Ottawa Family Photographer - Low Cost Gear, High Quality Images
"Wow, your photos are so nice! You must have a really expensive camera! I could never do that because good cameras cost too much" This well-meaning comment came from a woman I was chatting with at a playground. I've heard it more than once.
It appears that the impression many people have is that in order to produce a great product, you need to spend a lot of money. There is often a misconception that the more one spends, the better their results will be. For the most part, this is NOT the case. High cost does NOT equal a high quality product. The most valuable tool is not in your camera bag, it is you! Your ability to use your equipment will allow you to produce stunning results without breaking the bank. So let’s go ahead and explore how your ability to take good photographs is not determined by the cost of the equipment, shall we?
When I started taking photos professionally, I was using a Nikon D7100 (a DSLR camera intended for enthusiasts or hobbyists) with a 50mm f1.8 lens (in other words...a kick-a$$ lens). This is still one of my favourite lenses today, and I expect that it will be in my camera bag forever. It is also in the camera bags of so many pro photographers. It allows me to capture beautiful blur in my images (bokeh), is excellent for low-light situations, is extremely sharp, and very fast for taking images of those quick moving kids! In other words, it's the perfect lens for so many situations, and you can snag this lens second-hand in excellent condition for approx $120.
Another lens that I absolutely love is actually a little slice of history. The Helios 44-2 lens is an old lens that is no longer in production. Talk about a slice of history, the "made in" stamp on the bottom reads "made in USSR". The artistic effects that this lens offers is truly unique. The Helios 44-2 has the ability to produce a pin-sharp focus while still creating a magical swirly bokeh (blur) effect in the background (see image directly below). Understanding how to use this lens to create the best image is priceless. Fortunately, this lens in mint condition can be purchased for a mere $67 CDN, right from Ukraine, including shipping! Shocker!
Do I have expensive camera equipment? Yes I do. Most professional photographers do, because of the technical advancements that are required in some situations. For instance, my current DSLR, the Nikon D750 is a WORKHORSE of a camera and it's performance in low-light situations is truly optimal. That being said, it is not a requirement to creating beautiful, powerful images – and that is the real goal, isn’t it? In an extremely low-light situation, my old Nikon D7100 would have created a much grainier image than my current D750. But does less grain MAKE the photograph, or is it the actual image? Is it the way in which the photographer took the image, the emotions captured, the colours, the perspective? I think it's the latter, and no doubt many of you will agree.
All the camera upgrades in the world isn’t going to teach the person holding the camera how to create a truly powerful image. Find a person who has a keen eye for creating an interesting image and give them a starter camera kit. Then compare their imagery to that of the ‘photographer’ with deep pockets but no artistic talent. The camera won’t help the second photographer create art. Only the artist can do that.
If you have an interest in creating art and think that photography is the medium for you, don’t let the cost of some equipment intimidate you. It’s who's behind the lens that will be the true creator of the art, not the camera and lens. Part two of this post in a couple of weeks will show EXACTLY this. Stay tuned, because I will take the same images with both pro and beginner gear! This is going to be fun!
To emphasize my point, read this feature from local Ottawa photographer Michael Higgins.
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Higgins, Ottawa, ON
"I was photographing dogs one day with my Nikon D610 (DSLR used by pro and hobbyist photographers alike), and the shutter mechanism failed. It's now six months later, and my beloved full-frame D610 still sits broken in the closet.
I'll get it fixed one day, because its superior ISO capabilities (light sensitivity) make it better for action dog photography, but in the meantime I am using my old Nikon D90 (beginner DSLR), and for a majority of my landscapes I use an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II lens (the kit lens). These pieces of gear are about a decade old, but the stuff I put in front of it and the thought I put behind it are never outdated.
Take this photo "Bonsai Island" for example (pictured above). Camera makers didn't manufacture this miniature forest on an old stump and bill me for it. Nature did it for free. Also, they didn't set my pre-dawn alarm either. I did that, and getting up early and being in nature ensured that I found this charming little island during a time that it was wrapped in a sublime ambiance.
My humble D90 and plastic lens did a fine job, because they have all of the essential features needed to do so. After all, a camera just captures light. It is photographers that have the vision!"
Here's a fun comparison. "The Placid Jock River" was taken with a pro lens that costs a nice bit of change, whereas "Oak on a Floodplain" was taken with beginner gear. Both are stunning images. So I will say it again, the most important gear in your photography arsenal is YOU!
Now, if this blog can inspire just ONE person who has always wanted to try photography as a hobby but was discouraged by the cost of gear to actually go out and do it, I will be a happy camper!
Be sure to check out Michael's web pages, just click the links below: