Does a better camera equals better photos?

Do you think it is necessary to have the latest camera to make good photos?

A common remark when people see my photos is: You must have a very good camera. What camera did you use? From these remarks I think many people think that it’s the camera that makes the photos, not the photographer. But of course it’s the other way around.
I think camera gear is important, but vastly over rated. There are so many good cameras out there and it is getting hard to buy a ‘bad’ camera nowadays. Just notice that the features you now find in an entry level DSLR or mirrorless, you did not even find in a professional camera 20 years ago.

A better camera does not make you a better photographer. The camera by itself does not make good photos.

lone tree on the rocks under a fiery sky in monochrome
This photo is taken with an entry level DSLR with 12 MP. This photo shows me the resilience of this tree growing from the rocks under harsh conditions, but not giving in.

The camera is just a tool

We should remember that a camera is a tool. A better tool can give a better result, but only in capable hands.
If you want to start playing tennis, will you immediately buy the same racket Federer uses? Will you be playing better just by running around the field with the best racket money can buy? Of course it is better to first learn to use the tennis racket (any tennis racket) well, and only after that invest in a better one.
With photography it’s the same. The camera is just a tool and in order to make the best of it, you need to learn how to use it.

As Ansel Adams famously said: ‘The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.

This is one of my best selling photos. It was made with a 12 MP entry level DSLR.

Learn to use the tool

It is you that can make the beautiful photos and you can do that with almost any camera. So first train your skills and then if you want get a better camera. You can learn everything there is to know about exposure and composition with an entry level DSLR. You do not need a 60 MP camera for that. Of course if you want to print your photos really large, the extra pixels will help, but resolution by itself does not make you a better photographer.

So if you’re just starting with photography and looking for a camera, don’t end up wanting all the features and a professional rated camera. Especially if you expect to become a better photographer, just because you have a better camera. It doesn’t work like that. If you don’t print any larger than 60×40 cm I bet you don’t need anything more than 20 MP.

Learn to use you camera, be comfortable with it, so that you don’t have to think to much about camera settings. Then you can concentrate on composition and the use of light. This is far more important than your camera.
Once you have gained these skills, you are ready for a better camera. You can now make the best of your camera.

Emotion or specs?

Remember photography is all about emotion. It’s about imagination. The word image finds its root in imagine. We’re creating sensations and even if the resulting photo is not perfect technically, but gives you a sensation, an emotion, it means you have used the right camera. Only you as a photograher can create these emotions, not your camera. A more expensive camera does not come with more emotion.

cloud over a lone tree
Writing in the sky. To me it looked like this scribble in the sky was pointing to the lone tree. It’s a simple photo that I could even have taken with my phone. Just use your imagination and keep your eyes open

Next time you want better equipment ask yourself if you’re ready for it. Focus on the photos, not the tool. Did you ever ask yourself what pencil Rembrandt used for his paintings or even what paint he used? You probably just admire how he used the paint and pencil and that’s how it should be…

I would like to conclude with a quote:

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.
Don McCullin


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