“You cannot buy mastery. You have to earn it.” ~James Yeager of Tactical Response
James is talking about guns, which is all he ever discusses. In spite of his advocation, it is advice we can expand to all areas of our lives, particularly photography.
I know I harp on this a lot, but I still think it’s a key issue in photography. If you are considering upgrading, you are either a professional who has outgrown his equipment, or an amateur who has more money than talent. An odd twist to this assessment is that a real professional photographer can do more with a $1 garage sale camera than a rich amateur can with a $6000 DSLR.
I keep coming back to this subject because “Should I upgrade?” is the number one topic on photography forums on the web, even in an era in which we should know better. Not, “Is this light too contrasty?” or “Should my model brush her hair a different way?” or “What time of day is best for shooting Antelope Canyon?” These are the real questions of photography. The essence.
Buying things is a distraction. To quote webizen Ken Rockwell, “A camera’s job is to get out of your way.”
A fellow photographer turned her nose up at me recently when she observed that I was shooting with the Nikon D2H, a camera of 2003 vintage. I smiled and kept shooting. My audience isn’t other photographers, it is the reader of our newspaper, our magazine, and my web site. A new camera might make my job easier, but it wouldn’t really make my product better. Nor would it have made my 2010 and 2012 Oklahoma Press Association’s First Place in Photography awards, which the other photographer has never won despite her $6000 camera, any more or less meaningful.
I know. That last sentence seemed like bragging. The point of it was, of course, that once again, you can’t buy mastery, you have to earn it.
Another paraphrase of Yeager: ” ‘What can I do to my camera to make it shoot better?’ Wear it out.”