Saturday, January 21, 2012

Become a Photo Myth Buster

I'm often amazed at some of the myths more than a few photographers continue to believe or subscribe to. Like most myths, today's photography myths grew out of various degrees of truth.

Let me begin by citing one of the biggest myths of all: Great photographs are a product of the best (most expensive) gear.

In earlier photographic times, better gear probably was responsible for producing many more great photos than cheaper, less reliable, and poorly manufactured gear did. That, of course, depends on your definition of what constitutes great photography. The truth which spawned the myth is still true to some extent, again depending on your definition of great photography.

Let's take another myth, this one contained in a phrase I still often see on the covers of photography magazines and in other media: "Secrets of the Pros." It's a phrase I see used as a headliner for articles and advertisements which claim things like, "Secrets of the Pros Revealed!"

Again, this myth once contained some truth. Perhaps quite a bit of truth. Mostly, because it was so much more difficult for budding photographers to access and learn about all those so-called secrets. Today, with the web providing such easy access to all kinds of learning media, whatever techniques once held close to the vest by professional photographers are just a quick and easy Google search away. There might once have been secrets, but they've all been revealed for some time now.

Here's another myth: Talented and experienced photographers who go pro have a better chance at success. Again, there might have been a bit more truth in that statement years ago but, these days, talent and experience have so much less to do with being successful, as a pro, than things like business acumen, marketing savvy, and simple luck. Photographers who suck at photography can still be financially successful via photography. Those who can't dazzle others with photographic brilliance can always baffle (and by so doing impress) others with their bullshit. The notion, "terrific photographers have a better chance at success," is better made into steer excrement by the fact that so many non-photographers don't have a clue what constitutes good photography. Perhaps more so today than ever. That can be a good thing for some and not so good for others, depending on your level of skill and/or your ability to spin your photographic know-how or the perceived quality of your photography, whether it's actually good or not so good.

There are still more myths subscribed to by quite a few photographers. Generally, photographers who believe the myths don't know much about photography. Leastwise, not as much as they think they might know. And it's that ignorance that many manufacturers of photographic equipment and other purveyors of all things photography prey on.

Here's my advice: Become a photo myth buster. How do you do that? By learning as much as you can about photography. You see, the more you learn the more aware you are and the more you'll be able to easily identify the myths and the bullshit you're constantly being bombarded with. That alone is a great reason to increase your knowledge and skills. Doing so might not make you a fantastic photographer but it might, if nothing else, save you time, effort, and money.

The pretty girl at the top is Penthouse Pet, Shawna Lenee.


Bill Giles said...

Gear = tools. The more tools you have, the more choices you have for doing what you want to do, but you have to know how to use those tools. Expensive tools don't do anything on their own. You have to have a vision of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to do it. Learning = doing. The more you do, the more you learn. People who get out and shoot are more likely to get the image they want than people that don't get out and shoot. It sounds simple, but it's not. It's like driving. Once you get some experience, you don't have to think about what you are doing, you just do it.

jimmyd said...

Bill-- I'm not arguing against having a fair amount of gear. But all that gear doesn't need to be the top of the line. I have plenty enough gear to give me a variety of choices when approaching different photographic situations. I don't have them all covered, obviously, but then I don't pursue all genres of photography. I consider myself a specialist, not a generalist. And in my specialty, I have most any situation covered, gear-wise. And I've worked hard to learn how to apply the gear I use in various situations. As you said, it's also about knowing how to use the tools, not just having them.

Rick said...

Gear. A carpenter can build a house with a handsaw but can do it faster and probably better with fewer mistakes with a circular saw, a miter saw and a jig saw.

For me Craftsman tools are adequate because I'm not a professional carpenter and they won't stand up to the needs and rigors a professional puts that gear through.

The knowledge that a professional carpenter has will allow him to accomplish his tasks to the level his client expects with inferior equipment but not with the ease his professional equipment affords.

If I were a professional photographer I would NEED a Nikon D3/D4, but since I'm not, my D300s is more than adequate for my needs but appropriate gear is important.

The Photodawg said...

The best gear you can own is what is between your ears and a great eye. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.
The greatest photos in the world were shot with manual cameras, without built-in meters or artificial lighting.