Equipment vs Creativity

Tree in the snow in Cassiobury Park with a dramatic blue sky and clouds as the sun starts to go down.

(Photo taken at 1/4000, f/3.5, ISO 400)

My photo was picked for Group 1 of the Landscape assignment over at PioneerWoman! As usual, she’s put together a wonderful selection, the best out of thousands of beautiful submissions. I’m thrilled to somehow be in there amongst them. Go and take a look at the gorgeous landscape photos there! Group 2 is now up as well.


“The single most important component

of a camera is the twelve inches behind it”

Ansel Adams

While scrolling through the comments on the Group 1 post, and one or two of the discussion threads in the Flickr group, I found several comments saying that only professionals with professional equipment stand a chance of winning (despite the fact that the last competition was won by a stunning photo taken with a point & shoot camera), therefore there’s no point even trying.

I’m saddened that fellow photographers can be disheartened by seeing all this incredible work being recognised and celebrated. Surely seeing what’s possible simply gives us even more to aspire to! Good photos are not created merely by using an expensive camera; a truly great photo has that something about it… a little touch of soul.

Photography is about the images you capture, the moments you freeze forever, the memories you treasure. It’s about vision and imagination, about seeing the world in your own unique way, and sharing this view with others. It’s not about spending thousands of pounds on equipment.

I’m not a professional photographer. I would love to be, and plan to be, but I’m not yet. Now I have a dSLR (a Canon 450D), but for 5 of my 6 years taking digital photos, I worked only with point & shoot cameras (first a 5mp Olympus c-5000, then my lovely 7mp Casio z750).

Of course I longed for an SLR, but I was determined not to let my lack of pro equipment affect the quality of my photos. I constantly searched for the most inspiring photos out there, and then tried to work out how to make my photos as good as those. I had to work for every photo, and I was proud of my work when it paid off. I successfully submitted one of my early Olympus photos to be published in a photography magazine just to prove to myself that I could:

A photo of raindrops on blades of green grass with the sun flared behind it and reflecting in every drop.

(Taken with my Olympus c5000, EXIF data missing)

I took thousands of photos, always with the aim to create images that didn’t look like snapshots. This meant learning to look at things with the eye of a photographer, finding viewpoints that others might not, making the most of composition, learning simple little tricks in Photoshop (or any editing software I could get my hands on) to take my colours and contrast from drab to vibrant.

A before and after comparison between two versions of the same photo of a car sitting on a zebra crossing in Paris, one with dull colours and the other with vibrant blues and yellows. The car has flowers on.

(Photo taken at 1/250, f/4.0, ISO unknown)

I believe that starting my photography life in this way has made me a better photographer. It meant that I avoided the rut of taking my equipment for granted, and relying only a good camera to get me a good shot. And now that I do have a dSLR, I’ve found that the techniques I learned  to take my photos from average to good before, now are capable of taking good to even better.

And the reaching towards greater heights never ends. Collections of images, like the ones at ThePioneerWoman, are sources of inspiration for me, giving me that push to never say, “Okay, that’ll do… I’m good enough,” but keep studying, practicing, learning.

Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think equipment is all-important?

15 thoughts on “Equipment vs Creativity

  1. Today is my first visit to your blog & I agree 100% with you!

    I was once showing some photos at a small show. A young man came up & was very complimentary, then he said he was an aspiring photographer. He commented that without money for big fancy equipment it was just a dream.

    So I told him that a Camera is not the artist – it’s the PERSON Behind the camera. I think a light turned on in his head!

    • Welcome!

      You give an excellent example here; the problem seems to be that people sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between the camera and the person taking the photos.

      “You have an expensive camera, and that’s why your photos are better than mine…”

  2. This is also my first time to your blog and agree with you!
    I used to work for a “pro” doing developing(film wow dating myself) and printing. he would use a simple point & shot and his medium format camera at shots and would get some of his best pictures from the PS.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more – I’ve participated in those same threads. It’s sad to think that people are missing out on the joy of the process, if they’re preoccupied with feeling that they need some magic tool to participate.

    I’ve enjoyed PW’s assignments hugely, just for the chance to see how other people view the world, and learn through their vision. To me, that’s the whole point of the group.

    • That’s exactly how I see the assignments.

      I love the way these contests have so many different kinds of people, from different places, with different skill levels, all sharing their own unique views of the world where they stand. And being able to see all the submissions, not just the chosen few, is fascinating.

      And winning is not the point of it at all, or the cameras used to take the photos.

  4. WOOOOOOOOT! Couldn’t agree more!
    Or to open a whole other can of worms, the ever present “your camera takes nice pictures”. LOL!
    Irks me to no end, even though I know it’s an innocent statement. I tweeted the other day “your pot makes good pasta”. heeheeee …
    I still use my point and shoot all the time. Love it! And my canon is old as the hills (but takes nice pictures haha).

    • Aah, the old “your camera takes nice pictures”!

      The worst is that people really don’t get that what they’re saying is absurd, or possibly insulting, depending on who they say it to.
      Imagine telling a pro that their camera takes nice pictures, hehehe.

      Although I think I was probably guilty of this in my early days… it’s easier to think the camera is to blame than your own lack of experience.

  5. Perfect article, and my first time to your blog…I’ve added it to my RSS feed so I look forward to more. I am also a pro wannabe, and do not have “pro” equipment. I have always believed the point you’re making so I appreciate that you’ve put it together with such grace. Photography is about way more than expensive equipment.

    Thank you,

  6. First time to visit your site. I like it and agree with your statments… errr… writings… because I think you express yourself more like a writer than a speaker. That is meant as a compliment.
    I was greatly encouraged by your words on PW’s Discussion board. Thank you. I’ve been following Mz Booshay’s site as well and I’ve learned a whole lot from her insights into photography and life in general.
    My goal as a family photographer is to capture images that generations will enjoy. I want them to look at my collections of family images and life experiences and take something on with them… therefore my old snapshot days must be tossed in the rubbish and I must put more thought into the composition and execution of my photographs. I’ve browsed your site and see that you are most insightful. I plan to visit often and learn.

    As far as sharing photos on sites, I have decided that unless one gets feedback on the photos, what is the point of sharing them? I’ve wondered if there is a site out there that will say… adjust your shutter speed, get a tripod for shots like this… etc. I’m at such a basic point that I need that sort of help. I’m not intimidated by constructive criticism at all. I just want to know how to take better photos. There is a local college that offers photography courses, but ban digital cameras. At my ripe age and the onset of cataracts, I continually use my “real camera” to adjust for my vision… so the offered photography classes do me no good. I just need to keep practicing.

    Thank you again for your kind encouragement. Encouragement is always a welcomed element in any life.

    • Thank you Margo! I appreciate your kind words and encouragement also!

      I agree that feedback is very important when learning. There are a lot of sites where you can get constructive criticism, some are better than others. For a start, I’d suggest taking a look through the Digital Photography School forums. There are many sections to browse depending on what you’re interested in, including dedicated critique sections. Everyone there is very friendly and helpful.

      Also, I’m happy to help in any way I can. If you like, you’re more than welcome to email photos and questions to me at I can’t guarantee perfect answers, but I’ll certainly do my best!

  7. I’m not sure there’s anything else to add, hehe! I very much agree, I even like the photographs I took with my 2mp camera a million years ago with a little editing.

    And aah, the edit on the car is so amazing!

  8. Nice article. To me, being a good photographer does not mean taking good pictures, but taking the best pictures. Im not yet a good photographer now, but at least ive set my goals. And to take the best pictures i imagine i need:

    1. me, as the one who take pictures, i’m the one who compose the image, not the camera, but i, without the camera, cannot take any pictures, so

    2. i need a camera and all the tools necessary in order to produce what kind of picture i want to produce. when i want to produce a shallow DoF picture, i wouldnt want a camera phone. when i want flash photography, i need at least a flash. etc. But having all those 2 points doesnt mean i can take good pictures, or even the best pictures, therefore…

    3. i need to know how to use those tools.

    All those 3 points are i think the most important. In order to produce the best result none of the 3 points can be ignored. Even the best artist who has the best eye cannot take the best picture without the right tools. And the best artist with the right tools cannot take the best pictures without knowing how to use the tools. And of course, all the best tools cannot be used to take the best pictures if the one using them isnt good enough. So i vote for all 3, instead of one.

  9. Congrats on your PW success. I haven’t entered any of my photography yet, but I will start soon.

    It’s the person AND the camera. Some of pics I have framed around our home were taken with a point and shoot and they fool people all the time. I love my Sony Alpha, I upgraded a year plus ago.

    Looking forward to reading more.

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