) I'm seeing big improvements in image quality.

A lot of this argument also has to do with the type of photos you take. If you want to take sports photos you need a good quality DSLR that can take at least 5 frames per second and keep that rate up for a while and you need some really good long glass. A nature photographer on a hike in the local nature preserve will probably come back with some great photos even if he or she uses a pocket sized point-and-shoot, but take a look at the sidelines of the next football game or car race you watch and you'll see a whole bunch of high-dollar, long white lenses.

So ... is it the photographer or the camera that takes the picture? I think both.


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