What They Got Wrong

From time to time, I check out videos by Ted Forbes, in his The Art of Photography channel on YouTube. This week, he has a video entitled What They Got Wrong.

Forbes comments on the recent introduction of new cameras by Nikon, Canon, and Fujifilm, and especially the reactions of users on the internet. The way people gripe about the features in these new cameras, the way they get into fights, as he says, about SD card slots.

The problem, as he says, is that “it’s like we live in this Ray Bradbury novel of this dystopian future where we have all these amazing tools and nobody creates anything with them.”

And he’s right. I hang out in some photo groups on Facebook, and read some forums, and most of the talk is about gear: what’s the best lens, what new features in this camera do I need, and, by the way, check out the great case or bag I bought.

One reason I started the PhotoActive podcast was to talk about photography and not talk about gear. It’s not that we don’t mention the tools – we recently had an episode about how to use a wide-angle lens – but that we don’t discuss specific items, we don’t obsess on new gear. The goal of the podcast is to discuss creativity; what you need to know to create, and how to be more creative.

As Forbes says, we have all these great tools, with far more features than the great photographers ever had, and most people don’t do much with them. To be fair, there is a group of people who are more interested in the gear, and that’s fine; if they want to amass a collection of lenses and bodies and discuss it, there’s nothing wrong with it. This is what keeps the photographic-industrial complex alive, and always will. But it would be great if more people tried to make photos that have something to say. There’s nothing wrong with documenting your family, your vacations, and your pets (I take lots of photos of my cats). But if you really care about photography, you need to try to do more.

I often say that the best way to learn about photography is by looking at photos. Not on Instagram or Flickr, and certainly not in photography magazines, but rather photo books by artists. I have reviewed a number of books on my photo website, but you can find lots of great books to inspire you and show you how photography is an art form. Instead of buying that next new lens, buy a few photo books, and get inspired.

0 thoughts on “What They Got Wrong

  1. Even in the days of photo/chemical photography, most people had Brownies for snapshots. It’s the same today, billions of snapshots taken which will never be edited or even viewed. It’s always been a rare breed that excelled at photography, same as today.

  2. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Kirk.

    I admit to suffering from an intermittent ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’, but it’s limited to film cameras, since I mostly shoot film, and film cameras typically fascinate me more than digital cameras.

    My only DSLR is a Nikon D200; it was introduced almost 13 years ago, but it’s still a great camera for my needs. More importantly, I’ve just barely scratched the surface with regard to the features and capabilities it can offer — wanting to upgrade to a ‘better’ camera makes no sense to me at the moment, because I still haven’t outgrown this one.


  3. This is similar to stereo equipment. People were more concerned with the “sound” of the amplifier then the actual music. The Beatles and other groups from that era, produced some of the best music ever recored with “primitive” studio equipment.

    • I was going to mention that, thinking about audiophiles, but I decided against it. It is similar, though people listening to music aren’t creating anything. You could say that, however, about guitars and other musical instruments, though that’s more to get a specific sound.

  4. Some truth to that. Several years ago, I went on a group photo walk. Just about everybody had their best cameras and foot-long lenses. I had a Nikon D80 and a mid-range zoom. At the end of the day, my submissions received two honorable mentions. The fellow who won best photo submitted one of graffiti (is a capture of somebody else’s art work art?) Anyway… it still comes down to the “eye”.

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