My Evolution as a Photographer
When I first got into photography in 2009, after the birth of our first child Harlan, I had no idea what I was doing. I spent months researching cameras trying to find the best “bang for my buck.” I ended up buying the most expensive camera our family could afford at that time. I told my wife that the camera I had picked out, while being rather expensive, was going to last our family for years and years and that it was something we could grow into. I spent the first several months documenting our family shooting in the camera’s automatic mode as I had no idea how to use it. The images I was capturing were great, but I knew from being on forums with groups who were using the same camera that I was leaving something on the table. I wasn’t getting the most out of our purchase. I needed something else to be a better photographer.
So that fall I enrolled in an “Introduction to Digital Photography” class at the local community college. That class was eye opening and I cannot thank my teacher, Stacey Evans, enough for all she shared with me. Not just how to use the camera to its full capability, but how to view the world in a different way. How to see what the camera sees. At the same time, however, I was reading the blogs of world famous photographers and watching webinars on photography. I started to play with lighting and light modifiers. I wasn’t able to recreate the same kind of images these professionals were making, however. I began to feel that my photography gear was holding me back. I mean, it must have been the gear right? It was the only thing different between me and the pros!
Dealing with GAS
I got a bad case of GAS! No, not that kind of gas. I got what professional photographer Zack Arias calls, “G.A.S. Gear Acquisition Syndrome.” I began to think that if I only had better equipment I could take better pictures. I convinced my wife, and myself, that my photography class had helped me reach the limits of our current camera and that if I wanted to take better pictures I needed a better camera. So, halfway through my introduction to digital photography class I sold our camera on craigslist and purchased a “bigger and better” camera.
Fast-forward 7 years. Since that first camera purchase I have “upgraded” camera systems a half dozen or more times. About the rate of 1 every year! I had this idea in my head that it was always the gear I had that was holding me back. Now to be fair to myself for a second, my photography was improving and I was learning a good deal about lighting, composition, etc., but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that “gear was the answer!” So I acquired.
Last year, however, I realized what I was doing. I hadn’t picked up a camera in the longest time. I had lost that, as the Righteous Brothers say, “Loving feeling” with photography. Why, if I had one of the best professional camera systems in the world was I not taking photos all the time? Where had the passion that I first had in that introduction class at my community college gone? I knew it was time to make a change. So, what did I do? Did I sell of all my gear and upgrade again? No. Well kind of actually.
Time for a Change
I did sell all of my gear, but I didn’t upgrade. I downgraded! Why in the world would I do that you might be asking? I needed to teach myself that it wasn’t having the best camera in the world that made me a good photographer. It was understanding how to use the gear that I had, no matter what it was, and having a vision and making it happen. Chase Jarvis, world famous photographer, coined the phrase, “the best camera is the one you have on you.” I didn’t fully understand what he meant by that. I always assumed that, in addition to always having a camera on me, if it was also the best camera I could have then that would be better. Right?
Now, I probably could have kept all my gear after having this realization and been alright, but I needed to prove to myself that it wasn’t the gear that made a good photographer. It was me. I was the one in charge of the camera. I was the one who understood the settings, the light, and emotion of my subject.
I am a photographer! Not a camera operator!