Sometimes the camera matters

Camp Carnivalia performance at Synetic Theater“The camera doesn’t matter.” That’s what I chuckled to myself as I plunked down thousands of dollars on a full frame sensor DSLR.

As photographers, we are all trained to sing the same refrain -- “The camera doesn’t matter. It’s the person taking the picture who matters.”

Then we throw in some analogies for good measure. “An expensive hammer won’t make you a better carpenter.” Or “A fancy oven won’t make your cookies taste any better.” And on and on.

Usually the person smugly reciting these lines has a $5,000 camera hanging on his shoulder. 

It might make us feel better to say that, but it’s not true. The camera does matter. If it didn’t, we could all shoot with pinholes and call it a day.

The problem, of course, happens when you rely solely on the camera. Your camera won’t know what’s your subject. It won’t know what mood you want to create or story you want to tell. It won’t know what lighting style is best or what depth of field creates the best effect.

Your camera won’t know anything - until you tell it. But once you’ve decided all those things - mood, subject, story, etc., the camera you choose can either help you create your vision or frustrate you to  no end.

I recently did a photo shoot at the Synetic Theater Kids Camp. At the end of the camp’s 2-week session, the students perform a a production for their parents and friends.

What’s the first thing they do in a theater before the act begins? Dim the lights. What’s the one thing photographers hate most? Not enough light.

Here’s why the camera matters. Some cameras could not photograph the show without using a flash, which changes the mood altogether and distracts the young thespians. 

A higher end camera will allow you to photograph in low light without a tripod or flash. Even better it will allow you to select a high ISO without the big pixels you see in consumer grade cameras.

There are lots more benefits to paying more for a camera, but this is the bottom line. You have to understand your tools, and when you do, it always matters which one you choose.