7/10/2009

What makes a good photographer?

Every now and then I'll come across someone who compliments my work and follows up with, "You must have a nice camera!" Before when I first took photography seriously I would be offended with this statement, because whenever I enjoy a piece of art, music, or food I never ask the artist, musician, or chef what sort of brush, instrument, or pan they use. So, what's the difference for photographers?

My theory is that there are cameras with automatic modes available for consumers that make it easier for them to use. Some people might come to the conclusion that a good photographer is good because they have a good, expensive camera. They forget that just like any other craft it's about technique and how the photographer chooses to use the camera. If you put several photographers in a room and tell them to shoot the same scene you will get different images, because every person sees life differently. That's what makes photography beautiful. It's a conversation between the photographer and the viewer.

"So, if I can get a hold of a camera with lots of buttons and capabilities than I will be able to take awesome photos, right?" No, not really. That is unless, you know how to use it and understand what everything means. A musician is praised for the way they compose a song and write their lyrics. They had to learn the art of music and songwriting. If you want to take good photos you have to learn the art of composition and lighting and how you can achieve that with whatever camera you use even if it's an iPhone camera, a $20 toy plastic Holga camera, or a Canon 5D Mark II. The camera is just a tool and it's up to the photographer to create art.

If someone who doesn't understand their camera can take good photos the question is can they repeat what they did and do it again? We return to a chef because they can repeatedly cook up our favorite dish, so if you want clients to return to you for your consistent style of excellent work then learn how to use that camera you've got. So, next time when you come across an awesome photographer ask them how they got the photo they did so you can also learn the fundamental concepts and do it yourself.

And, because a post is better with photos I included some images I took of my sister Niña when we were in Santa Barbara last month. For those who want to know I shot with a Canon 20D (considered to be a semi-professional camera) and a 50mm 1. 4 lens. The f/stop and shutter speed info is below the image.


Niña
ISO 20o, f/1.4, 1/1250

Niña
ISO 200, f/1.4, 1/1250

Niña
ISO 200, f/ 1.4, 1/50

6 comments:

Peter Garr said...

Somewhere between "Monday" and "5:30 AM" is an artist's hands and a 20D. Self portrait?

Jen May said...

Hah...what? I didn't understand your comment, Peter.

Jen May said...

oh!!! i just saw what you meant. You found me :D

Peter Garr said...

I always look for the photographer in shots that have reflections... i'm weird like that. lol :-)

Miah Klein said...

Amen Jen, this was a great post. I love the comparison of artist, cooks, musicians and photographers. It takes skills to shoot and you have them.

Jen May said...

Thank you, Miah! And, Peter, I like to look for photographer's reflections, too :)