“Your camera takes such good pictures!” :-/

Ok folks, it’s time we had a talk about photography. To be accurate, this post is about how you talk to a photographer. And we’ll start with this picture I took at Karate College last week.

Hapkido @ Karate College 2012

This is a photo from a very impressive Hapkido demo by Grand Master Scott Yates and his students (Yates is kneeling on the far right of the picture). I have several good photos from this demo and a similar demo they did at last year’s Karate College. Shots like this are very hard to get, so I was rather happy that it turned out. I consider it a good shot because I don’t have to do much to it before showing it to people (just basic color correction & cropping).

I showed this picture to a few people right after the demo. The students doing the breaking demo were happy to have their work captured in photographs. Some people who were trying to get these shots on their cell phone or pocket camera had a less flattering reaction …

“Wow, your camera takes such good pictures!”

*sigh* *facepalm* *sigh*

Yes, this has been said to every good photographer I know … and I’m fortunate to know many good photographers.

The camera is a tool. When wielded by someone who knows how to use it, it can take the perfect picture. When wielded by someone who doesn’t understand how it works, it can make blurred pixels of cats and babies. Yes, the tool I use has features your iPhone camera doesn’t iHave, but that doesn’t mean that iSuck and the camera makes magic when I’m off getting a beer.

It’s a bit like walking up to Bruce Lee after he’s beaten up an entire room of attackers and saying “boy, your nunchuks hit really hard!”

My camera will, under normal circumstances, take absolutely horrible pictures. Those are pictures that happen when I’ve picked the wrong subject, used the wrong setting or attached the wrong lens. Getting a shot of a high speed break requires a fast lens, proper lighting, the right shutter setting and timing when you push the button. There’s another 20 shots to either side of that break where I’ve focused on something in front of the target, or pushed the shutter too late to catch the action.

You’ll never see the pictures that my camera didn’t take well … because they’re pictures that I didn’t take well. The bad pictures get tossed out along piles of burnt muffins from TV cooking shows and flubbed lines from your favorite movie. Some “bad” pictures get the Instgram treatment as “art projects” but the rest go into the virtual dumpster.

I’m glad you like the photo, and I do love my camera … but the camera didn’t do it by itself.

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