How to: Take Better Photos – Equipment

Comments that make most photographers want to punch someone in the face:

“This camera takes good pictures.”

“What kind of camera do you have?”

“I would take more/better photos, but I don’t have a good camera.”

Why? Because your camera doesn’t matter. A camera is a box with a hole in it. Literally. People make kickass photos with cardboard boxes with holes punched in them all the time. So don’t blame it on your camera.

Cameras Don’t Take Photos–People Take Photos

If you’re a good photographer, you’ll take good photos, even with a piece of crap disposable camera. Likewise, if you’re terrible, the fanciest Hasselblad won’t be able to save you. Think of a camera like a musical instrument. A great musician can sound good on a bottom-shelf instrument, but they’ll be wonderful on their own axe, knowing its quirks, and using a quality product.

What About Zoom Lenses?

Zoom lenses are a lie the photo industry has been selling to consumers forever. Are you on safari photographing lions? No? Then you don’t need a fancy zoom lens. The regular little zoom that came with your camera is good enough, and if it isn’t then you probably aren’t doing it right. Your other option is what my dad calls the “tennis shoe zoom,” which roughly translates into “get off your lazy ass and get closer to your subject.” Zoom lenses have multiple elements, and the zoomier they are, the more they have. This may sound like a good thing, but they compress space in a weird way and the trade-off for distance is aberration. Also, the longer the lens, the harder it is to keep it steady.

SLR vs. Point-and-Shoot

A single-lens reflex camera (SLR) has a viewfinder that lets the photographer look directly through the lens via a prism, while the shutter and film/sensor are directly behind the lens. This definition is starting to break down, because most digital point-and-shoot cameras also have this function, though by different means. So, in the digital world, DSLRs have big honking lenses with manual controls and nice big sensors. Conversely, point-and-shoot cameras are small, portable, and easy to use. They typically have all-automatic controls and are designed to be toted around and used by people who want to push a button and have the camera do the rest.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of camera. SLRs have better image quality, work better in low light, and are faster. P&Ss are portable and convenient. Remember, the best camera is the one you use. Having a fancy SLR with fifteen lenses does you no good if you never have it with you. Almost all of the photos I’ve posted to Go Go Go so far have been taken with P&S cameras because I know how to use the camera to get what I want, and portability is more important to me in these cases than image quality. There’s no right answer, so work with what you have.

[Apologies to my dad for shamelessly stealing all his best advice.]


4 thoughts on “How to: Take Better Photos – Equipment

  1. I just recently got a Nikon D7000 as a replacement for my Canon Rebel XT. It came with a 18-105 lens that was far longer then the old one. I am enjoying it on the hikes when a mountain is in the frame. It picks up awesome things like the glaciers and interesting rock textures better then the old shorter lens. I also like it for when I want to really play with depth of field. I agree that you don’t need a super camera to take good pictures but having a super camera does provide wonderful tools to do interesting photos with. If someone does invest in a super camera with a long lens they should go the distance and get a super tripod to go with it so their images are nice and sharp.


    • Super tripods are indeed a good investment! Even a non-super tripod will make most photos better, especially if you have a non-super camera. Also, your Nikon probably has a more-super sensor than your Rebel, so that might be what’s giving you an edge. I got a D3200 for xmas and the speed of it is blowing me away. I got so used to using my P&S that I forgot how fast SLRs are.


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