Most of us have found ourselves thinking if we should go for a camera with a sensor that offers a more dynamic range or the one that offers both high quality video and photo functionalities all in one go, and so on. Naturally, the one question I get asked a lot is what photography equipment I use. I wrote this blog answering to that, hoping that I’ll get some photography myths out of the way, making it easier for an amateur to begin and for a photographer to keep going. I strongly believe that the camera you are carrying affects the quality of your photography just as much as a pen affects the poem a writer is penning. This is to say that in photography, it is not so important to have the best camera out there. It’s about constantly training yourself to look at the world through your camera lens, getting off your butt and shooting every time you have the chance, and then carrying on with it just a little further till your knees hurt or your hands feel sore. The math is simple here- shoot till you drop. Capture those 100 bad pictures before you finally get the one that you’re quite satisfied with. And even after that, don’t stop.
While I do have a collection of lenses and a powerful camera body to resort to, it’s not my gear that I rely on when it comes to taking a picture. In September 2016, my documentary film ‘What Would Beethoven Do?’ for which I was the lead cinematographer, was screening at the Port Townsend Film Festival. I found myself on a ferry from Seattle to Port Townsend for that. The ferry overlooked a gorgeous view of stunning blue waters and all I had with me was my iPhone. So, did I not shoot because I didn’t have my professional camera with me? You’re kidding. I pulled out my phone with the excitement of a child high on candy and photographed away from various angles, experimenting with perspectives and framing. Did the images win any award? No! Regardless, I always remind myself that I’m a photographer because it gives me joy, not because I want to accessorize my passion with awards.
If you are an amateur photographer looking for the perfect camera to begin your adventure with, I suggest this strongly: stop looking, start working. The best camera is the one you are holding in your hands right now. And this holds true equally for someone with the most advanced gear out there and for someone who shoots with their phone.
What I firmly believe is that the essentials of a good picture lie in the mind of the photographer. How you choose to portray the subject, how you make use of the location, whether you use lighting to sculpt or flatten your subject to build a mood as well as the story are all tiny decisions that decide the quality of the photograph or the shoot. While the resolution is only one aspect of a picture, there are other features that, if pulled off well, can bear you an excellent image. These include creative use of light, finding the ideal perspective and frame, and including and excluding elements that add to the mood of the picture. As you can see, none of these require an expensive lens or a professional camera body.
In January 2018, I planned a fashion shoot like I plan all my shoots- teams were set up and locations were finalized. However, I decided to execute it with an iPhone instead of my DSLR. I walked to the location with no accessories or big cameras. I made use of ambient light, timed my pictures to the mark, and at the end of the day, I was satisfied with the work I had done. Looking back, I realized that it did not matter to me while photographing if I had my camera with me. I felt the same sense of elation and fulfillment behind the phone screen as I usually do behind my lens and that always reflects in the photographs.
At the end of the day, you rely on your conviction, skill, and the will to be experimental and creative to take you a long way. If you hand a Jimi Hendrix guitar to a random person on the street, they won’t be able to curate the kind of music that the man himself made. So it’s never about the guitar, or about the camera in our case. It’s about how much effort and heart you’re willing to put in taking that perfect shot and what lengths you’re ready to go to that decides how great a photograph you would be able to create.
The best thing to do is to begin with what you have and to do what you can and to learn in the process. Because that will take you further than having an expensive camera with no skill will. Happy photographing!