Shoot with what you have

I currently do two days a week in a camera shop. It is great getting to play with all the latest gear without having to buy any and having a job where reading about the latest gear is part of my job.

Part of my job is to answer the question ‘I want to get into photography, what camera should I buy?’ or the variation ‘what camera should I get?’.

Now I don’t get paid commission in the shop I work in which is fantastic because it lets me be completely free to answer that question honestly, and the way I answer it is to ask, ‘what sort of pictures do you want to take?’.

The most common answer is ‘oh, I don’t know. General stuff. I just want to be better at it’.

And that is what this post is about, getting better at the pictures you take. One of the best things you can do is shoot. Shoot a lot. Don’t wait for a better camera to go out and shoot. It is entirely likely that you could do more with the gear you already have.

seagull looking

Here is a seagull looking at the camera. There was a wind and so a lot of gulls were just hovering. Ish. I did have my sexy camera gear with me, but it was in the back of the car and I was eating a burger so I picked up my iphone. It took a few goes but I eventually snapped a shot that was in focus and exposed correctly. I locked focus with my finger by putting it on the picture at the distance away I wanted focus locked at then lifted it and took the gull. Iphones are very slow to autofocus. (if that doesn’t make sense I’m sorry and I’ll do a shooting with iPhone guide at some point. Just know that you can lock focus and exposure on an iPhone and that this is very useful. You can also reverse pinch to zoom but that is a digital crop and you will lose resolution… back to the story).

I always say that there is a triangle. First up is the Gear. Gear matters, but not as much as you may think. Skills to use the gear are what matters. A great camera in the hands of an idjit will not get a great shot reliably (anyone can fluke a good shot from time to time).

So I suggest you learn to use whatever gear you have to the limits of what that gear can do. Learning to use the gear is not about getting good shots. It is about building a library of skills you can draw on. I call these Camera Operator Skills. It is knowing about light and about focus and exposure and aperture etcetera for the gear you have. It is knowing workarounds to get your gear to do what it isn’t really designed to do.

Ultimately being a photographer is about turning what you see in your mind into things people can see outside your mind. This is Vision. All good photographers have Vision. They see the shot they are after before they take it more often than not (obviously not everyone is the same, but you don’t want to be a lucky dip photographer).

Vision requires that you have the Skills to use your Gear. When you bang hard up against the edges of what your Skills can do with your Gear, then it may be time to look at better gear. By this time you’ll know exactly what you want to shoot and you’ll come into a camera shop and say to a guy like me ‘I want to get into photography. I like to shoot wildlife. I tend to shoot macro and I am most interested in afternoon waterfowl. I also want to shoot starscapes and timelapse’.

That is the advice I’d give to everyone who picks up a camera and wants to take better images. Do that. Pick Up The Camera and get a vision in your head and then go out and try to capture it. Shoot, then shoot more then shoot more. When you run out of stuff to shoot, go shoot doors.

Then post boxes.

Then feet.

Then the left eye of dogs.


(PS feel free to share with me your thoughts on this post. Be nice though)

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