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Why Nikon Is Wrong: "A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses"

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What Happened?

Nikon made a bit of a mistake yesterday when they posted this on their fan page:

“A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?”

We all know that what they said was wrong but the important question is:
what makes it so wrong and why has it got us so riled up?
Firstly It would be fair to say that they’ve got things completely backwards, so much so that it could almost be a typo – the equipment is really only as good as the photographer using it, not the other way around.
The idea that everything comes down to the gear you’re using is ridiculous, even for a camera and lens manufacturer to suggest.
I think the reason it’s ruffled so many feathers is because a lot of good photographers have had something like this said to them, “wow, your photos are really good, you must have a great camera”, or overhead a statement like this, “look at the size of his lens, mine is bigger than that, his doesn’t even zoom”.
These statements never go down well.
For Nikon to suggest it too is pretty poor.
A good photograph is not the product of buying the best gear that money can buy, it’s about how you use that gear to your advantage.
A good photo stands up by itself without the need for special effects or editing.
More often than not, when I produced a good photo, it’s a result of good composition used subtly. The viewer can tell it’s good without having to have it explained to them, demonstrated in my photo below.A man posing in a bathroom mirror - nikon is wrong
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But Aren’t They Kind Of Right?

Well no but, in a very twisted way… yes.
Let me explain.
There are certain things that budget equipment can’t do, such as take really good low light photos. In that way, they have a (very small) point.
Don’t get me wrong, I buy the best quality gear that I can afford but that’s because, from personal experience, I always end up regret buying inferior products.
I will buy top of the range Canon lenses and I absolutely love using them. I get some excellent results while I use these products but it’s not the lens that’s doing the work for me; it’s me.
When it comes down to it, it’s the photo that’s being seen, not the camera that was used to take it.
It would also be unprofessional to turn up to a photography job without the correct gear, which helps to produce a good photo, such as an external flash and low light lens for shooting indoors.
Taking photos on a job doesn’t make you a good photographer either. Even taking good photos doesn’t necessarily make you a good photographer; everyone gets lucky once in a while, it’s all about getting consistently good results.

So Then, What Makes A Good Photographer?

This is a very subjective question; it’s more a matter of opinion than anything. Someone I think is awesome, you may think to be rubbish.
You should only ever shoot for yourself; trying to please everyone will prove itself to be completely pointless and you’re unlikely to succeed. There’s always popular opinion on who is a good photographer but there aren’t rules to follow to take you there – it’s mainly down to practice.

“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” – Henri Cartier Bresson

The quote above will ring true to anyone who actually uses their camera enough to take over 10,000 photos; the improvements you’ll make throughout this period are huge.
You can only go so far in photography if you remain ignorant to the elements required to learn how to take better photos. It’s likely that, if you’ve reached that many photos, you’ll have learnt something by now.
Practice really is the key and, when you compliment that with study of composition and photography, you’ll start to see your results improving drastically.
As cameras get better and better, the quality of the images improve, something we appreciate; this allow us to do things we couldn’t do before, providing features like improved dynamic range.
But that’s still not what good photography is.
The camera is not your tool. Your eyes and your mind will make the photos.
To improve your photography, I strongly suggest carrying your camera with you much more often. Before long, you’ll be thinking like a photographer.

So What Now With Nikon?

Nikon is a fantastic company and they make some really great gear.
They should not be thought any less of for the twisted thought process of someone in their PR department as, I assure you, there will be plenty of outrage within the company’s staff about what was said.
When it comes down to it, a sentence that was very foolishly said by one of the largest camera suppliers in the world.
It doesn’t make them look good but something very good has come out of this; photographers all over the world are throwing in their 2 cents on this matter and a discussion has developed about photography, and not just the gear that we use.A forum debate about nikon

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6 comments
  1. We love our Nikon gear and would never change it, but only the gear doesn’t make a good photographer. You need the picture in your head and get ideas from different sources. I think the most important thing is to open your eyes in your daily life and get some expressions out of it.

  2. At the end of the day, Nikon is still a company. And companies have to make money. Sure you can take great photos with an entry level DSLR or point and shoot, or even a phone. But they are in some ways, as mentioned in this article, right.
    People need to relax. I think the response from the community was overblown and unnecessary. Any good photographer knows that the gear doesnt make the photographer, at all. But when you are a high level/professional photographer, and you understand composition and light etc etc, having a really nice full frame DSLR makes a huge difference in the quality of your work.

  3. Lovely article, but regarding this – “The camera is not your tool, it’s your eyes and your mind that make the photos.”
    What I usually tell people is that the camera is just a tool while it is our eyes and mind that makes the picture.
    Same goes to the great artists of old, their brushes are just tools to bring what’s in their mind and vision unto the canvas.
    don’t you agree?

  4. Thank you for saying that JD.
    In a way they are right, if you don’t have the right gear then you wont get the right picture. A ‘good’ picture is in the eye of the buyer, artistically speaking. Technically a good picture is any picture you have that I don’t. BUT there is a difference in saying what a good picture is and what a quality picture is. Sure, Uncle Joe could take a picture just as good and probably even better than me using his point and shoot durring Christmas but no two ways about it the concert shot using whatever brand 18-200mm will NOT give a good quality picture when you put it next to the one shot using a 70-200L.
    I know what you mean when people say, wow your pictures are great, you must have a really good camera. I tell them, its not the best out there but I just have the right gear for that shot.
    I think thats what the Nikon PR person was saying. “A ‘professional’ photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses”. If you don’t have the right equipment, you WONT get the right shots. I think they meant this as professionals shooting like JD says, we all know how to shoot, composition lighting etc. A photographer is only as good as his photograph turns out, your photograph will only turn out as good as what equipment your using will allow for. A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses. When was the last time you saw a hasselblad at a football game? Its about the right equipment, for the right situation.
    What is your favorite, and what kind of situations do you use it for. Straight from Nikons post.

  5. As camera technology improves, and the images we see have better and better resolution, dynamic range and colour gradation our ideas (both professionals that are attuned to looking critically, and everyone else that can just “feel” that modern pictures are technically “better”) changes their ideas about what is good and what is not. As a result many images from the past that we used to admire no longer seem so great.

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