"If only I had a better camera, I could be a great photographer." I hear comments like this every day in my gallery, and I know other photographers hear the same thing. Unfortunately, when people see great professional photography, they mistakenly believe that the camera, not the photographer, is responsible. Pride makes it hard to admit that we are just not very good at something. Photography is no exception: much easier to blame the camera.
The trouble is, if we want to take better photos, will buying a better camera make that happen? Of course not. The truth is, you can take better photos no matter what sort of camera you have. Digital cameras have become so advanced that almost all cameras now have aperture and shutter speed settings, not to mention amazingly powerful optical zoom lenses. These are features that, until very recently, were only available on SLR cameras.
So if you want to take better photos, the features are right there in front of you. All you have to do is take the time to learn how to use them. To take better photos, start with the manual that came with your camera.
It will tell you how to operate the major settings, although it may not be so good at explaining what they are for. Then find the information you need to understand how those settings will help you take better photos. There are courses, workshops, books and ebooks that will tell you what you need to know. If you do pay good money for a course or ebook, make sure it is about taking better photos. These days, a lot of the information out there is about fixing your photos on a computer, and not about taking better photos.
A lot of what you can learn has nothing to do with the camera. That's right; you can improve your photography without changing one thing about your camera. My experience in nature photography has taught me that the way you use the light to capture your subject makes a huge difference. The weather and the time of day can affect the light, so your timing and patience can be the difference between a snapshot and a great photo.
Developing an eye for composition is an essential skill that actually has nothing to do with the price tag on your camera. You can go a long way towards better photography by learning to think like an artist, not like a tourist. A good guide to photography should teach you this important element of photography as well. Here are a few simple examples. If you are photographing a waterfall, try looking at the scene creatively.
Perhaps you can stand back and take a photo that follows the flow of water upstream, with the waterfall in the background. You might find a more interesting angle looking through the branches of a tree; there is always an alternative to just snapping the most obvious shot. When photographing people and animals, think about the best way to position them to make a stronger composition. Instead of putting them in the middle of the photo looking straight at the camera, try positioning them to one side, looking in towards the centre of the picture. These are just a couple of simple ideas to get you thinking. The point is this: you can take great strides to becoming a better photographer by concentrating on the artistic aspects of the craft, rather than just the technical.
Of course, many things you can do with a compact camera, you can do even better if you have an SLR camera. However, buying a better camera is not going to help you take better photos if you just switch it to automatic and keep taking snapshots. So here's my tip. Don't overspend; just buy the camera you can afford, then really learn how to use it.
It's as simple as that. No matter which camera you have, you can take better photos with a bit of knowledge, and a bit of practice. If you decide to upgrade later, so be it, but learning the basics of good photography will get you a lot further than succumbing to the "If only I had a better camera" mindset. Now, if only I had better golf clubs.
Andrew Goodall is a professional nature photographer, with two top-selling ebooks to help beginners get started with the art and skills of good photography. Find out more at http://www.naturesimage.com.au