This is a question that I am asked on a frequent basis. The expectation is that as a professional photographer I will provide a short list of expensive photographic equipment and a detailed review of the useful features.
The answer is simple – your eyes and whatever camera you have with you.
This may sound a little glib or perhaps a cliché but let me explain. Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. The camera is just a tool in a similar way a chisel is to a carpenter.
Sure, when I am on a professional shoot, I will use full frame DSLR needed for high resolution client images but when relaxing it is likely that my iPhone is my only companion. I can immerse into the moment, enjoy my art without worrying about the 10kgs of expensive equipment to lug around.
I also get hooked into debates about camera brands. Canon v Nikon or what about Sony? everyone has their opinion and favourites. The internet is packed full of expert reviews and camera comparisons. New models are released on a frequent basis, each promoting must have new features and optimisations encouraging owner by their influence become a better photographer. Now for instance a debate rages about DSLR versus mirrorless (sorry photo techy) but again there are many pros and cons of each and will absorb late nights of research followed by searching for the best deals.
When you eventually buy a camera, it comes with a thick user manual akin to the size of War and Peace. Packed full of features, some you never knew that you actually needed. Hours then consumed with camera in hand going through the menu and configuring the software in a way that will optimise your photographs. Pixel shift anyone?
Perhaps instead of the manual, pick up a photographic book, look at the images for inspiration first then read. It will talk about all the elements that come together to take a great photograph – things like depth of field, shutter speed, light, etc.
‘Old School’ – The Perfect Photograph
Often, I will go to my camera cupboard and pull out my very first film SLR. Just to hold it in my hand is wonderful. The cool to touch metal casing that is reassuringly weighty and tactile to hold, it feels like an old friend encouraging me to go out and play. No automatic exposure, no automatic multi-point focus and not even a flash – let alone one that automatically pops up when too dark. It is simple, a complete joy to use and with capacity limited to 36 frames, taking the perfect photograph is an experience very much top of mind.
That first camera is a Pentax MX and I am now on my seventh Pentax camera, a digital full frame pro camera. Why? Well, I have tried other brands but ergonomically the usability of my camera feels the same way as my first camera – a joy to use. Intuitively thinking about the photography rather than the technology.
As well as my personal joy of taking photographs, I take great pleasure in going on a photoshoot with someone new to the art form. Sharing my experiences, encouraging them, then watching their pride when they capture a great photograph. Any takers?