Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Most Important Tool In Your Gear Bag

Good Morning Everybody,

Can you believe we are almost at the end of 2011?  Time flies when you're having fun.  We've got some personal items, Christmas with LaDawn’s family, on our plate today so let's get on with today's post.

The Most Important Tool In Your Gear Bag

F-StopsHow important are F-stops and shutter speeds in your life?  In many of the comments I read on my DPT posts the question comes up all the time about why I used this shutter speed, that F-Stop, a certain ISO, etc…..  and it got me thinking.  Are those numbers all that important?  Well, the quick answer is of course they are.  But let me ask again, are they the most important aspect of photography.  I would have to answer categorically - NO!

Of Course F-Stops and Shutter Speeds Are Important

Wait, don’t leave yet - hear me out. Obviously shutter speeds and F-stops are important to your photography. The proper use of both, including the appropriate ISO all can be used to finesse the image to it's final result.  Shallow depth of field can be used to isolate the portrait subject from the background. Panning a race car at a slower shutter speed can really increase the feeling of motion in the finished image. High altitude ISOs allow us to capture images never before possible.  And all this is good.

But, what is the best thing we can learn to do for our photography? Better said, what is the most important item we need to practice, learn, and still continue to practice if we want to be a great photographer?  The answer - learning how to see.  And that includes knowing how to effectively spot and capture the moment and compose the image for maximum impact for the viewer.

Too many photographers get "mostly" wrapped up in the "nuts and bolts" of this profession, let's call it the "craft" of this profession.  And that is good - it's the "mostly" part of the previous sentence that will "kill" any chance of you becoming a great photographer.  You may indeed be a good photographer but never a great photographer if you forever languish in the nuts and bolts tool shop of this profession.

The Journey To Greatness

GHreatness -A photographer can become great if he/she constantly strive to learn how to see and constantly raise their expectations as to what the final image should represent.  Visualization is the key - knowing in your mind's eye what you want the camera to capture.  And, unfortunately this important element does not come easy or fast to many photographers.  For most of us, our journey to "greatness" is a process that we need to exercise often, if not everyday.

I’m surely not claiming any greatness on my behalf.  I still look over my images and know I could do better.  But one thing I continue to do - is practice, practice, practice!  I love the piece of advice I received from one of the outstanding photographers of our time, Jay Maisel, when I asked him why he always had his camera with him.  Jay quickly answered, "You can't take a picture without a camera, and you never know when that great photograph will come along.  I'm always ready for it."

It was an eye opening remark for me as a photographer who has been in business longer than I will admit in this post. I nearly always had a camera with me where ever I went.  The difference today is that I ALWYS have a camera with me now - yes, ALWAYS!

And did I say practice was important too - of course.  I defer to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule he references in his book "Outliers".  The bottom line of that chapter was that great/successful people spent 10,000 hours working on being great and/or successful.  How many hours have you got invested?  Are you close yet?  And even when you invest those 10,000 hours, is that it?  Is that the time to quit?  No, it’s time to start your next 10,000 hours.

Not many photographers care about being great.  But some us want to push the envelope.  Some of us want to continue to learn and grow. To not do so would be anathema to ourselves and our profession. How great do you want to be? The choice is up to you.  Maybe it’s time to set aside the nuts and bolts for a while and simply grab your cameras and practice, practice, practice!. 2012 is just around the corner so let’s all set new goals and shoot for the stars.

-Food for thought.

p.s. You may also like this related article entitled:

How to Be a Great Photographer [link]


Hey gang, that's my soap box speech for today.  We've got a family gathering this afternoon and Chef David needs to return to his kitchen duties and continue with all the preparations.  So it’s off with my camera and on with my apron;~) Then dash away, dash away, dash away all!

I'll plan to see everyone tomorrow for another Business Day Thursday post.

Have a great one and I'll see you then,  David


  1. One can never over practice. I take a camera walking to the mailbox, always 2 in the car, and never plan on being "great". Shoot whatever is near by, and I let the camera decide what it should do. Now with digital we don't to push or pull process developing slides, just + - and that is it, but practice makes (almost) perfect. Learn something new every day, then practice it for a lifetime.

  2. I started keeping a camera with me at all times a few years ago. I am far from a professional, but I always have my Olympus point and shoot TG610 and usually have my DSLR with a large lens handy too. I shoot while driving, walking, talking and yes even cooking. I used to always ask myself, "why don't I have may camera...grr" No more!