Don’t Get Stuck with Your Gear – Pursue Your Passion

A lot has changed since digital came around in 1999. Film has always been about quality – all kinds of it, too. It was about resolving power – we have Fujichrome Velvia for that now; it was about color accuracy, which also suits the former as well as, say, Fujicolor Superia Reala; or, for those who want sharp and vivid, there‘s always the beautiful Kodak Ektar. Now, however, there’s one kind of film for all those purposes. Just as film was finally providing the quality, the age of digital sensors came. And, some think, wiped film‘s quality ambitions off the table as if it were dust. We now have one film that can do everything – low light, color accuracy or vividness, sharpness and endless manipulation possibilities. One film that fits all.

Engagement session

I am a wedding photographer and I love what I do – it wouldn’t be quite as exciting and rewarding without digital photography. The speed, flexibility and quality I can get out of it in almost any situation is a must and has to go without saying in this kind of business today. Every year feels like a leap – better cameras, better lenses and even when it seems there’s no way forward anymore, manufacturers surprise us again and again. But there’s still something missing. With all the advances and new technologies, new ways of making our photographs more technically perfect than ever before, with all the new cameras every year, it always seems to me as if there’s something vital missing. What is it?

I remember buying my first ever camera – it was about 5 years ago. A cheap, rather bulky even by older standards, it was a very basic point-and-shoot, Canon Powershot A430. I loved it. Every bit of it. Those 4 megapixels were amazing (you still think that the D700 has low resolution?)! I was thrilled. Took it everywhere I went. It even did video, which was just as great.

Engagement session

The next time I was thrilled was when I decided to buy my first DSLR and retire the point-and-shoot (I really only now understand how much I miss it). I bought myself a used D80. Suddenly those 4 megapixels were almost nonexistent. I left my point-and-shoot and never looked back. The realization of what quality and speed is hit me so hard I could never believe I was satisfied with the point-and-shoot I used to have. I didn’t quite know at that time I was slipping away from photography as a form of art and expressing myself into technological abyss, where the point of everything was to shoot with better equipment just because it was better. Not because I loved photography or needed that equipment. Thrilled. I guess I was in the very far left of the “Stages of a photographer” chart, where everything I shot was pretty, just because the camera was better:

Stages of a photographer

The D80 was great, but lacking something. I realized that my need for higher quality, no matter the circumstances, was growing rapidly – I pixel-peeped instead of concentrating on composition and visual content of my photographs, my emotional attachment. And I wasn’t happy with the noise I was getting above ISO 400. It sounds silly now. I saved up – it took a while – and bought myself my first lens (apart from the kit) – the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G, my most used lens today in both my daily photography and wedding photography business.

When I bought it, I expected a quality leap once again – the same kind I had when I switched to the D80. It never came in the form I thought it would, and there was one simple reason for it… At that time, I don’t remember myself stopping down below the lens’ widest aperture, f/1.4. Not once. It was a revelation. It stayed there, glued, a constant, as if there were no other settings I could ever use. I then thought it was what I wanted. The quality was fine and I was able to use lower ISOs even in difficult light, but the best part was the shallow depth of field. “This is it”, I thought. “This is my big break. I’m now ready for a masterpiece of my own”. And I shot. I shot my first wedding with this duo. And looked at reviews I’ve already read before. And pixel-peeped. Same as before – I was thrilled. Same as before – I was thrilled by the wrong thing, and because of that I failed to see why I needed it in the first place. Why I truly needed a camera and a lens.

A wedding bouquet

Quality matters, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t go far in my business – won’t go far – without understanding that, and that’s why digital is great. The thing is – the important thing is – quality doesn’t matter as soon as you get that piece of gear into your hands. You have it. If you have it – it’s good enough, or you have to make it good enough. Then, only photography matters. Only the composition, the visual content and emotional attachment. The context. The story or lack of one. I failed to see it. I failed to see the difference between my work and my personal projects.

Then I bought a used D300. Now, I thought I’d be in love with its amazing autofocus system. I was. I thought, too, I’d be in love with its speed, and ergonomics, and build quality. And, again, I was. I knew I’d be in love with its better sensor and better high ISO performance (I even tried to measure it against the D80, how silly I was!). But none of this mattered. Not a single thing. What I liked the most – and I mean the most – was the color. One would think – “Color? Get a RAW converter, you mug.” No. The color made all the difference. For the first time since the Powershot I had, I enjoyed my camera for my own projects. For capturing my day, my family, my friends, my art, even – not just work, which goes without saying. And I didn’t pixel-peep – I wanted the see the whole picture, literally. I then found myself shooting the D80 at ISO 1600, which, for my business, wasn’t very nice. But I didn’t care – not at weddings, at least. I shot that D300 at ISO 3200. And also didn’t care. For the first time since the Powershot, I was thrilled by the right thing – by photography, and not the gear. By the aesthetical part, and not the technical one.

Wedding preparation

Lets get certain things straight. For wedding work, D300 at ISO 1600 is bad. And I mean bad. There’s basically not that much detail to speak of, nor dynamic range. It’s true that, with careful exposure and quality light, the shot might look a stop better than it is in your everyday situation, but weddings don’t usually give you the luxury. At ISO 3200, in real life situations, shooting at f/1.4 in terrible light, it is dreadful. But there’s this simple question that puts everything into places – is it better, for personal work and sometimes weddings, to have an image with poor technical quality than not have one at all? I’d choose the poor quality simply because sometimes (more often than not for personal photography), it works. I’d choose aesthetics over technical stuff any day.

The first dance

This shot was made using the Nikon D300, AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8G at 17mm, f2.8, 1/50 at ISO 1600. There was no light. And I really mean no light, only a couple of those disco lights you can get, very direct and focused, and it also was colored, very vivid too – it alone was enough to smear the detail. I had to use a lot of fill light and some exposure compensation in Lightroom later on. The AF, as can be seen with closer inspection, missed somewhat. Yet I chose to not use the flash. It’s terrible, technically. But works. I gave this particular image to the clients with full confidence, although only this time – I wouldn’t push my D300 so far very often.

I used flash for this next shot; I liked the slightly club-like light it gave me. ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/60th of a second, same body and lens. I like both shots even though the second one is of better technical quality. They are both, in my opinion, just as valuable – the first one just for the moment of it alone.

The first dance

Let me give you another example, one that concerns my personal life and not my business. This shot was made using… I don’t really know what. It may have been an old soviet Zenit-E SLR with an Industar-50 50mm f/3.5 lens. The technical quality is, frankly, barely a match for some mobile phones. While the dynamic range is much better in a printed (enlarged in a darkroom, I mean) version and the color is not shifted nearly as much (I only scan/reshoot the negatives for preview purposes before printing, and this one was done using a very old Fujifilm super-zoom), there’s still lots of grain and not that much detail in there. But that’s my father! Would I only take a 36 MP image from the D800 of this moment or none at all? No. Any day, I will choose this. And that won’t change anytime soon. In this case, technical quality is irrelevant. Completely. In our memories, we don’t count eyelashes of our friends and wives and fathers – we see lines, shapes, smiles. Not exactly detailed or accurate in color, or anything at all. I want the photographs of my life, of my family to mirror what I remember. I want my memories to mirror my photographs.

My father and a dying seagull

I started out as a photographer, a beginner, with a budget Canon Powershot. I then became a pixel-peeper with a D80. Only a couple of years later I, again, started to become the photographer I wanted to be in the first place. I lost two years. Have you lost any? From the D300 I moved to the D700. It’s amazing, and yet again, while it gives me great technical quality in all kinds of situations, I mainly chose it because of the aesthetics. I didn’t get better as a wedding photographer, because it gave me 1.5-2 stops better high ISO performance over the D300, although it helped a lot – I got better because I tried to learn my gear. Because I learned photography, and not pixel-counting. I was thrilled by the right thing. My passion, finally, was photography – the very point of having a camera and a lens.

That’s me and my work. I strive for quality – I need it, I will take it whenever I can. And my clients need it, too. The thing is, they need less of it than one would think. And thus it’s not my primary goal. I don’t spend countless hours reading and reading and reading about gear I may never have, simply because I may never really need it. Shooting and thinking the way I do gives me the pleasure I work for. It’s fun to work. You should have fun photographing, too. If you’re thinking about reviews and what others said while you should be looking through the viewfinder, there’s a slight chance, dare I say, that you’re doing something wrong.

Be thrilled by the simple things. Pursue your passion.

Engagement session

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Jason
    March 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Awesome post! It’s so true that one can get stuck with a bad case of G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) but the passion for pictures will trump even the latest and greatest bells and whistles. It’s a fine dance between better gear, better glass and better images. It’s nice to see another photog who has walked the same path as I have with the same fun epiphanies along the way. Thanks for the post!

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      13
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:14 am

      I really appreciate your time, Jason, thank you for reading!

  2. 2
    ) Razak
    March 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I used to pixel peep before but now I realized, there are no ‘super-perfect’ camera system which can deliver super-sharp, super-clean pictures the way I want, everytime I shoot. So I lower my expectations. Nobody wants to see my pictures at original size, hence revealing the softness and noise. I don’t make money with photography (more of spending money on it actually). I only have myself to satisfy :)

    I have been using D300s for less than 2 years and few days ago, I bought a new D700 set. I know I’m buying a 4-year old tech, but I think it can help me shoot in poor lighting outdoor or in large hall.

    For me, better equipment can help broaden my photography opportunity.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      14
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:15 am

      They trick here is finding what’s enough, what gives you the pleasure of photographing, I believe. Glad you have, Razak :) Thank you for reading!

  3. 3
    ) Egor
    March 11, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Good story. Almost poetic quality. Obviously, got my mind trashed along with G.A.S. . I don’t expect English 24 on mansurovs.com , but rather information. The “stages” are so true ,though.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      15
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:16 am

      Was my English bad somewhere, Egor?

      Thank you for reading and for your kind comment, I appreciate it!

  4. 4
    ) Hector
    March 11, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Great article, and I really understand your intent. I shoot only for myself and my own enjoyment, but have gone ahead and bought pro lenses as my kit. I have a D7000 which I intend to use for a long time, but plan to add an FX body at some point during my journey. Being a gear head can be all it takes for some of us, I have never minded paying more for quality, knowing that in the long term I will enjoy the returns even more. It is a personal choice, and is only a mistake when someone is sacrificing in other parts of their life for gear that they maybe can’t afford. I pay more for Apple products for the same reason as I bought the 24-70 and 70-200, they are the best, and expect them to serve me well for as long as I shoot. Your point that having confidence in your gear frees you to explore what you truly want to get out of your photography is right on point, and I can relate completely.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      16
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:17 am

      I’ve glad you made choices based on your rational needs, Hector. :) Thank you for your time!

  5. March 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    One of the best reads about the subject I had in a long time. Thanks for sharing this!

    Rafael

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      23
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:27 am

      I’m really glad you liked it, Rafael!

  6. 6
    ) Ole
    March 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Well written, so true, so true.

    Thanks!

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      24
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:27 am

      Thanks, Ole, I’m glad you found it interesting :)

  7. 7
    ) Chai
    March 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Great reading! As a photographer I can relate to this story very much! I always smile when I read most of the negative Camera reviews online…I think a true photographer rather be out and spending time shooting real work in the REAL world! Do with what you have or can afford and enjoy your passion…don’t worry if you have the BEST cameras…LESS IS MORE! there is no perfect camera…you will always have to work around the negative things and make it work for you!

    Roman mentioned Nikon D80 as your first DSLR…I have D70 as my first digital Nikon DSLR back in 2004 and still use it today in 2012!!!

    In 2010, I got my first photograph excepted into National Geographic Magazine and the image that I shot was from my NIKON D70 with 6MP. That’s just to show if you have the “EYE” of a good photographer nothing is impossible with 6mp or 36mp cameras!

    Thanks for all the wonderful stories and real world reviews!
    Chai

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      17
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:19 am

      I’m really happy for your achievements, Chai, you prove well enough that gear is for shooting, not for admiring and comparing. I’m glad that D70 serves you so well. Don’t retire it, I’m sure it has lots of stories to tell :)
      Thank you!

  8. 8
    ) Gibran Ali
    March 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Wonderful article. Love the graph. So very true. I guess i am in the “Damnit, I suck” mode. Yesterday i was listening to some interviews by Jay Maisel and Steve McCurry and they had similar views. Jay Maisel said that i don’t worry about the quality of the pixels as much as I worry about the quality of the picture. And when asked “How to be a better photographer?”, he said, “Be a more interesting person!”
    Great post. I hope we get to read more of such stuff soon. And you write very well.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      18
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:22 am

      Gibran Ali, thank you! Appreciation like this makes me want to write more. It’s the best kind of reward. I hope you’ll come back again. We’ll have content – bigger or smaller – flowing in every day. :)

      Thank you again for your time!

  9. 9
    ) yusuf
    March 12, 2012 at 12:30 am

    So true… you know what Roman, I’ve started loving your words so much so that I can feel every moment you describe here…Damn, you don’t just write…you make us feel it.
    Amazing article once again… I would love to be a wedding photographer, but skills I’ve none…
    I really wish I could someday get chance to meet you n learn from you.
    Keep narrating… :)

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      19
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:25 am

      We’ll be back on the wedding photography topic shortly, I think. You just learn, it’ll happen. I’m still learning, and I will be for decades to come. :)

      Thank you for your kind words. They really make me want to write more.
      Nasim asked us – Tom, Bob and me – to write what we really like and how we really like. I’m glad other people dig this as much as we do. :)

  10. 10
    ) Sergey
    March 12, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I looked for that graph since I saw it two years ago in a article.
    Amazing! We are all so different, but we are so common in photography [can't describe my current position on that graph honestly :)]

    Thanks for the article!

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      20
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:25 am

      Thank you, Sergey, for reading!

  11. 11
    ) Nelson Siregar
    March 12, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Love it….. Really really love it….

    Thanks Roman…

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      21
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:26 am

      Anytime, Nelson, it’s my pleasure!

  12. 12
    ) Gabor Horvath
    March 12, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Very well written article, I love it! Keep up the good work!
    Best,
    Gabor

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      22
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 3:26 am

      That’s the plan, Gabor :) Thank you!

  13. 25
    ) Dovas
    March 12, 2012 at 4:12 am

    The moment and emotion in photography charms me the most. To take a picture like that you do not need an expensive gear, but it’s much easier when you have one ;)

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      29
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Thanks, buddy :)

  14. 26
    ) mi
    March 12, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Great post. What about photoshop or sth like this? :)

    Ps. gearfrenzy… it’s also good nick… ;)

  15. March 12, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Excellent article. You brought light to a very important aspect of a photographer, be it an amateur like or or a professional. Capturing the moment is what its all about.
    PS: I loved your graph. I am in that phase right now where all my work sucks :)

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      28
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Thank you, Muddasir, for your kind words. I’m glad it wasn’t a waste of time to read :)
      The graph isn’t “mine” as such, and you can find in the internet from time to time. Nasim thought it would be a good idea to add it to this article. He was right, too :)

  16. 31
    ) Girish
    March 12, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Awesome article. I always thought I should use ISO200 on the D5000 until I tried and took this picture
    (Hope this link is not blocked)

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2554687311172&set=a.2554686471151.146885.1373630004&type=3&theater

    If I had not pushed the ISO to 1600 on the D5000, I would have lost that moment for ever. Only me and the people close to me could relate to that moment and the picture means a lot to me

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      32
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 12, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Hello, Girish – thank you for you comment.
      It’s a pity, but I can’t see the image. Maybe you could post it on flickr or send a direct link to it (this one’s still facebook)?

    • 33
      ) mi
      March 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

      It’s blocked so can’t see.

  17. 34
    ) Leon Besaans
    March 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Very very true words, but sometimes kit does make a big difference. I am primarily a bird photographer and came from a D60 with Sigma 150-500, to D90 and 300mmf4 and converter to current D90 and 400mmf2.8 with converter, and each step along the way has improved my pictures. Do I want a D4, OH YES, do I honestly need one, not so sure…

    Another thing you dont factor into your argument is “pride of ownership”, and that is a massive factor (not skill factor), Lots of different people spend lots of money on very different things like Harley Davidsons, horses, guns, cars, I choose to spend my hard earned cash on camera kit,

    Keep up the good work, its fantastic reading.

    Regards,

    Leon

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      38
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 12:09 am

      I’m glad you liked it, Leon!

  18. March 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Wonderful article! I can relate to it so much! I don’t have the experience you have, but I recognize some of the stages you describe there.

    I mainly shot interiours the past year – and still do. I was lucky to get access to some of the finest properties around here through working for a startup real estate company… for free. Or rather, for the experience and the fact that through them, I got to know a lot of people, and they helped me tremendously with marketing, and I got a few paying assignments through them. But doing so I became a gearhead, reading reviews, yearning for the more and better because I thought I needed it. When the d800 announcement was made, the product tour video brought tears to my eyes – the first few times I watched it. I wanted it, and wanted it badly.

    Then I got the chance to shoot people – and realized how little I knew of my camera. I only knew what I needed for interiours – I knew my lens, I knew the importance of a good tripod, good shooting discipline (proper alignment of the lens), I knew post-processing for interiours. Autofocus? Nah! Didn’t need it once I figured out the hyperfocal distance (I never turn on autofocus on my wide angle lens). Once I started doing more and more people shots, I realized how little I knew my d7000 (even though I read the manual twice at least). And as I learned more, I realized I still have more camera than I actually need. Fell in love again, but this time it’s different.

    I still want the d800 – it’s the landscape/architecture/interiour photographer’s dream camera. But it’s not urgent. There are far more important things for now – and this was a revelation that came to me about three weeks ago. When switching from point & shoot to a DSLR I realized how complicated it is, but somehow I forgot it as I became comfortable with my skills for interiours. Shooting people changed that. One day I went out with a new friend to take photos of her in Ao Dai (traditional Vietnamese dress). It was an opportunity to practice as well as favour (she helps a shop selling those dresses). We had fun (and she’s also passionate about photography, has a Canon Rebel). While post-processing her pics each shot brought back memories. The good ones. And emotions. I fell in love. We are together now.

    Still pixel-peeping though – not happy when the shot I intended is not entirely in focus (even if it doesn’t show at lower resolutions). That said, an emotional component, a human component entered the picture – literally and figuratively. Interiours – there are emotions there as well, the “feeling” of the places I try to capture, but this is different. Doing this with someone or for someone is different. We have crazy ideas, projects we wanna do together both for learning and … simply for fun. For example, we started planning a fairy-tale series, featuring different Ao Dai models in different fairy tale contexts. For example, red Ao Dai in the Little Red Riding Hood context. The idea is to have trees (like a dark forest) as background, she carrying a basket and an umbrella (black/white reflective to be used with remote flash to lit her body). Needs lots of planning. I wanna create rain. It’s the dry season here, so we need someone with a hose lol ;) But that’s the thing, that’s what passion for photography means to me now. Doing silly, creative, challenging things with photography. And to capture those minute emotions that make people shots work – meaningful memories of the past. And there’s still so much to learn, so much to do with what I have now, that the d800 can wait :)

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      39
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

      This was a very inspiring read, Csaba! A completely new article, I’d say. :) A strong story.
      Do you have those photographs to show? I’d love to see them!

      Wish you all the best. Keep challenging yourself with ideas and don’t write them down, that usually means you’re not going to do it, or do it as well as you could right away. :)

      Good luck!

      • March 13, 2012 at 4:34 am

        Hi Nasim, I’ve been inspired by your website for some time now!

        I took a few hundred shots with her in that park, I put up only 4 of them here (the last 4 ones): http://molnarcs.500px.com/people/ – but there are some lovely and funny moments that I felt a bit too private to share on “official” portfolio, and I figured it’s better to have a variety there instead of a single series.

        I started with landscapes, and I still love landscapes a great deal. I saw some wonderful landscape photography, and I wanted to see and make it myself. Forgot to mention, I fell into the HDR trap I see on your chart myself lol :) Got over it a few months ago, looking for something else in landscapes now. I never thought I’m going to turn a photographer (I mean earning a living by photography). The interiour experience started as a favour (the owner of the company is a friend of a friend) – but then I kept doing it for months, lots of locations, and I realized I enjoy it. Then I realized that I love doing it all – and there is so much more! Photography is endless, there is always something new to learn, new possibilities.

        The fairy tale thing is a year-long project, for now we both have dayjobs and free time on the weekends only. I want to finish one photo/month (and do tons of others of course). But looks like she’s interested in doing more and more – perhaps even setting up a small family business together. I just switched to part-time at the end of last year to concentrate more on photography as business.

  19. 36
    ) TA
    March 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I love that you wrote this. There are so many D800 pixel-head threads on photography forums right now, and usually mixed in are a few comments from wise (or perhaps miserly) old photographers that have seen way more waves of photographic technology come and go over the years. Any way you slice it, a better camera is only going to remove obstacles to creating a great photograph or help us make the same great shot shine brighter. It’s not going to make the great photograph for us. By purchasing the D800 I’m excited to remove a few obstacles and move my D700 into a backup camera role, but I realize at the same time that I’m still at the mercy of my own developing skill set regardless of what tools are in my kit.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      40
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 12:13 am

      I’m glad you found use in this, Teague! Thank you :) I went through your blog – looks great!

  20. 37
    ) Katisha
    March 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Great article. It is really inspires an amateur like me who is just starting in the world of photography…thanks.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      41
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 12:14 am

      You are most welcome, Katisha – I hope it was helpful.

  21. 42
    ) kaieka
    March 13, 2012 at 3:21 am

    great insight!
    i was leaning towards buying my first dslr (going for d7000) but i was second thinking since i fear that i will still not be better at taking pictures if i get one.
    i just have an lx5 and dont bring it anywhere with me either.
    but i enjoy taking photos, and having a smart phone is very helpful.

    thank you for encouraging me to learn more about photography! your page is very helpful for amateurs! :)

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      43
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 3:24 am

      I’m glad that you think so, Kaieka, thank you for reading :)
      Do note that better gear can mean better photos, but only if you’re up to the task yourself and know how to use it to its fullest, which is a very difficult thing to achieve.

  22. 45
    ) Marcin
    March 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Roman,
    It was a pleasure reading your post. I recognize a lot of your thoughts when thinking about my own photography journey. I like very much the “stages of photographer” graph. Although funny, it contains a lot of truth. The photo of your father remainded me almost immediatelly my childchood in Poland and the Zenith camera of my father. Most of the time we needed to deal wit an ORWO film and the paper, but today thse are the most loved photos inour family.
    Keep your good work and take care.

    Cheers,
    Marcin

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      46
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Felt good to read your words, Marcin, thank you!

  23. 47
    ) Tim
    March 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Well written! I missed my very first camera Canon A40 back in 2002 ! It is simply because I took it everywhere to document my life.
    The cameras after that, Nikon 8700 and D40 both are better technically, but they all lacked something.
    In the end, I bought myself a small mirrorless camera, so I can take it everywhere again.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      48
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Good decision, I think – what use is a camera if it’s collecting dust? I hope you’ll make some amazing work with that mirrorless. :)

  24. 49
    ) Tiago Cena
    March 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks for the article! Very insightful!

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      52
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

      I’m glad you think so, Tiago, thank you for reading!

  25. 50
    ) Bishwas
    March 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

    wow! this kind of articles should be included in every photography tutorials and workshops. people get lost in technical frenzies and forget what matters the most; capturing the emotion.

    “In our memories, we don’t count eyelashes of our friends and wives and fathers – we see lines, shapes, smiles. Not exactly detailed or accurate in color, or anything at all. I want the photographs of my life, of my family to mirror what I remember. I want my memories to mirror my photographs.”
    this sums up the whole concept of existence of photography at the first place and that’s about “capturing a part of our life for future”

    great articles. now, every time someone asks me about learning more about photography, i’m gonna direct them to this article!

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      51
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Thank you, Bishwas, it is very kind of you to say this, I’m glad you found it inspiring. :)

  26. 53
    ) David H
    March 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I read your post and felt the truth all over. I’ve had cameras my whole life with a FM, 6006 and a Canon G3 (which changed everything for me). Then came my current D200 and a stray down the film path again with a Mamiya 645d (sold). Your stages of a photographer graph just rocks and is right on. Love this hobby and I’m ashamed to admit I just can’t wait for my new d-800…..

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      55
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 16, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Nothing to be ashamed of, David! It’s a great camera, use it well :)

  27. 54
    ) Alex
    March 15, 2012 at 1:34 am

    mornin’

    I’m not a huge fan of technicalities, but i would plead guilty to having that bug and got over it, and the fact that i can’t afford better gear just made me focus on composition and technique. I have a Fuji Finepix S1000fd, and I personally think that having good gear makes your life so much easier and makes your work a lot more pleasant. I am not a very patient person when it comes to failure due to my equipment, and it just agravates me a lot when i miss a great picture because of focus problems. Another thing that i don’t like with my cam is that it always focuses at infinity, or hyperfocal distance. Of all the pictures i took, around 7k i would say, from the first day i got it, only one, and i do mean ONE, has a shallow depth of field.Everything else is sharp from front to end…i hope i can buy a D7000 and a few lenses this year, although it’s a big problem.
    how’s about you have a look at a few pics i took and tell me what you think?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/van-black/

    that’s my profile. i only uploaded a few pictures that i like.
    10x and have a nice day

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      56
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      March 16, 2012 at 12:45 am

      Hello, Alex, thank you for reading!

      It seems that you don’t know much about depth of field. If you try to focus on something that’s relatively close, 1 meter away, for example, and use a longer focal length with a wide-open aperture, you’ll see your backgrounds melt away. However, if you focus further off, use wider focal length and/or smaller aperture, you’ll find everything to be in focus due to the reasons mentioned and, mostly, the small sensor of your camera.
      Now, it’s not always a bad thing. While DSLRs, and especially ones with big, 36x24mm sensors, will often give you much shallower depth of field, a large depth of field can be suitable for many other applications, like macro photography or landscapes or street photography. The trick is in exploiting the strong points of your gear and not trying to make it something entirely different. For that, different gear is needed.
      If you’re on a lookout for a DSLR camera, check out this guide (http://photographylife.com/gear-guide/camera-purchase-guide). I’m sure it will be very helpful no matter your budget or needs from a camera.

      Best of luck, Alex. :)

      • 57
        ) Alex
        March 16, 2012 at 2:25 am

        thanks for the reply!
        I do know how to get shallow depth of field, or at least how it’s suppose to work. the thing is that a friend of mine has the exact same camera that i have, and it focuses completely different. must be some internal issue on mine…
        i used different apertures and focal length combinations while trying to get the same picture of something and the resulting image has always the same sharpness allover. the only time i get a shallower depth of field is when i shoot on macro a close subject, but the background never melts away, it only gets blurred a bit…this is not the thing that is most disturbing.what bothers me the most is the long time it takes to focus on something, going back and front for ages before it locks on, and when it does, about 30% of the time it misses the focus point

        • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
          58
          ) Romanas Naryškin
          March 16, 2012 at 2:36 am

          What mode do you use on the mode dial at the top of the camera?

          • 59
            ) Alex
            March 16, 2012 at 6:20 am

            i mainly use Aperture, Shutter and Manual, the last one less because it takes a lot of time to set everything the way I want it, and the ISO only goes over 64 if i shoot at night, metering is multi and auto WB, single autofocus, and standard sharpness

            • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
              60
              ) Romanas Naryškin
              March 16, 2012 at 9:10 am

              Well, with in A mode (aperture priority), if you don’t have the aperture closed down, you should get the shallow depth of field this camera is capable of as long as you follow the advice I’ve written above. :)

  28. 61
    ) John
    March 17, 2012 at 6:50 am

    So eloquently put. I couldn’t agree more.
    Moments in our lives pass us by so fast and being able to record certain portions of it is a blessing.
    Like you put it, poor technical photo of a precious moment is infinitely better than no photos at all.
    Thanks for the article. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  29. 62
    ) Abdul Rahman
    March 24, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Roman, great read. I’m enjoying my D90 with the Voightlander Ultron 40mm F2 and Nikkor 28mm F2.8. They’re manual focus so that I do not shoot at will without much thought to photography.

  30. 63
    ) David
    March 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Great read, thanks for sharing Roman. I’ve personally walked the path and can say I’ve experienced each of these scenarios first hand. Looking back, it’s all a part of learning that a technically imperfect shot is better than no shot. If the image is powerful no one will complain about the noise.

  31. 64
    ) Andre
    April 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Thank you Roman for this great article! It’s a nice coincidence that I read your article at a moment where I think about the same thing.

    I am not a professional and used to do lots of photography since a teenager. Somehow I stopped taking photographs (work, work, work, etc.). Six months ago I left for a 16 months trip around the world. Before leaving I thought I should get a shiny new DSLR but resisted, mainly because of weight/size constraints. I left with an iPhone, a point-and-shoot and a Rollei B35 I got for a cheap price, thinking I could use the selenium meter camera when there are no ways to charge batteries and it might be fun doing film again (after all, it’s a full frame camera that fits in your pocket).

    Then I started having real fun shooting with the iPhone/Hipstamatic combination. A point-and-shoot with low image quality but combined with Hipstamatic, it turns into a very creative and non-intrusive tool. And the Rollei was such a pleasure. I only had to think about focus (mostly hyperfocal since no rangefinder on the B35), speed and aperture/DOF, based on very simple selenium meter. I could adjust the settings once and shoot many pictures without bothering about them, knowing they where fine for the scene. Back to the basics and it was real fun. Technicalities out of the way. Just thinking about creation and having pleasure shooting.

    Then I arrived in South-East Asia and saw that the opportunities for photo are so amazing. Combined with my renewed passion for photography I decided to invest in a mirroless system, not wanting to carry a DSLR everywhere I go (backpacking comes with its set of constraints). Then it started. I got infected by G.A.S. “I need a case for the camera”, “I need a fast prime lens”, “I need a telephoto for these river shots”, “I need the view-finder for my Pen”, “Should I get a tripod”, “I need…”. It is very difficult resist to this never ending spiral of spontaneous needs. Beware of very sudden needs that appear like that, out of nowhere. They are impostors.

    Then I received a pile of CDs from the lab. All my rolls taken with the Rollei from the last 6 months. You can imagine the thrill. The scans are bad, low-res, can’t afford better for now. But there are a lot of great pictures in there. Even if they are grainy and the scans are poor, I was taking photographs. I was having fun and did not think about gear at all. This made me realize, again, what you so well described in this article. Photography is not about gear. Often, gear gets in the way because it makes you loose focus on the important part, taking a good picture. Creativity is the most import part, not the tool. I sent the Rollei back home a month ago to compensate for the space in my pack, I regret it.

    On a slightly different note, but still related… This weekend I went out shooting in temples and on the street. It was Songkran in Thailand. I got back home and realized, looking at my pictures, that I did not completely enjoyed the moment. I travel to experience new things, but I kind of missed it because I spent so much time thinking about the camera settings, switching lenses, etc. This is another realization and it is particularly true in travel photography. Taking photographs can get in the way of your appreciation of the moment. It’s great to have good pictures of your travels but it is even better to have great memories. The basic gear was not in my way as much, the new gear is. I know I can use the new camera the same way I did use the simple Rollei, but there is so many more possibilities (technically speaking) with the new one that it is difficult to not think about them. Just another angle to the same idea, learning how to make the technicalities fade away and having all the room to appreciate the moment and taking great pictures, not necessarily technically perfect pictures.

    Thanks again for this article, a must read!

    • April 16, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Very nice story, and I understand your feelings you describe in the last part very well. It’s funny, that to avoid this I took only 1 lens on a trip in January, but constantly missed the ones I left home. Before, when I took all 3 that I have, I found myself switching too much and worrying about gear. Now it’s starting to settle down – I do take my lenses with me, but I got into the habit of using only 1 lens, leave the rest in the room. For example, when I visited this lovely little town by the sea in Vietnam (Hoi An), I took out my 50mm F/1.8 G lens, and used it exclusively. Didn’t have any “what if I had my other lens” moment, just enjoyed shooting what I could frame with the 50. I knew I won’t do landscapes with sweeping skies, I knew the limits, so I concentrated on what I can do, and enjoyed it tremendously. Had my 8-16mm lens for the sunrise and the sunset, again not much thinking there, I knew I wanted sky, and lots of it ;) Nowadays I found that I use 1 lens/occasion mostly, but have others with me for _real_ emergencies.

      The problem before was that everything seemed to be real emergency, and I changed lenses a lot, and missed moments or shots I could have taken by focusing on other things. Now I actually enjoy the limits a prime puts on me, just like you enjoyed working around the limits of your iPhone I think. And I fully agree that _enjoying_ the experience is as important as the results itself, and that they are even related. As with many hobbies, I think there is that “zone” in photography, when you enjoy every moment, and you know these will be good pictures. And quite often, gear prevents people from getting in that zone. Recently I shot the International Pillow Fight Day here in Saigon, lovely event, I was swept up by the energy, the joy of seeing adults play – the loveliest sight I can think of. Shot the whole set with the 50, wide open at F/1.8. Experimented a bit with different focusing modes, but other than that, didn’t bother with settings, just ran around and shot what I could, and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Over 300 pics in 40 minutes – posted most of them here:
      https://plus.google.com/photos/108595456808850731771/albums/5728953786800744785

      And looking at them I feel the same thrill, same joy that I felt when I was there. So yeah, I think you’re spot on. Appreciate the moment!

      • 66
        ) Andre
        April 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

        Thanks for the tip! I like the idea of leaving pieces of gear in the room and make do with what you have with you.

        And thanks for sharing the pics, this must have been fun :)

  32. April 27, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Thank you for sharing such great insights! The photo of your father is incredible and best illustrates your point. Wells King

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      68
      ) Romanas Naryškin
      April 27, 2012 at 7:35 am

      Thank you, Wells!!

  33. July 8, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Well said!

    I think there is too much impetus on equipment and technicality than art or ability. Some of my favourite photography is of old reportage and street photography where the limits of the time created images where lots of the scene is completely black, or very grainy or not that sharp. But the images capture beauty or sadness or an important event. As cameras improve are we going to loose some of the mystery that comes with low dynamic range, noise, optical imperfections etc?

    My first camera was an old tank of a pentax from the 1960s. Part of me wish cameras were still the same today, built to last a lifetime and very simple to use.
    I personally think limitations of the equipment used often make better art.

  34. 70
    ) Carlos
    August 20, 2012 at 3:13 am

    It´s great to read things like this!
    I´ve been in photography since 1990 when I started study a graduated in Photography (I was 19), my first camera was an old Werlisa my father had at home, after a couple of years bought a Minolta X-300s, with that camera I finished my graduated… Time went by and I moved to London, abandoned phtography, no time for doing anything except work work work…; I just kept going in my little free time shootins the streets of London with my old Minolta (wich just broke one day).
    But time went by again and I could afford to buy first a Nikon D3000 and then a D7000, a big jump after Minolta (no doubt), and I expect to upgrade to FX, but no rush… I keep the same passion of the first day, and I go for shooting anytime I can (travels, streets, nature…), which is never enough… And I know about the G.A.S too, it is wonderful to read that that many people share the same feelings that you about photography.
    Thanks

  35. 71
    ) Scott
    August 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Great article. (Although for me, the “I suck” line doesn’t go low enough!)

    I’m coming off the tail end of my gear acquisition mode, and headed right into the HDR valley of death. How you saw that coming I’ll never know :-)

    I know I suck but I know where I want to be. Thank you for affirming I’m not crazy… Just… a predictable line on a graph.

  36. 72
    ) Udonnis
    November 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Many years ago (more than I care to reflect on) when I was starting out in music production, I wanted nothing less than the best equipment so I could practice my skills. I was lucky enough to have sufficient backing to get good equipment. What I did not get was better at it.

    The light did not go on for me until my good friend and mentor the late Gerry Bron told me that my Studer A820 did not contribute to a good performance, nor would it make it a bad one better. I began to realise (with prompting from people far wiser than I) that the equipment that I was using had almost nothing to do with the quality of emotion in music but was simply a tool to capture it.

    Fast forward some decades, lots of sessions, a couple of career changes, kids, heartbreak and love and I find myself back in artistic pursuits. Stricly for myself, not serving anyone or thing, delighting in the chase of beauty and emotion. Working once again on composition and using the tools available to all of us and I read this article. Honest, refreshing and so wise from someone who (I assume) is young. To understand that a camera is just a tool for capturing the sublime is the greatest step anyone truly interested in the image can take. Bravo.

    I rarely put pen to paper regarding my feelings towards equipment, however I am going to just this once….

    I am in love with the engineering that goes into ANY device that can be used to capture the essence of ourselves (humanity). We are enriched by the dedication of those who strive to make us these wonderful things, the pursuit of which is just as creative and rewarding as the art that it serves. But it divides us into two camps.

    The photographer and the engineer.
    The photographer tries to find perfect moments in time to capture.
    The engineer is trying to perfect capturing those moments.
    One can not exist without the other. I will go a step further and say good photographers and good engineers are one and the same – creative.

    So you see there is nothing wrong with pixel peeping, in fact it is to be applauded because without it, the tools we use would not get better. The creative doors that open because of the technology would stay shut and most importantly, the images and tools we admire, cherish and love would not exist.

  37. November 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Good post Roman!
    I really liked that particular part of the post where you said that you wouldn’t discard a photo because memories matter more than the technicalities! I actually face this particular situation quite a lot when I shoot friends and family. There does come a time when I really find it hard to decide whether to upload a particular photograph on facebook or not. Memories v/s technicalities does take place at that time!

  38. 74
    ) Favio
    November 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I became so tired of always wanting the newest camera so I sold my Nikon D7000 and my DX lenses. Now only shoot film using my Nikon F100 and four lenses: 20, 50, 85 and 100 macro. Now I think the choice of film so vital as focal distance, f stop and shutter speed to get the look I want.

    • 77
      ) Nestor
      June 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Hi favio, it would be nice you try a good 28mm. I had in film era a 17 FE, 21, 50, 105 and 400. After selling this Pentax gear and replacing with nikkors (20, 28, 50, 105 and 200 and a nikkor tc200) I realized how important were the gaps in between 20 and 50mm. But speaking frankly it was too bulky to carry, then I started lefting 200 and teleconver at home, using mostly 28,50 and 105 and keeping 20 for large buildings at european cities. Sometimes less is more, I am an amateur, and film is in such a way expensive. I use dx cameras for vacation, travelling, hiking with zooms lens, but when I am not weigth concerned I switch to a fx with a 20afd, 28afd, 50af and an old ais 80-200. With them I feel I enjoy taking pictures, close sensations to the ones when I use my old film cameras.
      Really it is a pleasure reading you enjoy photography more than equipment, perhaps we are dinosaurs.

      • 78
        ) Favio
        June 23, 2013 at 3:28 pm

        I must confess that I could not resist the temptation and bought a Nikon D7100. Sadly my F100 no longer turns on. :(

        • 79
          ) Nestor
          June 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

          Favio if you still continue taking pictures the way you did you will enjoy as before. As I told I went digital several years ago and I enjoy more taking pictures than having the last piece of equipment. Anyway you bought the dx camera I would like to have, I don’t change cameras so often, perhaps when time arises I would change to a 7200 or 7300 (just kidding). The only problem I found with Dx are zooms, believe it or not they make me lazy, I found me several times zoom croping instead of framing.

  39. 75
    ) CK
    February 13, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Owesome post. Thats help to bring me back to the right track. Passion and not the hardware.

  40. 76
    ) Liam
    March 12, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Yes! These were the sentiments that were running in my mind as I closed pages reviewing all these exotic lenses, as I left online forums that spouted negativity more than constructive creativity under the self-righteous banner of “technical correctedness.”

  41. 80
    ) Ankit
    July 12, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Awesome read. Really enjoyed reading till the end. Keep posting.

  42. 81
    ) craig
    August 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Love the chart! I definitely feel like I’m in the middle at “I suck” and climbing back up to ~10%… haha… but I’m on the way out and hopefully back on a “healthy” track!

  43. 82
    ) Shane
    August 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Great post! I was just given a Canon 40D and a few lenses. (I have been truly blessed! Praise God.)
    I’m a techy and love comparing things, so being caught up in specs and gear is hard, but this is a great reminder to just go and shoot and capture memories! Thanks!

  44. 83
    ) Stepan Capek
    February 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Icredible story, incredibly accurate, I can see myself…

  45. 84
    ) Prasanna
    February 19, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Great post ! I have a D7000 with the 35mm 1.8 dx and the 70-300 fx lens. I still waste time reading about D300s, 610 etc. Photography is only a hobby for me and I’ve decided to send more time shooting than reading.

    Cheers

  46. 85
    ) Roscoe Raz
    May 7, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I have been reading gear reviews non stop on your site and on others… I started to get that feeling you describe of something missing there is really nothing my equipment can’t tackle at the moment I just have to remind myself of that and get out more! great article!!!

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