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Photography Tools vs Technique



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When I was speaking to Ellie’s Digital Photography Class I was asked about the importance of Photography Tools vs Technique. It’s actually a very fascinating and provocative question in photography. I’m happy to share my thoughts about it here for you.

What Photography Tools Actually Do

First, let me say that a camera is essentially a box that holds film or a digital sensor. And a lens is glass with a mechanism that allows light to pass through. Photography, in a nutshell, is when you draw with light, allowing it to pass through the lens and through the camera body to your film or digital sensor.

I could kick myself for writing that paragraph that dumbed down photography. However, I wanted to illustrate the point that photography is more dependent on the photographer, not the box and lens the photographer holds.

My answer for Ellie’s class involved an analogy: let’s say you want to build a house. Sure, you could build a house with a hammer and nails (and a saw, and other tools); however, you could build a house faster if you had better tools. Notice I didn’t say a better house. The quality of the house isn’t depending on whether you have a hammer and nails vs. a nailgun. The nailgun just makes your process a lot more efficient.

Why Photography Tools Aren’t Everything

With that analogy in mind, let’s go back to our Photography Tools vs Technique debate. I have created really cool images with a shoebox. I’m not even joking! I’ve made a camera out of a shoebox before. I poked a pinhole in one end of the shoebox and had film inside the shoebox. And the images looked really cool.

With my current camera setup, I can produce images a lot faster, and a lot more efficiently. When I’m at a wedding I can shoot a beautiful portrait, checking for density and color if needed, then send it to my iPhone using my app, and then airdrop it directly to the wedding planner, the bride, and the wedding florist before I ever get in my car at the end of the night. That, my friends, is using the best state-of-the-art tools for photography in an effective way.

Photography Tools vs Technique : Why Technique is Everything

However, none of that has to do with my technique. That kicks in when I’m looking through the viewfinder and thinking about what I want my final image to look like. Do I want to crop out distracting elements in the background? Or, maybe leave in elements to an image to improve composition? Perhaps I want to slow a shutter down to capture motion or crank it up fast to freeze action. All of those decisions are made in a fraction of a second when I’m composing each and every one of my images.

Furthermore, my vision is what separates me from other photographers. If tools were the end-all, be-all in the Photography Tools vs. Technique debate, then anyone with the same camera would product the same results. Obviously, we know this isn’t true. You can have the best gear in the world and if you don’t know how to use it, or don’t know effective composition tools and techniques, you won’t create compelling images.

The Photography Tools vs. Technique Debate is Settled.

Take the image above as an example. The composition has so much to do with that image. Lighting and tone are important, and posing is crucial. But making the subject feel comfortable in front of your lens? Well… that just might be my superpower and the most important skill of all. A nice camera or the perfect lens won’t do that. They’ll help you get there faster, but they won’t put your client’s mind at ease as she poses in front of you wearing only a sweater.

I think you’ll agree with my answer that in the Photography Tools vs Technique discussion, the technique is everything.

Or maybe you don’t agree? Let me know in the comments section and let’s start a conversation!

Talk to you soon,

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