Motivation comes from many places. I was originally motivated to write this blog because I couldn’t find good information on the technique and philosophy of street photography on the internet. There is info… but the majority of photographic discussion on the web today is geared towards… well… gear.
Wanting a new piece of equipment is pretty natural. Man sees shiny object. Man believes shiny object will help him accomplish his goals. Man spends money on shiny object. Man forgets about goals. Man moves on to next shiny object which will help him accomplish his next fantasy goal…
This paints a pretty dim portrait of humanity and is admittedly one sided. Gear is necessary to take photographs and a computer is necessary to organize them and post them to the web. Another great example of gear reliance is underwater photography. I could not have taken underwater photos without 70 lbs of extensive gear.
Unlike street photography however, underwater photography is a real niche market. On the street your options are wide open. So why do we fret about gear so much when we don’t have to? Well probably because everyone is talking about megapixels, Nikon rumors and what video modes come with their camera. And we want, nay… crave to get with the times.
The internet is a massive place that has made information gathering and distribution very efficient. On DP review you can see the details of photographs with the latest cameras all next to each other so we can see who’s winning the ISO wars, the megapixel wars or the smallest camera wars. We are measuring the stats of our equipment very precisely, but at what cost?
The cost of this hype is that we lose focus on what matters. And what matters is technique! Increasing the quality of your equipment will increase the quality of your photographs. But not by much. Increasing the quality of your technique will increase the quality of your photographs… by leaps and bounds.
While some may dislike the fact that they cannot buy their way into making great photographs (as so many ads would like to tell them), I happen to appreciate it. If all photography was was a game of spending money, it wouldn’t be an art form or much fun.
So how do we get out of the trap? Well… I would say buy a cheap film SLR for starters… But you don’t really need anything new. Go ahead and use the camera you have. The zen for any photographer is using a camera they’ve used for 5 years or more. That’s called gear intimacy (cue in the Barry White).
If you want to spend money, instead of buying a new camera, buy a book or class that will teach you the proper ways of using your existing camera. Debate the techniques of photography… Not the stats of some plastic image maker.
In conclusion, all of the hubbub about measuring all these stats only distracts us from what matters most – patience, lighting, keen eyes, and a quick trigger finger. Pay more attention to these practices than the latest digital whirly gig out on the strip and your photos will become much better… they may even mean something to you ;-).