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Author Topic: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?  (Read 10599 times)

koolman

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Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« on: October 02, 2011, 07:38:06 AM »
We spend allot of time here comparing equipment and extensively analyzing the pros and cons of bodies, lenses, etc.

However - many people say, that the real ingredient for producing special pictures - is the skill of the photographer. Many all time famous monumental photographs where taken black and white with "simple" equipment. The special part of those photos is often the content and meaning of the picture - much less the "sharpness" or other tech features.

How important is our equipment ? Would you agree that it more like 85% skill and 15% equipment ?
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Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« on: October 02, 2011, 07:38:06 AM »


jvirta

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2011, 08:43:21 AM »
I think it depends on what it is what one want's to shoot. Some time it's 90% skill / 10% equipment, sometimes it's 10% skill / 90% equipment.

It is annoying, when I take a great photo at 16mm with EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM II and the only thing that ruins the photo is that the edges aren't sharp. In this case, the problem is with the equipment, not the skill as the equipment is the limiting factor. => I need a upgraded model where the problem is fixed.

Other times, the "great photo" is ruined because of the idiot behind the camera :)

I personally have the problem of getting too excited to take a photo of something that would make a great photo just to forget to check and correct the settings on the camera and thus ruining the photo. This one is 100% skill, or actually lack of it :)

It is so much easier to upgrade (or want to) the equipment than the skill...


akiskev

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2011, 08:50:54 AM »
Totally agree with jvirta!
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Orangutan

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2011, 09:46:23 AM »
Just curious: how many birds-in-flight pictures did Ansel Adams take?  Sports?  Weddings?  Family vacations?  My completely amateur opinion is that it's a question of matching the equipment and photographer's skill to the subject at hand.  Get the equipment you need for your subject, then learn to use it well.

Many all time famous monumental photographs where taken black and white with "simple" equipment. The special part of those photos is often the content and meaning of the picture - much less the "sharpness" or other tech features.

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2011, 10:15:41 AM »
You can't get a photo without both the camera and someone (or something) to push the button. One or the other isn't going to get anywhere. Both are important. Sometimes the kit is the limiting factor. Sometimes the photographer is. Maybe more often the photographer than the kit, particularly for less demanding tasks, but not always.

There's two phrases that spring to mind:
1: "a bad workman blames his tools"
2: "use the right tool for the job".

I'm very much in the 2nd camp. If the kit is adequate for the job, any failings are then the photographers. But you need to have a good enough tool in the first place. Further note: "good enough" doesn't mean best. Too often people ask for the best, when they really only want "good enough".
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jdramirez

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2011, 11:25:12 AM »
I think it depends on what it is what one want's to shoot. Some time it's 90% skill / 10% equipment, sometimes it's 10% skill / 90% equipment.

It is annoying, when I take a great photo at 16mm with EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM II and the only thing that ruins the photo is that the edges aren't sharp. In this case, the problem is with the equipment, not the skill as the equipment is the limiting factor. => I need a upgraded model where the problem is fixed.

Other times, the "great photo" is ruined because of the idiot behind the camera :)

I personally have the problem of getting too excited to take a photo of something that would make a great photo just to forget to check and correct the settings on the camera and thus ruining the photo. This one is 100% skill, or actually lack of it :)

It is so much easier to upgrade (or want to) the equipment than the skill...

I absolutely agree.  I'd love to carry a tripod with me 100% of the time, but it just simply isn't feasible.  So the IS/VR/OS really does help in certain situations.  The ability to use a higher iso and a faster shutterspeed can also come in handy, but just like you... occasionally I will leave the AEB on and I wind up taking over/under exposed shots and it just annoys me that I couldn't remember to turn that function off. 

As for the skill involved... I have a kid so I wind up doing a substantial amount of portrait and action photography (if you want to call it that), and simply seeing the entire shot for what it is worth can be key.  A 20 foot walk one direction or another can really change the background of the shot and turn a mediocre shot with power lines and water towers into a really nice shot with unobstructed mountains/plains/etc. really framing the shot nicely. 

So if I were to put a percentage on it... I would say it is 95% skill and 5% equipment... but once you begin to achieve the requisite skill level, that 5% can make a huge difference in the shot.  And I'd like to think that most of us that are buying $1000 lenses have already acquired the 95% to make the investment to achieve the additional 5% worth it. 

Though not too long ago I saw someone using a 24-105mm f/4 L and their shots looked worse than a point and shoot.  I don't know what they were going for... but I can tell you... it wasn't good. 
Upgrade  path.->means the former was sold for the latter.

XS->60D->5d Mkiii:18-55->24-105L:75-300->55-250->70-300->70-200 f4L USM->70-200 f/2.8L USM->70-200 f/2.8L IS Mkii:50 f/1.8->50 f/1.4->100L->85mm f/1.8 USM-> 8mm ->100L & 85L

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2011, 11:25:12 AM »

elflord

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2011, 12:57:20 PM »
We spend allot of time here comparing equipment and extensively analyzing the pros and cons of bodies, lenses, etc.

However - many people say, that the real ingredient for producing special pictures - is the skill of the photographer. Many all time famous monumental photographs where taken black and white with "simple" equipment. The special part of those photos is often the content and meaning of the picture - much less the "sharpness" or other tech features.

How important is our equipment ? Would you agree that it more like 85% skill and 15% equipment ?

My take on it as an amateur photographer is that having usable equipment is essential -- for example you can't take pictures without a camera ! However, the main thing more expensive equipment buys you is convenience, not necessarily better quality.

An example of needing usable equipment -- my move to SLRs was motivated by very unsuccessful attempts to take indoor portraits with a point and shoot. The camera had no manual focus and had a lot of trouble auto-focusing in that light. Under the same conditions, an inexpensive manual focus film SLR would have worked admirably.

These days, one can pick up a pro autofocus film body like the EOS 3 for the price of a mid range point and shoot. This camera has weather sealing, 45 autofocus points, 7fps with battery grip (4 without) and an eye tracking AF system, E-TTL flash, and spot metering.

So having equipment  is essential but once you have an appropriate setup, you won't get better returns in terms of quality for your dollar. However, you might get more in terms of convenience or quantity. For a pro, being able to crank out more of the same in less time (more quantity and more convenience) is good for business. Few amateurs suffer from not being able to take enough pictures ! The amateur doesn't have to photograph everything -- they always have the option of saying "the lighting is no good" and putting away the camera, but this approach won't work very well for you if you are the paid wedding photographer. So for the enthusiast, an expensive DSLR is really more about convenience than better results.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2011, 01:11:02 PM by elflord »

bycostello

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2011, 01:32:45 PM »

It is annoying, when I take a great photo at 16mm with EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM II and the only thing that ruins the photo is that the edges aren't sharp. In this case, the problem is with the equipment, not the skill as the equipment is the limiting factor. => I need a upgraded model where the problem is fixed.


But that is the skill aspect, knowing your kit and taking a picture accordingly...

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2011, 01:53:09 PM »
You need to define what a valuable image is.  A technically supurb image, or a image with a valuable subject. 

Both of them are images to admire, but for different reasons.  In the rare event they happen on the same image, it becomes a photography legend.    Was that photo of the marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima technically supurb?  The subject has certainly made it famous and a legend.

The technically perfect image might benefit from better equipment and a skilled camera operator, while the latter might come from a better photographer. (sometimes luck plays a part, but only a part)

Eagle Eye

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2011, 03:33:55 PM »
A great photograph is made by a person who is both skilled in the eye and skilled with their equipment.  The quality of the equipment matters.  If the eye visualizes a perfect image, but the skill with the equipment or the physical limitations of the equipment itself can't fulfill the need for that perfect image, that's a problem.  Yes, you can take beautiful images with kit lenses, but the more sophisticated your equipment becomes, the greater range of images you'll be able to capture, and the more skilled your eye will become at recognizing great images before they become great photographs.  Equipment simply expands the breadth of your photographic capability.  That's why we choose what lenses we place in our bags before a shoot.  Because if it was 99% skill, we'd just throw on a 18-55mm and go shoot.  For a hike, we may choose slower zooms for their light weight and range of focal lengths.  For a portrait session, we might take medium and telephoto primes with fast apertures.  But not having a range of equipment is only limiting if one seeks to expand beyond the capability range of the equipment he or she has.  Buy a macro lens and you'll find yourself taking photographs you never thought about before, images your eye had never conceived of.  That said, never expand your equipment beyond your ability to be technically skilled with it. 

As light is captured by the triumvirate of film speed, aperture, and shutter speed; a good photographer is made by the triumvirate of visual acuity, technical skill, and equipment.  The actual percentage breakdown is completely dependent upon the individual photographer and their needs.
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photophreek

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2011, 06:00:21 PM »
When I photograph an image, I already see the image in my mind that I want to capture and how I want the image to look.  I then select the lens that best captures that photograph.  As a result, the camera used is not as important in creating the resulting photograph as the lens needed to take the picture. 

A very talented photogrpher told me many years ago not to buy a camera and then the lenses to go with the camera, but to purchase the camera based on the lens you will need to capture the images you want. 

niccyboy

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2011, 08:45:51 PM »
I know a lot of very good technical photographers with amazing gear that have no creativity and can't take a shot to save themselves. I also know a lot of people that frame and take amazing shots with their iphones... and some of my favourites are shot now on my 60's film cameras.

But I guess it comes down to how well you can capture the moment you are seeing. If you have bad equipment and cannot take the amazing shot you are seeing then what's the point of taking the photo.... it's not a good photo if you didn't capture it because your equipment wasn't up to scratch.

I think you have to have a happy medium. the better the equipment the more options you have with your photography, for example, better lowlight, better focus, good compression, dof, etc etc all can enable you to capture what you want to capture. I know a lot of my favourite shots would have been very difficult to get with my first camera, even with years of experience that i have now.








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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2011, 08:45:51 PM »

Hillsilly

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2011, 09:12:08 PM »
Motivation - 50%
Inspiration - 30%
Skill - 10%
Camera - 10%
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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2011, 12:01:28 AM »
Time to wheel out that old chestnut....."Content is King..."

I have all the latest Canon stuff, in large part because it's fun, but I seriously doubt if my thriving business would be much different today if I was still using the 20D which my kids now occasionally use in preference to their iPhone cameras.

Having all the latest gear does have validity though. In business, 100% reliability is a must. Exploring the remarkable potential of a 1D4 has produced images that may not have been possible just a few years ago.

Then there is the murky, completely irrational area of client perception. When someone is paying you a lot of money, they don't want to see you pull out a camera that is five years older than the EOS they own...they expect the latest.

Years ago when I was an assistant, we were setting up for a huge very big budget fashion job. It was the morning of day one of what was a six day shoot. The models were all ready, the client and the money men were there, all anxious and very jumpy. Henry (the photographer) asked me to get the camera out. As pre-planned I pulled out a plastic Mickey Mouse camera. It took 120 film, you held it by the ears and it had the lens in the nose. The models completely cracked up, the client and the money men totally freaked. Henry shot a roll of 120 with the Mickey Mouse amid all the fuss. In the background I quietly put the Hasselblad on the tripod ready for the "real" shoot. Then everyone laughed, the models were in a great space and the job was a total success.

Yet those first eight frames on the Mickey Mouse with it's plastic lens, flare, aberrations and bad exposures definitely had the most magic about them from the whole six days.

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Re: Photography - Equipment or Skill ?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2011, 12:01:28 AM »