This is the question photographers are most often asked .
This is also the question which irritates them the most. When Helmut Newton supposedly was asked this by a famous cook, he blustered back “and which pans do you use?”.
So why does this question touch a raw nerve among photographers?
They assume that others perceive the key to achieving their results to be the camera, not them. Their talent, their eye and their experience is not being appreciated. They assume that others feel that would they have the same camera, they would get identical results.
Photographers counter this with similarly interesting statements “the camera is not important”. “I could shoot with any camera”. “I’ve won contests with cellphone pictures” (just stumbled across this somewhere. He’s proudly listing his small arsenal of equipment which would easily cost around $10k. That’s ridiculous. I’d be more impressed if he could pull it off with a Canon 500D or a Nikon D5000 and a kit zoom).
If the equipment were not important, why are they not all shooting with 100$ point and shoots?
Gear IS important, so important in fact that the so sought-after shallow-depth-of-field look is creating high demand for some the fastest lenses available, Canon’s 50mm/f1.2 and 85mm/f1.2. They are not cheap pieces of equipment. Is there any well-known photographer who uses the significantly smaller and cheaper f1.4 version instead of the f1.2, although there is hardly a big difference between the two? I don’t know any. The same goes for the camera itself, for example “Full Frame” and high ISO capability are all the rage right now.
Yes, you might happen to win a contest with a cellphone image. This could happen to both a professional or a rank amateur. It all boils down to luck, happening to press the shutter when all conditions were optimal. A professional might get a few more lucky strikes than the amateur, but that’s it.
The problem is that the results are not consistent. It is simply not possible to get consistently good results with a consumer camera under any condition which can be encountered. Low light. Studio. Rain. Fast action. Single-opportunity situations. Tight schedule. Cramped quarters. Getting published. And so on.
So – let’s go through some typical situations:
* Low light? You’ll have speckles all over with a point and shoot. If you can focus, that is.
* Studio? Your model will run when he sees your camera. If he doesn’t, try triggering a studio flash setup with a cellphone camera.
* Rain? Your camera’s electronic junk after the first 3 drops.
* Fast action? Umm, ever heard of shutter lag?
* Single opportunity situations? Oops, the camera couldn’t focus on the bride walking up the aisle. Yeah, and the kiss happened just moments before.
* Tight schedule? Wait till I change batteries and wait again till I find the menu to pump up the ISO.
* Cramped quarters? Back up, back up. Ow, didn’t see those stairs behind me. Never mind, I’ll stitch a pano in Photoshop.
* Getting published? What? These images are noisy? Come on!
And consistency is what it’s all about in professional photography. Take any situation and be 100% sure to get a great if not stunning image.
This can only be obtained with a combination of an artist’s eye, experience and equipment. Take one away and it just won’t work.