I guess it is easy for me to claim something like that when my beast of a camera is laying right next to me. But the truth is, I did not go into beast mode until a few years ago.
Those of you who know me, knows I am a Nikonist by heart.
I do not mind the other brands, but I prefer Nikon and everything that comes along with it. I got my first DSLR camera as a birthday/Christmas gift from my parents in 2006. I did not believe my own eyes as I unwrapped my present. In my family, the things we go big on in the holidays are the food and amount of people we celebrate with – not the gifts. I remember the tears, the guilt, the excitement and the happiness beyond. It was a Nikon D50.
I did not know what I wanted or needed at the age of 16. When I started high school (I choose to direct my studies towards media) I had never seen Photoshop. We had messed around with some cameras here and there, but that was it. My dad, who chose this camera, knew that one thing was more important to me than anything else: the colours. And the little D50 knocked the socks off my classmate’s cameras when it came to the colours.
No matter where I went, I carried that camera. After I did my first photo assignment and was paid a symbolic fee, I bought my first lens. And then it just took off.
I learned basic and fundamental photography with that camera. And that is what I am going to repeat until someone knocks me over. I learned composition, the technical specs, lighting and how to get the most out of everything. I mean, I even brought it to horse shows. It took 2,5 frames per second, but the memory cards were so slow that the reality was one shot (I could not afford the expensive, fast ones). For each jump, I had one shot. I remember being so burned the first summer because I always went to these shows to practice – and I always wanted the sun on my back.
And the practice paid off. Big time. In under a year I was working with the best equine photographers in the area, I was invited to join a national newsroom with equine photographers and journalists. All within a year and before my 18th birthday. I am not saying it was not hard. Of course, it was. It took every cell in my body and more. Constantly being exhausted, but also utterly happy. I still had the D50 (although, those sunny days really helped out, because anything above ISO 400 was a death sentence). Eventually, I upgraded to a D300s with the money I made freelancing through my bachelors, and then to a D3s into my professional career (but that is another story.)
My point to all of this?
We all start somewhere, with the camera we have. If it is a smartphone, a compact camera or a DSLR. You can practice your fundamental skills on all of them. And you need to practice! You need to practice so hard that you start missing abilities within your tool, and I personally recommend breathing in that frustration, because it lets you appreciate the upgrade even more. At least it did for me. Today I like to believe that I photograph in the same way with my iPhone, as I do my D3s. Now, the quality of the final product is better on the camera – but I can shoot the same image on them both. You see where I am going with this?
(My point to this is to show you that if you think, and work, you will (most of the time) get the result you are looking for, with a simpler camera. Use what you have and work your way up. And yes, we all agree I have a cleaning job the next week.)
The next time you catch yourself thinking that you could do better with a more expensive camera, I urge you to dig deep. Think about why you need a better camera. If it is for the technical specs (because, the reality is that we all grow and develop new needs, and that is how it should be). But a good photographer will get the job done with the equipment they have. Because all it comes down to is craftsmanship. The camera is a tool to communicate what we need to communicate. Our message does not change with the tool. If you have a bad tool, you need to work harder – but if you have a tool you can not master, I promise you that the result will be even worse.
And good communication is key to all good photography. If you blame your camera, I am convinced that it is the photographer behinds fault.