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Thread: Gear vs Skill

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    Ausphotography Regular JimD's Avatar
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    Gear vs Skill

    The question is - Gear vs Skill

    Of course skill is the answer, but that doesn't detract from the fact that great gear enhances skill.

    Thoughts?
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    No. Skill is utmost. I could give a non-photographer $50,000 of the best gear and they will still take 'non-photographer' photos. Train them how to use that gear and it all changes. So I disagree that 'great gear enhances skill'. I would say that skill enhances the use of great gear.
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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Is there a fuller version of the question?
    If the answer is "Of course skill...", then so be it, and the Q doesn't need to be asked.
    A begged question is one where the answer is built in, like:
    "What do you think of this great photographer's work?"
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    Ausphotography Regular
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    No. Skill is utmost. I could give a non-photographer $50,000 of the best gear and they will still take 'non-photographer' photos. Train them how to use that gear and it all changes. So I disagree that 'great gear enhances skill'. I would say that skill enhances the use of great gear.
    Good view point Rick.

    With photography gear, it's really not that much more difficult to master good gear (as in top level gear) as to master entry level gear.

    I don't know about the oft said advice of a novice cutting their teeth on entry level gear, unless they're 'sucking and seeing' photography to see if it's going to be long term hobby for them. If they've made that descision, I don't see any problem with them going all out from the get go.

    I still believe that good gear enhances skill.

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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    I agree with Rick for the most part, and further with Jim, simply because while it's true if you gave a $50k camera to a non-photographer, they;

    A) wouldn't know how to use it
    B) probably don't know how to take a good image

    giving that $50k camera to a photographer of intermediate skill who understands what a good pic is and how to get it would open the door for them to make those good pics.

    It surprises me, and I often laugh at how many people say things like "Gear means nothing, a good shooter will make good images with any gear" and I find that often those spruiking the notion are those who simply don't have the gear.

    If we think about this for a minute, we know that statement is untrue. Shooting entry level gear will in many cases simply not allow you by virtue of it's limitations to get the images you could get in the same shooting scenario with pro gear. Low noise in low light, AF in low light, high frame rate, fast focus tracking, high sync speeds, shallow DOF, DR, colour/contrast etc are all things that can mean the difference between making a good pic and a terrible one, or none at all.

    Whilst good gear won't instantly make a shit shooter a good one, it certainly helps a good one do more, and often things they couldn't do with entry level gear otherwise we would all be shooting box brownies and $50 P&S cameras with fixed lenses.

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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    I agree and disagree. I think a beginner with basic body and good lenses is still going to take better photos than cheap lenses. Even if you are not great from a composition perspective, the focus times and sharpness of a good lens will always help.
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    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    A good example here is, can you take just as good a photo with your iphone as you can with your DSLR in every circumstances? I would love to say yes, but sadly I have missed so many photo opportunities because I wanted to travel light.

    In the end it has to be the right gear for the job - add the skill and you have success.

    Personally myself I have had a real wake up call here. I did a stock take of the amount of gear I have accumulated over the years and got a REAL shock. I sometimes work with a tog who has one semi pro body and one basic "L" zoom lens. He runs rings around me with his skill in using this equipment. Needless to say I am going back to basics.
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    Go the Rabbitohs mudman's Avatar
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    i think image content is most important
    i saw a photo taken with an imstanmatic camera of a giraffe at a water hole with a crocodile hanging off its snout
    image quality was awful, but a major London daily published it due to the wow factor
    cc and enjoy

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    I have witnessed this on 3 occasions personally now, someone upgrades to top gear from entry level and it defiantly does not make someone a better photographer but we all tend to agree on that. Having said that, I do think that a developing photographer will present better photos and will improve as a photographer with better gear - ie a move to FF.
    One thing I think comes out of this question is - better gear challenges a photographer and if the photographer takes the challenge to push the limits on the new great they may very well become a better photographer, but if the person decides not adventure with the gear the person but just continue to take happy snaps, high quality happy snaps but happy snaps just the same.
    Please be honest with your Critique of my images. I may not always agree, but I will not be offended - CC assists my learning and is always appreciate

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    imo it can work both ways. you give a beginner a camera with a f/3.5-5.6 lens and get them to take a portrait, then same camera, same everything except an f/1.4 lens, and assuming they can maintain focus, the f/1.4 portrait will be a better photo, making them a better photographer
    Successful People Make Adjustments - Evander Holyfield

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    I see lots of great images from people who have relatively little photographic (technical) skill but who have great ideas, often with the software skills to massage whatever images they have into something much better. If you need proof of this then just have a look at Flickr, RedBubble or similar sites.

    I think that this is specifically the biggest change in photography in the last 100 years (since George Eastman introduced roll film, the Box Brownie in the 1880's and Kodaks service to process and print it's images). This is because just as George Eastmans Brownie allowed people to take a picture, and Kodak did the rest, modern technology has largely removed a need to have technical skill or knowledge to create images of a very high technical standard. You can just press the button and now the technology and software does the rest, instead of Kodak. This has allowed vast numbers of very creative and imaginative people to 'photograph' without any of the skill previously needed to print a B+W print, shoot on C41 or particularly E6 films. Those same people would never in a million years have engaged in what used to be called photography due to it's many technical hurdles. Most people are just not wired the way you needed to be to process and print B+W, to shoot large format, or even medium format. It's just too hard. But that level of skill is obsolete, at least in what used to be called photography. Now similar levels of skill are required in programs like C1, Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix or various other image editing applications.

    Sure high skills levels are needed for various high level work, retouching, printing etc. but this is often outsourced even today. I wonder if people like Annie Leibovitz, Thomas Demand or Gregory Crewdson know how to use Photoshop? I suspect so but they probably don't need to.

    I've seen large prints from a point and shoot camera which are technically far superior to images that could have been shot with 35mm film or 120 medium format film. In fact better (better resolution, sharper, into the corners) than I can shoot with my 5D2 and some very high quality lenses. A point and shoot camera!

    Conversely lots of people with in depth photographic knowledge, experience, skill and equipment still only manage to create quite mediocre images, images that may well be beautifully composed, lit, executed, but lacking the spark or idea that makes an image interesting, engaging or even memorable. It's one thing to play technical tricks with shallow depth of field, tilt/shift lenses, or extraordinary post processing techniques, but it's another to shoot an insightful image that is remembered for it's content, not it's technical quality.

    Ideas and imagination make great images, not equipment, or even photographic skill.

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    Obviously great equipment in a fool's hands will still take crap photos, but no matter how good you are, it can be very hard to overcome the limitations of cheap lenses or gear.
    * Shots taken with tack sharp quality glass is going to look a whole lot better no matter how good the tog.
    * A very slow lens isn't going to take good shots inside a dark venue, especially with moving subjects like people.
    I've heard those sorts of arguments argued against by saying that a good tog with crap gear would take the shot differently to make up for the limitations of the cheap lens etc, but that's not always possible - there's only so close that you can get to a distant mountain range in a scenic shot, there's only so much you can do with a slow lens when you need a fast one. Being a better tog will definitely HELP overcome bad gear, but I don't believe limitations of bad/wrong gear can be totally overcome in every instance.
    Last edited by Ezookiel; 07-04-2013 at 10:23pm.
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    Conversely lots of people with in depth photographic knowledge, experience, skill and equipment still only manage to create quite mediocre images, images that may well be beautifully composed, lit, executed, but lacking the spark or idea that makes an image interesting, engaging or even memorable. It's one thing to play technical tricks with shallow depth of field, tilt/shift lenses, or extraordinary post processing techniques, but it's another to shoot an insightful image that is remembered for it's content, not it's technical quality.
    BAM!


    Too many times in life and on AP have I seen people constantly upgrading or possessing high end gear, which never equated to the final product I have been seeing.
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    Yet, There are certain equipments that all the "successful" creatives and luminaries in photography use.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zollo View Post
    Yet, There are certain equipments that all the "successful" creatives and luminaries in photography use.
    Dont' we all all though. We all use lenses and a camera. without those none of us would be 'successful'.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    BAM!


    Too many times in life and on AP have I seen people constantly upgrading or possessing high end gear, which never equated to the final product I have been seeing.
    I agree, but conversely, people do what they want to. Buying new gear might not be about taking 'better' photos for some. People buy new things for a whole myriad of reasons. I have friends who buy a new car every 2 years, but doing so doesn't make them better drivers, and there was nothing at all wrong with their old car. They don't buy it to be better drivers, they buy it cause that is what they want to do. Some people like shiny new things. Some people have different ideas about what they want from their gear and their photography, and maybe it isn't necessarily 'perfection'.

    Certainly some people spend huge amounts on gear and yes their photography doesn't appear to improve as this new gear arrives, thus as I stated in post 2 above "So I disagree that 'great gear enhances skill'. I would say that skill enhances the use of great gear".

    If it is the gear alone that results in a change/improvement, then guns kill, spoons make people fat, cigarettes cause cancer, pens misspell words and cars drink drive.
    Last edited by ricktas; 08-04-2013 at 6:45am.

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    Ausphotography Regular livio's Avatar
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    Guys and Gals, I'm sorry but I have my 2c worth on this discussion. I believe that the Skill vrs Gear debate is alive and I am going to agree and disagree. It is a contextual debate if we look at photography in its most basic form that of being a light tight box with a lens to capture light on a light sensitive surface. All cameras do that but not all cameras are equal. A good example was given to me the other day where people were using iphones to take the first photos of a baby and because of the low light they turned out crap. Someone had a Nikon 1 and because it's low light capability is much better than an iphone the photo turned out very nicely. We have such a broad spectrum of gear available to us just as large as needs wants and desires to take photos. What about the camera system where you can alter the focus point after the photo is taken, Kym posted about this a while ago, so having clear focus is now sorted but that still leaves exposure and low light capability. The point I'm making is that there are different tools for different needs. The compact digital camera has improved greatly over the years and you can take some amazing photos with these cameras. They have facial recognition systems where they maximise focus on a persons face. They expose well, they have a level of zoom, and they have a built in flash. As long as you are shooting short distance photos they come up great and the camera does most of the work. All you have to do is to compose the image and you get a great shot. Then there is the middle market the Nikon 1 where you get a little more than a compact camera, you get interchangeable lenses and more features. Then there is the DSLR more features, can be a little daunting to some, bracketing, multiple exposures, high ISO, a comprehensive range of lenses from micro to massive zoom at ridiculous f stops. Then there is the high end cameras the ones which cost you an arm and a leg, they are based around precision and component perfection hell if you know how to really use these cameras you will take great photos but if you don't the chances are they are going to be no better than the do it all for you compact camera. The difference though is if you do know how to use it the images will be visibly different. So I think that at the low end the camera enhances the users skill by taking care of the basics like focus of the face when shooting a person or indicating clearly where the focus is if not on a person. For a number of people this is just what they want, chances are they will have difficulty in reproducing photos they like because the camera is making the decisions and it becomes more of a hit an miss but they just want the average family happy snap and they are happy. Then you have the middle ground and I believe this middle ground has grown considerably over the last few years, the camera makes some of the decisions or all of the decisions depending on mode but you have more flexibility you really need to know a little more about what is going on and you can most likely reproduce that image you took that you really liked. Then you have the high end by now you make the choices the camera does your bidding, you understand the relationships between ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and composition. You can reproduce that set of images you like with different models and still get that same wow factor.

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    Without reading all of the other replies (although I did skim a good bunch of them) I agree to a degree that a certain level of skill is required to produce a good image.

    Luck does have something to do with it, being in the right place at the right time (which is a skill also) but the spray and pray method does achieve results sometimes!

    Gear comes in when you're trying to do something in particular. For example one of the key reasons I upgraded my body was for better High ISO performance and noise banding issues in my k10. It was practically useless at night. A beginner doing long exposure night shots would not be able to get better results then a pro using the same body.

    I recommend beginners to stick with their current entry level equipment until they start to hit the boundaries of the equipment and have a clear understanding of why it's a boundary to their creativeness.
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    Ausphotography Regular MissionMan's Avatar
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    I think to think it's a case of understand what gear we are talking about before commenting. For example:

    1. I don't think a beginner can ever invest too much in lenses. Lenses will always be a strength no matter what your skill level is and I don't think a lens can actually adversely effect the outcome of your photos.
    2. A body on the other hand can be extremely confusing, if you don't have predefined modes to start with, the body is probably going to do worse in the circumstances because you simply don't know how to work with the basic features. When it comes to bodies, my guess is that you work with a low end body (even low end bodies have decent ISO these days) and when you reach a point that the body becomes a limitation to what you're trying to achieve, upgrade to something better.
    3. Strobes and Flashes - I think even a beginner would be better off with an external flash. Bouncing is not a science (at basic levels) and will achieve far more than than any built in flash. Strobes on the other hand are extremely complex and I think any beginner buying strobes would be wasting their times, even with an entrance level set.
    4. Flash modifiers - In some cases, these are bad or difficult to use so I'm not against beginners experimenting with them
    5. Light meters - probably the one thing I think most photographers (beginner or advanced) should invest in just to get a handle on correctly exposing images. A light meter will never go to waste no matter what your skill is. Most people become dependent on the internal light meter in a camera but in most cases, they aren't great in comparison to the real thing.
    6. Tripods - is there anyone here who honestly thinks a beginner can "over invest" in a tripod? A good tripod will last you a long time


    This list could go on for ages, but I think there are some times its worth investing in the right gear up front, and there are some times where it's a waste.

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    . Light meters - probably the one thing I think most photographers (beginner or advanced) should invest in just to get a handle on correctly exposing images. A light meter will never go to waste no matter what your skill is. Most people become dependent on the internal light meter in a camera but in most cases, they aren't great in comparison to the real thing.
    I disagree here. (but I still want one!)

    A lightmeter is only really truly helpful when doing extremely long exposures that the internal meter can't calculate. (which is just a firmware thing anyway)
    OR
    for calculating flash exposure (assuming your meter will do flash)

    More often then not, the reflected light meter is good enough to get a "correct" exposure without having to rely on the incident lightmeter.

    Gee I would like one though, I just can't justify the expense for a good one when I can approximate a good exposure anyway.

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