Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New Camera Placebo Effect?

Since the digital photography revolution began, there's a big reason camera manufacturers have released so many new cameras in fairly quick succession. (I'm mainly talking about professional caliber cameras here, mostly of the SLR variety.) Certainly, that reason has much to do with breakthroughs and advances in digital technologies. But there's an even greater force driving the new camera market: Photographers buy them.

Nothing wrong with that.

Why so many photographers continue to purchase new cameras so often is a fairly no-brainer question: They do so in hopes of improving their photography.

Again, nothing wrong with that. Most all photographers want to improve their photography and, if you look at the advertisements that accompany new camera releases, improving the user's photography leads the campaigns to sell new cameras.

But does the hype match the results?

Sometimes, perhaps it does. Other times, not.

I am mostly of the mind that a photographer's skills (existing skills and improving skills) coupled with creativity are the two biggest factors in making great photos. I think most of you would agree with that.

There's no doubt that many new cameras will make "better" photos. Leastwise, from the perspectives of things like resolution, fidelity, and more. (Glass, of course, also contributes quite a bit to these technical attributes.) But will the best-of-the-best in cameras and glass guarantee great photos? We all know they will not; not on their own they won't.

But in the same way placebos seem to sometimes improve some patients' health when pharmaceutical companies test new drugs and medicines, I wonder if new cameras sometimes improve a photographer's results (in more than technical ways) via some placebo effect? In other words, I wonder if some photographers--that is, those who believe his or her new camera will automatically make better pictures--actually realize more great images? I'm talking more great images from the perspectives of creativity and, what appears to be, photographic skills.

There's much to be said for a photographer's level of confidence translating to better photos. That's especially true when shooting people and probably even more so when shooting models. If photographers truly believe they can snap a better picture, regardless of why they believe it (you know, like because they have that new camera) some of them might actually become better photographers simply because they believe they are better photographers with that new camera in their hands.

Go figure, right?

Anyway, just some stuff that popped into my melon today. I think I'm going to go take some sugar pills and see if they help me out with a few of the things that ail me.

I can't recall the name of the model above. (Click to enlarge.) It's one from a commercial/fashion shoot some time ago. All natural light aided by a couple of reflectors.


james said...

Very nice photo, an alluring woman.

John said...

Yeah, what he (james) said.
Very, VERY nice.

Eleazar Paradise said...

Great post. I'm a big believer in doing everything I can to better myself using only an entry level DSLR. Why? Because that's all I can afford right now, I have no choice. I will say that recently other photographers with very expensive cameras have complemented me on my work and then asked what camera I shoot with and I say a Nikon D5000 and they have a look on their face like "Wow, not bad for using a cheap camera". I'm really trying to get GREAT with the D5000 so that one day I am phenomenal with something like a 5D Mark 2.

Pawel said...

Yeah, go figure it out. I recently read a lot about placebos and oh boy, they do work and it's like a magic.

Belief does magic, so if you believe the new camera will do the trick then it will, even if you consciously know it. More often than not.

And it's up to marketing guys to make you believe that ;-)

Don said...

Gee, I just don't know. When I started as a photographer in 1968, I really knew nothing much about the craft. I knew that I would have to seek an education in photography. I learned about composition, studio lighting, using natural light and the color of light at different times of the day. I used a manual camera with 3 or 4 lenses. Now that I use an expensive digital SLR, I am thankful that I learned to shoot and think with the manual system. We learned that the camera was just a tool. The most important equipment in our arsenal was our eyes. I saw a lot of guys buy the most expensive Nikon cameras and lenses, yet couldn't shoot to save their lives. I still see a lot of that.
Now, I'm not knocking buying expensive cameras (That seems to be all there is these days), but vision is in the EYE and the trained brain. No one becomes a respected photographer without having those 2 things going for them. Not one of "the "Gods of Photography" needed anything "automatic". The only thing that digital photography has given me, is instant gratification in seeing my images sooner.
The Photodawg

jimmyd said...

@Don- There's a lot to be said for the value of instant gratification. Look what it did for the pudding and flavored gelatin industries. :-)