A Nurse with a Gun

Sunday, February 14, 2010

100 Strangers Question

I just joined this group and plan on starting my 100 strangers in about a month or so.

Here's my question: I only own a compact digital camera. Is that good enough to get some nice shots? Do you guys all use a digital SLR or is a compact enough? I really want to buy a SLR, but it's way expensive and I'm not that skilled with photography yet.

To those of you who use a compact: don't people decline way more often because the camera doesn't look "professional" enough?

Thanks a lot!

It is the photographer, not the camera, that makes great shots.

If you use your compact well, know it intimately, and tweak it's settings to get the most out of it, you will shoot more beautiful photographs than 98% of the people who own DSLRs. 82/100 CarmenThis is aptly demonstrated by several award winning journalists going into war zones, and similar situations with only point and shoots. They are getting the shots, great shots, on the fly with incredible light. The work is making national and worldwide publication and acclaim. The first was Magnum photographer Alex Majoli in 2003.

The point and shoot has several advantages over the DSLR. It is quiet. Discreet. Ideal for candids. It is light. It is simple and quick. The LCD screen is perfect for off hand shooting. That is why a Nikon S52 is my constant companion. Even when I am carrying two (yes two!) Nikon D200s.

The DSLR gives you a bit more credibility in regards to stranger photography, but it also gives a false impression of a photojournalist. With some strangers, this can be a plus, with others it can be a hinderance. I am often asked if I shoot for a magazine or newspaper.

Until I finally bought my first D200, I shot digital exclusively with point and shoot cameras that I purchased used in pawn shops for under $60. I ride my equipment hard, and considered them disposable. Then one day a D200 was on the pawn shop shelf..........

Get started in the project. The type of camera you have is not a limitation, unless you make it one.



Blogger The Fishing Musician said...

I don't think so. I've always thought that it was the photographer, not the camera. Great SLR's give you options, yes, but the framing of the subject is all in the eye.

It's sorta like guitar playing or drumming...it's not the guitar, it's the guitarist. The late Les Paul could make a Wal Mart electric guitar sound great, while I still blow on a $3k Les Paul custom.

One of my painter/photographer friends uses compacts when the weather is bad and she is shooting outdoors or when she is in high people population events, like festivals, to avoid damage to her expensive Nikons. Her work still rocks.

8:45 AM  
Blogger stbaguley said...

Still enjoying your posts regardless of topic. Ugly camera gear Sunday? Now I confess to curiosity, with 3 cameras and reloads and lights and batteries. I have to believe you are still packing personal protective heat as well...Have you added a cargo trailer to that commuter bike? Seriously, overt photog gear carry is going to allow significant cover for the transportation of firearms as well. Perhaps with the temptation to "raise the capability level"?? What then is offensive and what defensive concealed carry? The 2nd amendment says nothing about any distinction there but jury sympathy will flee as the Defendant looks to be "looking for trouble". (870 in the golf bag? How about a LAWS rocket?) Being a REAL photographer with intimate familiarity with your equipment and a body of work to display that demonstrates commitment to the art would be of great assistance to a lawyer explaining why you were exercising your other rights if the need ever arises. Nick wants to know what kind of personal protection gear his Frisbee would conceal? Have a nice Sunday. We are walking.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Cliff said...

Like someone said of firearms: "I am the weapon, this is just a tool". In your case, you are the artist, your camera is a tool.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

I like to think that I am pretty damn talented, even with my rinky dink casio exilim. I agree, a dslr does give you more 'instant credibility' but the proof is in the pudding (or the photos, in this case).

I don't have the courage to approach 100 strangers, though, not yet.

One day....

2:25 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

What equipment do you use for your ugly gun Sunday photos and those nice sharp clear detail shots of firearms?

Can you get anything decent from a point and shoot? like an olympus fe4000?

7:42 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Ah, I re-found your blog Xavier.

I have a PSC-P200 Sony. A 7.2 MP without the subsequently offered anti-shake software. Decent enough for me.

I find that when I take it into the woods or try to get a really decent picture for some web work, I need a tripod. Or better yet, I need a mono-pod.

2:44 AM  
Anonymous GeorgeR said...

[quote]Can you get anything decent from a point and shoot? like an olympus fe4000?[/quote]

I can tell you a P&S is going to give you good shots of firearms and most anything else for the general consumer. I believe that before Xavier found his Nikon DSLRs at the pawnshop, he said he used P&S cameras.

Lighting and technique can make a lot of difference, too.

I've done some nice work with a P&S myself, but I find I much prefer a DSLR. I sure wouldn't be able to get my money's worth from the DSLR, however, if I didn't know the basics of photography (i.e, knowing how to set stuff up and shoot in other than the automatic modes).

5:40 PM  
Anonymous TJP said...

I don't know what is to be done to change people's perceptions. Be friendly, ask permission and take "no" for an answer? Some folks don't realize that their mundane is your beautiful.

The three parts of the discipline, in order from easiest to hardest: camera technique, location/timing and composition. Basic camera technique is not hard. It's learned by repetition--like memorzing multiplication tables. I don't understand why instructors make such a big deal and spend weeks on it in photography courses, barely glancing on composition. A modern camera has an automatic exposure system sophisticated enough to assist with both exposure and technique. It's not necessary to cram, but to add complexity in layers.

Some essentials provided for free by Ken Rockwell:
* Simplest explanation of exposure
* Thinking about light
* Light contrast
* Why timing is important
* White balance in digitals

I don't understand why it matters what a student brings to a course. This is making me cynical. I believe that gear pushers are all too happy to ruin the hobby and the art by hammering people with incessant gear talk, attempting to convince them that the first decision is what equipment to buy (and of course, to discard what they have.) That's why so many people simply give up in frustration after being forced to sit through hours of irrelevant technical minutia, while exposed to conflicting advice about what's best.

Here's a secret: a camera isn't even required to start. I feel that composition is the most difficult of the three parts, and it gets the least amount of attention. Don't wait--start studying art and composition now. Pre-visualization provides the necessary motivation to add layers of new knowledge and the desire to learn how to force the tool to do one's bidding. Be goal-oriented. There is no shortage of great photography books. Don't turn down film-era books--they still contain relevant information--but recognize what level of technicality is relevant. Artists are falling over themselves providing free advice about composition, but sadly, many photohobbyists get caught up in Internet forum arguments about lens MTF data and worrying about "filling in the gaps" with lenses, when they should fill in the gaps with knowledge:

* Introductory Color Theory (probably holds world's record for most neglected aspect of amateur photography)
* Composition Basics
* General Composition

What's a fair-weather camera? As a general rule, I'd never buy a camera as my primary body when I knew I could never afford to replace it. Theft, impact damage, contamination--it happens to everyone's equipment when they're out there in the real world.

10:26 PM  
Blogger geordie said...

I have some DSLRs and have several point and shoots. I'd agree within certain limits. Some point and shoots have been really bad. There have been adequate and good ones for a long time now, but there are some lemons out there. A lot of the time my Panasonic ZS3 will do better than a casual shot with my EOS40D and 24-205 L series lens, but then that's because I actually have controls on the SLR that really make a difference, so if I do the wrong thing then I get what I asked for. In high ambient light the LCD on point and shoots is useless though.

In case I wasn't clear, I am agreeing completely. Or at least I think I am.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Mello said...

Surely, the best camera you'll ever had is the one that is in your pocket NOW. It is YOU that matters, not the camera. When I was deciding what camera should I bought, Ken Rockwell (salute, pal!) teached me that pixels weren't that important, and EYES and BRAINS were the difference. Of course, lenses, and sensor size, are important, but what you SEE is the point. A great piano doesn't mean you'll play like Rachmaninnoff.

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use a Nikon D3000, and I am a poor excuse for a photographer. The Nikon makes my stuff look better than it did using a point & shoot. Similarly, I am not a good target shooter. I carry a Wilson Combat .45 Sentinel daily. It also makes me a better shot. Yes, I don't disagree that its the photographer, not the camera. However, if you're not so good, the tools can help.

6:21 PM  

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