Friday, April 8, 2011

Don’t Upgrade, Just Slow Down

Anchorage, Alaska by Wayne-K
Anchorage, Alaska, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

Only three things in life are certain; death, taxes, and Moore’s Law. Technology improves at an incredible rate. Entry level digital SLR cameras today produce better image quality than the top digital cameras from 5-7 years ago. It’s easy to get drawn into an endless upgrade cycle. Photographers often rationalize new equipment purchases, frequently blaming their existing equipment for poor photos.

“I photographed my son’s baseball game at noon at ISO 1600 and the photos came out terrible….I need the high ISO performance of the Nikon D3s.”

“My handheld photos of the full moon shot at ISO 100 weren’t sharp….I need Canon L-series glass.”

Truth is, we don’t need new anything…our existing gear works great! In fact, every digital SLR camera introduced in the last few years, by any manufacturer, is capable of incredible images. Most just need an adjustment to the nut on the back of the camera. If you need help finding it, check the manual or drop me a note.

As some of you know, I recently purchased a Nikon FM2 (manual focus, manual exposure, film camera) This is an amazingly simple camera. The photographer loads the film, sets the ISO dial, sets the f-stop, sets the shutter speed, focuses the lens, and snaps the picture. The only thing the camera does is meter, the rest is up to the photographer. Isn’t that beautiful? No more blaming the camera. Every bad image is 99.99% the fault of the photographer.

The best thing about the FM2 is it forces me to slow down. It literally takes me 30 seconds to capture a single frame. Part of it is the manual nature of the camera. The other part is the price. It costs me 52 cents every time I snap a picture, so I spend a lot more time ensuring my exposure is correct and more importantly, ensuring my composition is the way I want it. I can’t afford to shoot twenty frames from a dozen different perspectives, so I do all of my thinking before I snap the picture.

I strongly believe each of us can benefit from slowing down. Look at your scene. What do you like about it? What mood do you want to convey? What’s the best perspective to capture it? Once you’ve thought through all of this, set-up the camera to achieve your vision, carefully compose the image, and snap the picture. Slowing down and thinking about each image before you press the shutter release will give you more quality photos than any new camera or lens.

Don’t worry about the equipment, whatever you have is perfect…..just adjust the nut on the back of the camera.

Now dear, about that D700 I saw for sale….


Here are a few shots from the film archives.

Alameda County Fair

Kami and Sammy

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