The Single Most Important Component of a Camera

Last week, I was asked to photograph an object (for a non-photography related contest submission) in the spur-of-the-moment. Well… to be honest, I had forgotten that I had committed to making this photograph and when the day arrived, I had nothing but my smartphone camera with me -  not that I intended to make the photography with any other camera.

Now I’d like to emphasize that I take each of my photographic tasks seriously, but for the purposes of this particular photo (a stationary subject indoors) the smartphone met every one of my technical requirements:

  • the lens was sufficiently wide;
  • the photo was only being shared through email (meaning the 12 MP sensor resolutions was overkill by approx. 11.8 million pixels);
  • the aperture (f1.8), optical image stabilization and stationary object meant I could effectively deal with dim indoor lighting without having a ‘grainy’ image;
  • basic exposure, focus control and photo editing were able to provide the level of control required for this project;
  • (bonus!) the camera weighs less than 150g, fits in my pocket and so I always have it with me.

In my opinion the smartphone camera was more than up to this particular task. Bringing out my usual rig for this job would have been overkill. You wouldn’t plant a couple of pansies with a 7-tonne backhoe. To me, it would have meant lugging my equipment, simply to make the point that, “I’m a pro, and pros use pro gear. Be impressed!”

When I pulled out my smartphone to make the photo, I was asked, “You’re going to shoot the photo with that?! I thought you were supposed to be into photography…” My heart sank. Clearly, the other purpose in schlepping heavy lenses to a job (when they aren’t needed), rests in controlling the perception and expectation that pro equipment creates (it’s a lesson I’m learning the hard way, apparently). Bringing in ‘pro’ equipment (whatever that is), gives clients the confidence that a photographer “knows what they’re doing.” Sadly, in most clients’ minds - the bigger the lens, the more “professional” and “serious” you are.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I don’t put too much stock into the gear a photographer uses. I’ve known people to sink tens-of-thousands of dollars on photography equipment, believing that better equipment will make them a better photographer - rest assured, it won’t. I’ve also seen incredible photographs, made on what most would consider ‘sub-par’ equipment.

To a large extent, the Canons/Nikons/Leicas of the world, ensure this perception is perpetuated and build their marketing around it. It makes gear easier to sell. However, I’m resolved, in making it one of the primary missions of this blog, to convince you - in the worlds of Ansel Adams: “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!”

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Feature Photograph of the Week - Emerald Reflection 3

 Emerald Lake, BC (inside Yoho National Park) is one of the most magical places in all of Canada. As part of Canada 150, here is the second photo (third in the series) of Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake, BC (inside Yoho National Park) is one of the most magical places in all of Canada. As part of Canada 150, here is the second photo (third in the series) of Emerald Lake.