Creating great photo – Chapter 1: Camera and photographer, which matters more?

There are many occasions where I shared my photos with someone, and I will get responses like “Wow, that’s a really nice picture taken. Your camera must be really good!!” or “What camera you use to shoot this picture?”. To the layman, a good photo means it is because the camera is good. But does a good camera really mean good pictures? Fact is, a good camera will always produce good pictures…… only if the person using it knows how to create it.

Why your camera does not matter?

First and foremost, I would like say, “Stop worrying about your camera and start worrying about how you want to make your picture!!”. If you are going to constantly worry and focus too much on things such as sharpness of lens, megapixels, noise control, or how your camera has limited features, you will most likely not be able to create pictures that will capture people’s heart, because you spend too much time researching on the best cameras and lenses, comparing the different brands etc, when you should be reading up on books and magazines that will increase your artistic knowledge, or going out to make more pictures. Yes a good camera and lens definitely produces better image quality technically, and it is important in getting the right equipment, but the pictures will only be as good as the person using it.

I had seen examples of photographers boasting about their equipments used to photograph a particular bird. He uses a 800mm lens, Nikon D3s, big tripod and flashes etc, and the photos came out really crappy, although its sharp. Another case was when I was at my friend’s wedding and the photographer was using a Nikon D300s, 17-55mm f2.8 lens, and SB 900. Sure he looks very professional, not till when my friend posted the pictures on his Facebook that I saw that the pictures were either underexposed or the compositions were all over the place, practically it was just aim and shoot. And vice-verse I had seen people creating wonderful images just by their mere phone camera. So when asked what would be the best camera? The answer is the one you are holding at the moment.

Below are some examples of photos which I had taken using my phone camera.


Why get a good camera if I can get a good shot with a low end camera?

A good camera and lens will render the best image quality compared to the lower end cameras, eg high iso performance, and to the professionals and serious photographer, optimum image quality is a necessity to fully justify and maximize their potentials in photography. The photographer requires full control over what he desires to create, or requires that particular specifications in order to get the shots he intended that cannot be achieved using a lower end camera. For example, a wildlife photographer would need a very long lens and a body with fast frames per second and high ISO with good noise control, because they cannot get to near the animals and would need to capture the fast action of the animal plus in many situations lighting can be very low. A wedding or portrait photographer would require a fast lens with big aperture eg 1.4, 2.8 to create that lovely out of focus bokeh that you see in many of the wedding and portrait photos. A landscape photographer would require a super-wide angle lens to capture the vastness of the landscape. Different photographers from different fields will invest in different equipments to meet their specific needs.

Below are examples of photos which requires a better camera and lens to get the desired result:

As a wildlife photographer, I require a good camera body that has fast frame rate per second, fast focusing, and a long telephoto lens to capture shots such as this flying tern. The fast focusing and tracking ensures that I am able to focus on the bird and the fast frame rate ensures that I can capture 8 frames in a split second action. The long lens ensures that I am able to get a good close up shot on the bird. A camera with mirror lock up function and a good tripod is also necessary to get great shots of wildlife.

Landscape photographers require a super-wide lens to get the widest possible angle to show the vastness of the landscape. High dynamic range photographs are very popular to landscape photographers, and it requires a camera which has the ability to create a range to different exposures bracketing to achieve the final result. The photo below was achieved using 7 layers of photos from different exposures merging into one.

Night photography requires a sturdy tripod, a cable release and a camera body with mirror lock up and the ability to make long exposures. Low end compact cameras or phone cameras are not able to achieve the same kind of results as to the DSLRs.

Portrait photographers love to throw the background blur with the subject in focus to isolate it. This can only be achieved using a fast lens, lens that have a constant wide aperture. The wider the aperture, the blurrier the background. Alternatively you can achieve similar results using a telephoto lens of 200mm and above.


-Don’t blindly buy a camera or lens just because it looks cool on you or because it is good. Buy only because you need it for the pictures you intend to create.

-Photographers create photographs, not cameras. Cameras and lenses are just a tool to assist the photographer. The better the tool, the better the photographer being able to maximize his potentials.

-You will impress others if they know your masterpiece is taken with a low end camera. You will embarrass yourself if you produce crappy shots using the best camera and lens. So if you are using a high end camera, you jolly well make sure you produce high end photos!!

You may also like:

Creating great photo chapter 2: Visualization


© [Dennis Ong] [DennisOngPhotography], [2012]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Dennis Ong] [Dennis Ong Photography] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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