Santa Fe New Mexico Family and Children Photographer – David Moore» Blog Archive » When the best camera is the wrong camera

Sign up for our email newsletter of tips and news



This is the photography blog for photographer and writer David Moore. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico but speaks with a funny accent.


    Keep in touch

    August 3rd, 2011

    When the best camera is the wrong camera

    Next time, I'll follow her lead and just bring the point and shoot

    Every now and again someone who sees some of my work tells me, ‘Your pictures are really good, you must have a really good camera.”

    I know they mean well, but it’s a bit like telling Lionel Messi that his football boots must cost a lot, or a chef that she must have a really good stove.

    Most of the time, it’s not about the gear, it’s about the intent and skill with which it’s used. You could put me in a Formula 1 car but I’m not going to set any lap records around the Nürburgring.

    The right tool for the job

    I’m just back from a week’s vacation in California with the family. I took hundreds of photographs, almost exclusively with the intent of helping me remember the good time we were having. I had no time or inclination to get more serious than that, and it shows in the pictures. I like lots of them, but I don’t think they’re anything special.

    I used my 5D Mark II and the 24-105mm f/4L. It’s a great combination – I recently shot a whole feature assignment for a magazine with it – but it was massive overkill for family shots in Legoland.

    By the end of the second day of lugging it around, I would gladly have swapped it for a Canon G12, Panasonic Lumix LX5 or a bunch of other decent point-and-shoots. The images would have been more than good enough and my back would have thanked me.

    I’m not going print my family shots very large, the light was bright and so long as I shot RAW I could easily make any minor processing adjustments. Given my intentions and constraints, a smaller camera would have worked a lot better. I might not have been able to shoot in burst mode to get decent images of my wife and daughter as they sped by on a roller coaster, but that’s about the only concession I would have had to make.

    If I’m taking my time and am serious about the images I’m working on (especially if someone’s paying me), or if the environment is tricky in some way, then I’ll follow Samuel Jackson’s advice in Jackie Brown: ‘The Canon 5D Mark II – the very best there is. When you absolutely positively gotta kill every image in the room, except no substitute.’ (at least I think that’s what he said, more or less).

    But you don’t need such firepower a lot of the time, and the camera’s not going to create great images if the person behind it isn’t really trying.

    So yes, I do have a really good camera, but I still take bad pictures with it. And I take much better pictures with a less good camera – some of my favorite images were taken with my old Rebel XT and the plasticky 50mm f/1.8, and I love some of my iPhone shots.

    Where’s the Un-Suck button?

    The takeaway from this is two-fold. Firstly, a good camera isn’t going to get you good images by itself. I know this sounds obvious, but I also know how long I’ve spent poring over camera and lens reviews, when I could have been taking photos with the camera I already have, or learning something from a good e-Book (this one on black and white processing is great, by the way).

    The second conclusion is that (fortunately), the things that will get you good images don’t cost very much – intention, time, practice, experience, patience, thought.

    Canon and Nikon don’t sell those, just like there’s no Unsuck button in Photoshop, and they do take effort to acquire but they’re light, cross-platform and you always have them with you.

    But sometimes you’re just taking photos of your kid like a normal civilian; and that’s OK too.



    Comment with Facebook

    2 Responses to “When the best camera is the wrong camera”

    1. Olympus EPL2 review, PEN, EP3, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7mm | Santa Fe, New Mexico Children and Family Portrait Photographer - David Moore Says:

      […] owner of an Olympus EPL2 – one of the well-regarded Olympus EP PEN series. My experience lugging the big lad around Legoland was a step too […]

    2. rashard Says:

      Wow, i learned this lesson on my last family trip too. Im getting an EP1 asap!!! Nice post

    Leave a Reply