Monday, September 20, 2010

Is "Better" Better?

My local newspaper ran a front-page story this weekend about a 20-year-old local resident who shot himself in the head with a very small, toy-like pistol. He's in critical condition. I wish him a complete recovery.

The man is an employee of the local Goodwill store. According the paper, he was in the "lock-up" room of the store: a room where donated items that might be dangerous or, I'm guessing, of substantial value are locked away.

Police aren't sure if the man attempted suicide or it was an accidental shooting. At this point, they're also not sure if the gun, which they describe as a miniature, "toy-like," weapon, was a donation or the man brought it into the store with him.

According to a Goodwill spokesperson, items such as handguns are sometimes found in the boxes and plastic bags that are dropped off as donations. Usually, the spokesperson said, items such as these are believed to be accidentally included with other donations. When items such as guns are discovered amongst donations, local law enforcement is called and they pick up the item and do whatever they do with it.

Which brings me to photography. (Great segue... not.)

Just like a miniature, "toy-like" handgun can still kill or nearly kill, a camera (miniature, "toy-like" or otherwise amateur-ish) can still take killer pictures.

I'm not suggesting everyone go out and purchase a "toy-like" camera to pursue photography. I am suggesting that the latest, most expensive, professional cameras are not absolutely required for snapping great images.

The man in the story above is in critical condition. I'm not making light of his condition. I feel very bad for what happened to him. Still, the analogy to photography, make that cameras -- sad and tragic as it is -- is obvious. Whether he shot himself with a miniature, "toy-like" handgun or something more weighty and (seemingly) more lethal is moot. The fact remains that he lies in a hospital bed, in critical condition, from his injuries.

Photography is so much more than gear. In my ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, I wrote, "You can have the best gear that money can buy and still shoot photos that suck."

Gear is important. The "right" gear, that is.

The Big Two regularly release new versions of their cameras. Certainly, each released version has exciting new bells and whistles and capabilities to play with. But are all those new functions and abilities requisites for taking better pictures?

I suppose that depends on how you define "better."

If your definition of "better" means photos with more pixels and higher resolutions, less noise at high ISOs and more, then I suppose these new products are better.

If your definition of "better" means new cameras which automatically capture more engaging photos, images that touch viewers in "better" ways, more evocative ways, well, in my opinion, these new products are not better. They are merely the same in that, fundamentally, they all do the same thing: They all are capable of capturing images, both good and not so good.

Sure, different varieties of cameras (and accessories) make sense for some genres of photography over others. If I were a sports photographer, I'd certainly choose a camera with high ISO capability, a big buffer, quicker processing, suitable resolution, and more. I'd also want optically terrific, fast, long lenses that are incredibly precise and reliable when it comes to auto-focusing. Yeah, I'd certainly choose a camera like that over a Holga for shooting sports.

Still, there are people wielding Holga cameras, perhaps not shooting sports, who capture incredible and memorable images with their Holgas.

More from my ebook: "While one person might be shooting with the latest-and-greatest and the next is shooting with more commonly-seen gear, guess what? The one with the ordinary equipment is, often enough, just as likely to capture photos as good or better than the gear-head with all the really neat and expensive photo-toys."

Please send your prayers, well-wishes, positive vibes, whatever is your way, to the young man lying in the hospital as a result of the terrible tragedy that happened to him.

The eye-candy at the top is Jayme shot in an empty, tile-walled room in an abandoned hospital in Los Angeles.


Ed Selby said...

My first photography teacher told me, "A camera is just a hammer. It is a tool you use to get a specific result."

If you don't know how to swing a hammer, you'll smash your fingers.

Jakub Vosahlo said...

I second that. I learnt the hard and very expensive way that the gear I can use to capture the kind of pictures I like is quite common and cheapish...

Being a heathen, I cannot offer my prayers, but still I wish the guy who shot himself a full recovery.