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Why Cameras and Settings are Irrelevant to Good Photography

undeveloped photographer Jun 15, 2021

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Developing as a photographer, you learn the terminology and hone in on camera settings, equipment, and tech as you go. 

But, it’s considerably harder to teach or learn, how to capture a story in a single moment. Or how to tug on emotions at one glance pulling a person swiftly into that story. 

Have you ever looked at a photograph or maybe a painting and been brought to tears? Maybe they’re happy tears, or sad. Maybe they’re tears from a memory jogged, rattled, and uncovered by what you see, or dare I say feel, from a strong image. 

When you evoke something—happy, sad, or anything in between—you begin to evolve into the artistic director for the photos you create. And the stories that shine from within the frame are solely yours to bring to life.  

Helping you learn to SEE like an artist is the biggest priority in moving the undeveloped photographer to the level of sought-after artist. 

And in a nutshell, this explains why the last question to ask in evaluating an image is what camera or settings are used.

“The last question to ask in evaluating an image is what camera or settings are used.” ~Lee Love, Photo Mentor Academy

A Few More Reasons Why Cameras or Settings Are Irrelevant

If all you had to do to replicate top photographers was use the same equipment or settings, we’d all be well-paid, well-known professional photographers, right? Aha.

There must be just a little more to it! Of course, there is!!  

So, let’s unpack the problem to understand it a little further because evaluating an image is based on many things, and most are not camera or equipment related. 

  1. The first problem is in replicating a moment in time as captured in a photo. You can go to the same place, with the same equipment and camera settings, and still, the situation is different. Any minute changes in lighting, background, temperature, or other small details potentially require settings changes or other environmental or equipment adjustments.
  2. The same settings, lenses, and things from one camera brand to the next for equivalent model specs may react differently. So the ISO setting from one camera to the next, with all other factors the same, may in fact be completely different. I know, it’s supposed to be a standard but in truth, it doesn’t always work that way.
  3. Lighting is always a key factor—possibly THE key factor—in getting a good photo.  And the biggest issue for settings is the lighting! Background light, foreground light, directional lighting factors, and shades of lightness and darkness, or contrast, all matter. The best way to determine proper settings, applicable to whatever camera or lens or brand you’re using, is to test it for the conditions in which you find yourself, or are presented with, at any given shoot. Photography Life defines photography, and the importance of light to the birth of photography, as follows: 

Photography is the art of capturing light with a camera, usually via a digital sensor or film, to create an image.”  

Light Meters and Gray

Understanding how a light meter works at a more in-depth level is essential to understanding how to control the environment for lighting. Realizing everything it sees calibrates against what is called 18% gray, the meter, when set on “averaging,” looks at the brightest and darkest area in the frame and averages them to 18% gray. This concept especially applies in snow, for example, when the bright whiteness skews the average. In this case, you’ll need to think about setting adjustments to compensate. Or to capture the image the way you want, or intend. 

Analyzing the aperture setting may be useful to get a sense of what the focus characteristics (Bokeh) might be, but again this may be situational as well. And, also varies depending on what you’re trying to do. 

Especially when you are an undeveloped photographer, the first thing to worry about in both producing and evaluating an image isn’t about cameras or settings. In time, you’ll understand more and more, and be able to use all of the tools, so don’t worry.

So What DOES Matter in Evaluating an Image?

Simply, it’s the story a single shot tells. It’s the emotional connection you make through a visual depiction of a moment in time. Capturing the eye is a start but tugging at something deeper is even better. Evoking feelings, tears, or laughter takes an artistic eye. 

You can start by focusing on a few key areas. Of course, your skills will expand well beyond these couple of initial elements. But, these are foundational and imperative for you to conquer:

  • Lighting, but you know that now, right?
  • Composition, a major part of creating a story in a photo.
  • Story and the emotions you convey.

To bring forth a story, something deeper than a mere photo, it helps to think about what you are trying to say, in advance. 

Much of getting just the right shot happens on purpose and outside of the frame. It happens as you size up the conditions and environment, along with the impact of light. 

It happens when you bring out the best in your subjects. And there it is when you discover an unusual angle or splash of color. It blooms from how you SEE things. 

Since this is the case, and camera technology is pretty well advanced, you can truly start your photography journey by simply using your cell phone. But, use it with thoughtfulness and intent and you’ll see better results.

How to STEP to Success

The Photo Mentor Academy educates from a methodology created after years of photography research, experience, and teaching by Lee Love, turning traditional approaches to photography obsolete. 

  • SEE: Learn to look for and see what others do not...
  • TELL: Find a way to tell a compelling story to reach the heart, mind, or soul...
  • EXPOSE: Uncover the gibber-jabber techno-speak to understand it...
  • PROCESS: Learn the critical process the digital darkroom offers...
  • Sweet Success: Mix all the ingredients together and find your artistic eye…

The Photo Mentor Academy helps you hone in on, find, and nurture your unique gifts and skills. Your development is what matters, and Lee Love's professional career experience gives you the guidance you need to get where you want to go with your photography. Get updates here.

by: Sue-Ann Bubacz