My Camera is Better Than Yours / by Jonathan Barnes

Oh boy. If I have to hear one more time...

"My cellphone camera is amazing. It takes better photos than..."

"My cousin has a really nice camera, so I just got him to take the photos of..."

"I just bought this 36-megapixel camera, so I'll be able to take my own photos of..."

If there's one cliche that applies to all of the above statements, it's the old adage, "It's not the tools; it's the carpenter."

These days, everyone is a photographer, or so it seems. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat. Millions, billions of pictures. Every new phone has a great camera, and everyone and their uncle has a DSLR or mirrorless camera. But it's not about the tools. Let's put it in action, shall we?

Enter our mystery guest "photographer" (the party in question shall remain nameless as to protect their guil—innocence?). I asked this mystery photographer to take a photo our living room laboratory. The mystery shooter used my equipment, without my supervision, other than to provide a quick demonstration of how to focus and zoom. I also set the camera to program mode (read: auto). This exposure mode emulates the same kind of autoexposure mode that you'd find on most consumer cameras as well as cellphone cameras. The only parameter I provided was, "Pretend you are trying to make this room look its best for a real estate listing." The shot, below.

 A real estate photo. You see ones just like this all over the interwebs.

A real estate photo. You see ones just like this all over the interwebs.

Composition is a little wonky. Lines are little crooked, but not terrible. Vertical lines are a bit haywire. The camera actually got the exposure pretty close, but there's no additional light being added to the scene, so it's too dark inside. Compare to one of my photos of the same room:

 Decent composition, straight lines all around, well-lit windows and room, clean and polished look.

Decent composition, straight lines all around, well-lit windows and room, clean and polished look.

"Well, Mr. It's-Not-The-Tools-It's-The-Photographer, why don't you just shoot with a cellphone camera?"

Good point. Because of control. It honestly doesn't matter what kind of camera I choose to use, as long as I can control the settings. I need to be able to control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I would like to be able to fire a flash. What don't I need? Megapixels, bells and whistles, the shiniest, newest thing. So, please don't tell me about your 50 megapixel cellphone camera with advanced facial recognition.

I hesitate to post this next part, but I think it fairly well underscores my point. Go ahead and google my camera body. Look up when it was first released, how many megapixels it has, and how much you can buy one for (used) these days.

Done? Yup, that's the camera I use for everything. Am I shooting billboards with it? Nope. Do I plan on upgrading in the future? You bet. But the point is that I can make beautiful images with that camera. I have studied and practiced technique, lighting, and composition. I have studied hundreds (if not thousands) of great photos. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but it takes a photographer to make an image, not a camera.