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Canon or Nikon? DSLR or mirrorless? Photographers love their gear—they love to talk about it, review it, debate it. But, does it even matter?
Well, no, not really. I may get hate mail for saying this, but your camera doesn't matter. Well, okay, let me rephrase that: Your camera doesn't matter nearly as much as you do.
There. I've said it. What do I mean by it? Professional photographers can get great images from an iPhone. And the average Joe can get horrible images from a $6,000 DSLR. It's not as much about the camera as it is about who is behind it. Sure, a professional photographer will get better images with a $6,000 DSLR than they will with an iPhone, but when it comes down to it, the photographer is more important than the camera. Here's why.
The average person will snap a photo of what they see at eye level. The professional has an eye for composition, whether shooting with a point and shoot or a fancy DSLR. The professional will introduce elements to the foreground, adjust the aperture to soften the background. The professional photojournalist will capture uncensored emotion, not stop and ask for a cheesy smile.
No, it's not the outfit that makes you look fat, it's the photographer. The professional portrait photographer can make even selfies look good. Posing is an art. It's about knowing what looks good, noticing that a position makes those hips look too big and adjusting.
Patience is a virtue—particularly for photographers. The average person will just snap and go. The professionals are the ones like National Geographic Photographer Steve Winter, who spent 14 months working to get a shot of LA's mountain lion in front of the Hollywood sign. Or Fabian Oefner, who spent two months creating an image of a car disintegrating in an instant.
The best portrait photographers will get to know someone and capture their essence in a single image. They are fun enough to make their subjects comfortable, like Richard Renaldi, who created a series of images of strangers that looked as if they were best friends.
Professional photographers know how to adjust the exposure to get the most color out of a sunset or the right contrast in the snow. Even working with a camera with no manual modes, photographers know how to position the subject with the available light—they don't just point and shoot, even with a point-and-shoot.
Sure, professionals will notice a difference when they swap out cameras, but the most important aspect to a good photo is the photographer, not the camera.