This is a question that will always has more than one point of view. Some people think that taking the perfect photos needs an expensive camera and other say an ordinary smartphone is able to do the same. This is also a problem for every single person who plans a trip – for 5 days, or couple of weeks, it doesn’t matter. The important thing here is that everyone of us at least once has read or heard or will read or hear some of these misconceptions. So let’s dispel some of these “facts” as it affects everyone’s ability to take good photos.
1) More expensive camera, better photos.
OK, I’ve taken a lot bad photos with an expensive camera.
I fell victim to this when I started traveling. I purchased a very expensive camera thinking this would take great photos when I was on my trip of a lifetime. I found out very quickly that an expensive camera can take photos which as a bad as those taken on much cheaper models. I’ve taken thousands of very bad photos on very expensive cameras.
If expensive cameras don’t take better photos, then why do all the pro photographers use expensive cameras? It is a very good question, and one deserving of an answer.
An entry level SLR or mirrorless camera is going to about the same quality of image a high-end camera if the conditions are good. If you are taking a photo of a still subject in good light, then you probably won’t notice much of a difference between the images taken on the two cameras. We should be thankful there are photographers that are ready to share some secrets from the “kitchen”.
A more expensive camera is usually going to do things which cheaper camera can’t do. One of the things isn’t “take better photos”. Here are some of the things a more expensive camera might do that a cheaper camera will not:
- Shoot more frames per second.
- Write to the memory card faster.
- Perform better in low light situations.
- Have a higher resolution (aka more pixels).
- Better weatherproofing and ruggedness.
- Multiple memory card slots.
- More battery storage.
All of the things above are “better” in a more expensive camera, but most people really don’t need most of those features. More expensive cameras will usually have a larger or newer generation sensor in the camera as well, which is why it is usually more expensive.
My advice to new travel photographers is to get a cheap SLR or mirrorless camera to start. If you run into technical limitations with the camera which is preventing you from getting certain shots, then you should consider upgrading. If you are just shooting in automatic and you aren’t bumping into these limitations, then there is really no point in upgrading your equipment. A professional who knows what they are doing with an intro level camera will almost certainly take better photos than a novice with a top line camera.
2) Photo editing is the equivalent of “cheating” or “lying”.
This is maybe the worst of the misconceptions people have about photography today, and I blame this squarely on the shoulders of the fashion industry.
Every few months there is a story in the news about how some photo editing job got botched. There are cases of people being made to look abnormally thin, limbs being removed, and other very serious and major distortions to images. Other people have created fake images using editing software. This is the type of stuff people are thinking of when they use “Photoshopped” as a pejorative. This behavior had lead people to believe that any editing of photos is somehow distorting reality and fake.
There is also this idea floating around that cameras capture reality. If you just don’t touch any of the settings on the camera and don’t edit your images you are somehow capturing the world in its raw, organic state.
Both of these beliefs are wrong. Totally wrong.
Ever since cameras were developed, photographers noticed a problem – a scene might have parts that are bright and other that are dark. However, the camera had only one shutter. The darker parts required more exposure and the brighter parts required less, but you can only take one exposure for the entire image. The solution was to correct for this in the darkroom by dodging and burning parts of the image to decrease or increase the exposure. These darkroom techniques were necessary to get a decent looking photo.
Even though digital cameras have improved greatly over the last few years, our eyes are still better than any camera ever made. Moreover, all of the buttons and dials on a camera are there for a reason. When you shoot in automatic, you are just letting the computer in the camera make the choices for you that you could have made if you have done it by yourself.
While there have been some notable exceptions, the vast majority of all photo editing which is done is nothing more than using the same techniques developed in the 19th century in the darkroom. The only difference is that they are done on a computer and with that – to be done faster. Proper photo editing should make an image look closer to reality.