I received an email the other day from a photographer who is trying to earn some money at photography. She had been submitting prints to companies that purchase stock photography, but has not had any luck. Discouraged, she wondered if her problem might be that her camera wasn’t making high enough quality images, and thought purchasing a new camera with more megapixels might be the answer.
I began by saying that she should keep on submitting photography and suggested she take a look at her style and preferences in photography and to determine if there is a niche market that fits her subjects.
I suppose any excuse is a good enough to get a new camera. I am OK with that, however, I am not sure that “more megapixels” is the answer.
As long as I have been in photography photographers have blamed their failures on their cameras. It used to be that photographers wanting to become professional, would discard their 35mm and buy a medium format camera because they believed it was necessary to take professional pictures. Then they would decide their pictures still weren’t good enough, so they would sell their Mamiya to buy a Hasselblad, thinking that would really allow them to take professional pictures.
That attitude and rational about cameras hasn’t changed, only now instead of medium format cameras the answer is a bigger sensor with more pixels, and, of course, the belief that one camera company might be better than the other.
Will different camera models and more megapixels make a difference to the image quality? Well, maybe. Perhaps it could depend upon what an image buyer wants and how large the final image file needs to be. Research into that means pages of confusing charts and hours of reading other photographer’s opinions.
I believe we need to be comfortable with our cameras and learn how to make them perform the best. I taught photography for many years and I was always amazed at how much money students spent on camera equipment in order to achieve an A grade, when all they needed to do was learn better techniques.
I am not saying that one shouldn’t get the newest and best photographic equipment available. My advice is to make the choice the depending on the kind of photography one likes to do. However, the camera isn’t going to make a person become a better photographer.
As I write this I am beginning to wonder about that last statement. If a photographer purchases a new camera, they get really excited and go out and shoot, and shoot. More shooting equals more practice and when all is said and done more practice is what actually makes for a better photographer.
With that rationale we could say if a person bought a new camera every six or eight months (that seems about how fast new models are appearing) then that means a person would be improving at least twice a year. Gosh, in two years a person would be four times better than when he/she started!
Hmm… with that reasoning I should tell that photographer to go ahead and buy herself a new camera with as many pixels as she can afford.
Nevertheless, if after her hours of research she can’t make a decision on which new camera to spend her money my advice will be to study the work of successful photographers in her subject area, and spend lots of time experimenting and practicing with the camera she has.
On reading and enjoying your new camera’s for a reason..I wonder if you’ve ever been ask “how often should a person buy a new camera body and why ?? “
Ya know Duncan, No one has asked me that specific question. However, I have friends that always must have the latest in technology. and other than Bragging Rights, it is most likely about what the technology will do for them and, I suppose, if they think they need it to do the job at hand. Now that I am retired from hours of family photos and wedding and the such I don’t have the need. And I don’t have any one that would really care if I bragged about a new camera….
Great post! Once you have a good camera it becomes all about what you do with it and not the tech. I know photographers who do amazing things with out dated old tech. I love having shiny new equipment but it does not make the picture the photographer does. 😊
We do agree Alison. What I didn’t discuss was the difference in technology.
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Interesting read. In the days of film, a camera would last 10 years or more. Nowadays bigger and better happens every month or so.
The real benefit of more megapixels shines if one shoots a scene at f8 or higher and then chooses to crop to a particular “sub-scene” within the photo and enlarge without too much loss of detail.
Your advice is sound.
Thanks for your comment Lignum Draco.
My decision to use full frame and a camera with lots of MP had more to do with the image quality. Sharpness and the ability to crop didn’t factor in to that decision. However, (yep…here is that word “however” again) However, when I made my first portrait using 36mp I was amazed at the sharpness…I hadn’t known that since the days of using a Hasselblad. Then I decided to crop a small section out of a scenic.. again was amazed. I hadn’t known that versatility since my days of wandering with a 4X5 field camera.
You managed to come up with an interesting justification about why it might be beneficial to buy a new camera, i.e. excitement will lead to more use. Maybe that will motivate some to shoot more, but I really think that you hit the nail on the proverbial head when you emphasized the role of practice and becoming familiar with the capabilities and the limitations of the gear you already have. It still bugs me a little when someone looks at one of my photos and says, “Wow. You must have a great camera.” I shoot with a DSLR that is more than five years old and know that practice, persistence, and patience made a bigger difference than the camera. I was mildly amused when one of my photographer friends recently rushed out to buy the newest camera and then found out belatedly that Light Room did not yet support the files produced by the camera (and, of course, more megapixels require more computer processing power, which may mean buying a new computer). I’m comfortable on the trailing edge of technology–it’s cheaper, more reliable, and fits my personality and needs better. Others should feel free to buy the shiny new photo toys!
Yes Mike, as you wrote, “practice and becoming familiar with the capabilities and the limitations” of one’s gear is paramount.
And, “comfortable” is a great word to place on any tool, “trailing edge of technology” or not.
I must admit to, since I began my involvement with this exciting medium, to constantly changing equipment. Like any other tool I just keep moving to what ever fits the job at hand.
I can do that because I have always bought used equipment.
Those that lack the skill with photography and are too lazy to study and practice prefer thinking that what you do has more to do with technology, “Wow. You must have a great camera” lets them off the hook.
Thanks for you thoughtful response. This weekend I am looking forward to shooting some black and white film in a 6×9 German folding camera that dates back to the 30’s or 40’s. I guess that qualifies me as being really on the trailing edge of technology.
I dunno Mike. I think slowing down with a medium format film camera will help refine your skills.
I wrote about my wife’s reasons for returning to an old twin-lens film camera in October of 2014.
Good discussion. I was interested to see the numbers of people working to produce good photographs using “ancient” technology, including polaroid cameras.
I suppose there will always be some that want to experiment with camera technology from before they discovered photography Frank. Good for them.