'My Camera's Not Good Enough' and 7 Other Stupid Things Photographers Say

There's plenty of dumb stuff that people say when they get into photography. So, let's dispel some of the common myths that are floating around.

These myths and other stupid things that photographers say to one another might seem harmless, but they can actually stop a lot of people from learning how to take photos and even un-inspire them. Those that think they can't take certain photos because they haven't got the latest gear, for example, are at risk of putting down the camera for good if they aren't confident enough to carry on shooting. So, let's stop spreading this lunacy. Here are my top eight stupid things that photographers say and why I think it's a bad idea to repeat them.

1. "My Camera's Not Good Enough"

Have you ever been with someone who looks at your photos and goes: "aw man, I wish I had your camera; your photos are really good!" and just rolled your eyes? If not, maybe you were the person who made that remark. Either way, that kind of remark comes down to one thing, which is the person doesn't think their camera is good enough to take good photographs.

It's often not about the gear but more the mindset of the photographer behind the camera.

I'll tell you now: you give a smartphone camera to a professional photographer and a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III to a beginner and nine times out of ten, the pro with the smartphone will outshoot the beginner with the pro-level kit. That's because the technology is now so advanced that whether it's in your smart device or a bespoke stills camera, the images are going to be sharp, exposed well, and high enough resolution to allow publication. In the right hands, even the simplest of cameras will forge incredible photography. So, next time you find yourself (or someone else) blaming your tools, take a step back and think about whether you need to learn and practice a little more instead.

2. "I Need Higher Resolution"

Back when digital cameras started rearing their heads in the industry a couple of decades ago, resolution was a big deal. Two- and three-megapixel digital cameras could only produce small prints, and the quality of the image sensors was in its infancy. When a new camera came out that could produce 12-megapixel stills instead of five, there was greater room for editing, cropping, and printing without losing detail.

The Fujifilm GFX 100S is a medium format digital camera that shoots at 102 megapixels, but that isn't necessary for making good photographs.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, though, and even the entry-level cameras are shooting 20 megapixels and up. Pro-level cameras are shooting in the hundreds of megapixels, and they're still climbing. To show you how little the megapixel war means nowadays, let's take an A4 sheet of paper and print a photograph at 300 DPI (dots per inch), a standard resolution for high quality photographic prints. If we were to print borderless, it would equate to 3,508 x 2,480 pixels, or about 8.6 megapixels. Any camera with a resolution higher than 8.6 megapixels can make high quality photo prints up to A4 size if using 300 DPI. If you lower the DPI, you can go bigger; that's how printing for billboards and large posters works.

How often do you print your photos? And when you do, how big are they? Most would say 6 x 4 prints for family photo albums or to stick in a photo frame at home. So, you can see how pretty much any digital camera nowadays is capable of capturing enough detail for you.

3. "I Can't Do Macro Because I Don't Have a Macro Lens"

Taking macro as an example, you can literally do the same thing by flipping around any old lens to get close-up macro photographs for a fraction of the price of a genuine macro lens.

Also read: "I can't do X because I don't have X." These people may be right in that there are certain photographic subjects that you must use specialized equipment for, such as deep-field space astrophotography or microscopy. But for the most part, there's usually a cheaper, budget-friendly workaround that will allow you to achieve pretty close to perfect results without having to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in equipment you'll only use once or twice. I picked the macro lens as an example here because you don't need a macro lens for macro photography; you could just reverse a standard 50mm lens or stick on a close-up filter attachment. The people that use this line are destined to develop gear acquisition syndrome (G.A.S.) if left unchecked, which can be fun for the photographer but perhaps not for their bank account.

4. "My Shots Will Never Look Like X's"

Not with that attitude! If you think about it seriously for a moment, a professional photographer at the top of their field won't have just been amazing at photography from birth. They didn't get born into the world with a camera in their hand. They couldn't walk, talk, or feed themselves on their own. So, anything the best photographer is doing is literally a learned behavior. If they can learn it, then you can too. Of course, money and sociopolitical issues will impact whether someone has the opportunity to achieve the highest level in photography (or any discipline), but the skill is there for the taking if given the opportunity. So, don't put yourself down if you're not shooting like Annie Leibovitz right now. These things take time; just keep learning and moving forward.

5. "I Can't Afford to Become a Professional"

While there are people that use money as an excuse not to do something, there is a genuine requirement for some people to have extra help in order to get into photography. The Sony Alpha Female Plus program aims to do just that.

This is one comment that on the face of it sounds stupid, but actually has a huge undercurrent of truth. For the rich, white, middle class male in a position of privilege, this might be a stupid line to use, but there are many other situations where it resonates with truth. I totally hear where these people are coming from. If you don't agree, then you may not be aware of the injustices and inequality around the world that prevent people from achieving their potential. For example, the child of a family stuck in the middle of a war zone probably won't have the resources to learn how to become a professional photographer because they have other, more pressing priorities all around them. This is something the photography industry has to be more aware of. There are grants and bursaries out there for those less fortunate, which enable people to achieve things they wouldn't be able to do alone. And there are awards given for groups of people that have been oppressed; just look at Sony's Alpha Female Plus program to see this in action.

6. "I Only Shoot Natural Light"

Natural light is fantastic, but you don't have to take your tripod everywhere you go if you learn how to use off-camera flash.

A quick alternate version of this line could be: "I don't know how to use flash." Most of the time, photographers who prefer to shoot natural light (especially beginners) are simply unaware of the incredible power of artificial lighting or perhaps haven't learned how to use it effectively. Sure, natural light can have some wonderful qualities. Window light from a north-facing part of the building, for example, can give a soft, wrapping quality, which looks stunning, but so does a big softbox with off-camera flashgun inside. The difference? The flashgun can keep firing as long as there's power, whereas you're limited by the sun position, weather, and time of day with natural light. To only shoot natural light is to bind your legs before you go for a run.

7. "This Lens is Rubbish"

A bad workman blames his tools, and when I hear others complain about the quality of their glass, there's a pang of ingratitude that hits me in the belly. That's because it carries with it an unawareness of how amazingly clear we are able to see things since the advent of lenses.

Once upon a time, no life on earth had eyes, and over millions of years, light-sensitive cells turned to slightly more complex visual systems, until we reached the peak of vision as we have it now in many types of animals, such as mantis, shrimps, and hawks. Here's evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins discussing the evolution of the eye for more context. The fact we can make images that are sharp, regardless of just how sharp those images are, is incredible. We're now comparing the sharpness of one lens to another in scientific laboratories with tiny discernable differences between one and another, studied through modulation transfer functions, among other methods. Lenses are really now so good, with electrical connections to automate aperture control, focusing, image stabilization, subject tracking, and more that it should be difficult to say that a lens is rubbish.

This illustration demonstrates the simplicity of a camera obscura, which occurs naturally in the world without the requirement of a human-made invention.

After all, we can make photos without lenses, and we call that type of photography pinhole photography. In its simplest form, a dark box with a small hole in it can project a view of the outside world through the hole and inside the dark box; this is a camera obscura. From there, we developed a small amount of transparent material, made out of glass or plastic, which then focused the beam of light to make things sharper and more defined. Even the world's cheapest camera lens is able to focus light and produce a sharp image onto either photographic film or an image sensor, which is much, much better than just a pinhole. So, while there is a difference between that entry-level kit lens and a $10,000 super telephoto, it probably won't make much of a difference to the hobbyist or beginner enthusiast.

8. "I Don't Like to Edit My Photos, It Feels Like Cheating"

Another version of this that I hear is "It's like lying." So, what do these people mean? It probably comes down to embellishing a photograph to look dramatically different from what you captured at the source. Traditionally, although film photography was doctored and altered, it was a lot more difficult to do than with digital photography. And although developing film and slides is necessary to produce photographs on analog media, it's not done to the same level that image-editing software now allows us to do. I get that, but to say it's cheating or lying is to not understand the full story.

By editing your images digitally, there's a further opportunity for artistic expression. This step in stills image production is as creative as the photo-taking process. It's a mixture between photography and painting in my eyes. Think of any photographer that isn't a documentary or news photographer. They've each made a conscious decision to portray a subject in a certain way, whether it's through lighting, color reproduction, set design, costume styling, or anything else. So, if there's "untruthful" expression at this stage, why not in the image-editing stage? At least when editing images, you can find a style you're happy with and produce images that look distinctly like they belong to you. Just as a painter would stroke their paintbrush in a certain direction, so would we process our photos in a totally legitimate step.

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18 Comments

Ed Sanford's picture

I have heard those things for decades. The one that is most frustrating to me is #8 "I Don't Like to Edit My Photos, It Feels Like Cheating"... This one clearly results from a lack of background regarding the history of photography. Since the dawn of photography as a craft, there has always been a multi-step process in producing a final image. In fact, the great photographers of yesteryear spent more time in the darkroom than they did shooting. They not only developed the film chemically, but they also adjusted exposure through dodging and burning techniques. In addition, they retouched negatives and airbrushed prints. These are historical facts. Today, digital technology enables the craftsman to perform those same photofinishing chores electronically. The whole notion that a real picture comes right out of the camera is totally inaccurate. In the old film days if you took the same roll of film to multiple developers the prints would look different based upon the setup of the respective developing and printing processes. Of course, to the average consumer shooting a JPEG from their cellphone with acceptable results, this isn't important. However, they should know that, even in a grab shot, the processes in the camera adjust the final image. So, what's really real?

Andy Coleman's picture

To piggyback on this, many people don't understand that phones/cameras DO edit your JPG photos before you see them. So instead of letting Sony/Apple/Samsung choose what level the highlights/shadows/saturation/etc. are in my photo, by shooting RAW and editing it myself, I can select them myself and more accurately capture the scene before my eyes.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Gear doesn’t matter (tm) article.

Lawrence Woodd's picture

Re Cheating - I find the images when I first look at them in Lightroom don't always look like what I saw when I took the photo. So I fix them to what I saw. I find the RAW images are usually flat and need more contrast, I don't see that as cheating or lying.
I used to shoot mostly B&W film and what I "see" in the viewfinder is the final B&W image. With the digital cameras I shoot color and the conversion to B&W is trivial (besides I don't have to carry a second body with B&W film as i used to).
I will freely admit that I sometimes push the image past what I "saw" because it makes for a better image.
As for equipment, I recently scanned some 50 year old 126 negatives from a base model Kodak instamatic and got good, sharp, images that only required a lot of dust removal to be acceptable. I have attached one of the images. (It was taken by a 12 year old) (not me)

Stuart C's picture

8. Equivalence and everything that is connected to it.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

I used to shoot catalog work with a 2 1/4 Hasselblad. I could shoot anything I shoot today with the original 5D. I just laugh when I hear these excuses. Just a bunch of tourist. The real laugh is the loss of ROI when these jokers update or switch within 1-2 years. 🤣

Eric Robinson's picture

It all depends on what you shoot. In a controlled studio environment the demands on gear diminish as camera short comings can be accommodated as you have time. In a slow paced studio I could see the severe limitations of a 5D not being a problem. Though try using it in a low light situation even with a f1.2 fitted! Though when I used my 5D MK 2 I had to install Magic lantern to make it work the way my work demanded. Talk to a sports or wildlife photographer where split seconds can make a difference as does things like low light. Now you know as well as I that using a 5D in either situation would be a joke. It’s horses for courses.

Thatcher Freeman's picture

I used to shoot ballroom dance competitions with the 5D Mk2 and that wasn't a great time. Even with a stabilized 70-200 f2.8, you needed to get such a short shutter speed in these super dim rooms and using flash wouldn't be kind to the competitors, so all of my images came out pretty noisy. Not to mention, the 5D mk2's autofocus was frequently inaccurate, so a lot of shots of these in-motion dancers were missed there. I think most of my shots were at 1/200s, f/4 (to improve the keeper rate when the AF slightly missed), and ISO 3200, which was pretty much the limit of what would make acceptable images with that camera.

For virtually any genre that's well lit and involves slowly moving subjects, you could probably have little issue getting excellent pictures with that camera or the original 5D. However, there are definitely genres (like sports and wildlife, like you said) where your gear can make an enormous difference in your keeper rate.

Eric Robinson's picture

Sometimes gear can be an issue and result in lost or sub par images. Also it depends on what you are looking for in your final image. I had a non native lens plus adaptor that worked up to a point. As I became more adept, though far from expert, in wildlife photography I found the time for the autofocus to kick in unacceptable in that I was loosing quite a few shots which led to frustration. Plus the way the lens achieved it’s focal length by extending its overall length I found took, a few at times, extra crucial seconds. One ultimately has to trust ones gear. Now I happed to shoot a lot of macro images and put deep front to back sharpness as the ultimate prize. I use many photo stacked images to yield one shot. Would I use a reversed 50mm lens in preference to my 90mm macro?
I think for the casual photographer or snapper gear is not an issue. For those that are after perfection or as near as they can get, gear matters. I know it falls into the diminishing law of returns but sometimes to achieve that last few percentage points of quality, It’s a bullet that needs to be bit.

Stuart C's picture

You should take a look at the overall winner of this renowned Landscape competition, this is the definition of what the people mean when they say gear doesn’t matter. Shot with a Nikon D3200 and AF-P 10-20 budget zoom lens, total cost, around £350.

https://www.lpoty.co.uk/gallery/2020/2020-gallery

I think trying to tag the term onto something like wildlife photography which is largely based on huge expensive telephoto lenses (and possibly the most gearhead oriented genre anyway) is kind of missing the point.

Eric Robinson's picture

Ask a sports photographer if their camera that shoots 10fps is good enough when the person standing next to them shoots 20!

David Albert's picture

"Gear doesn't matter" is always relative. Sure most types of photograpy can be done just as good with a phone as with a 5k€ pro camera but good luck trying Wildlife or Sports with a Iphone or a 14mm lense.

gear doesnt make you a better photographer but it sure helps get you better pics.

Cristian Perotti's picture

My input on this article´s points:

1. I don't necessarily agree. For the most part, it is true and maybe 'stupid' to say. However, it all comes down to what you want to shoot. For instance, my first camera (which I still own and use) is a Canon Rebel T3i. If I wanted to shoot sports, I would definitely struggle since this camera is not fast. I could get decent pictures, but the ratio of decent pictures I would get compared to if I had say the R5 is very different. Hence, I could perfectly say the statement of point 1.

2. For the most part, I agree.

3. Agree.

4. Agree.

5. This one is tricky. I believe most people who think this is because without money to invest in marketing, gear (if needed), etc. it is remarkably slow and difficult to make photography your main or sole source of income. By definition, a professional is someone who charges money for work. Whether you are good or bad is a whole other discussion. And also, whether you do it full time or not. So bottomline, without money it is hard and slow to make photography your full time source of income.

BTW: I think it has nothing to do with race or gender, as you pointed. For example, female boudoir photographers tend to do better in the business (as a group) than males.

6. Completely disagree. Although I may agree that a lot (if not most) photographers who say this don't know how to use artificial light, it is a matter of taste and hence, cannot be stupid in my opinion. I know a couple of photographers who definitely know how to use artificial light but voluntarily choose not to. I, myself, kinda do that too. It is preference. I have my studio, with lights (and know how to use them) and I shoot artificial indoors and outdoors if a project requires so. However, when it comes to my personal photos, I almost always go for natural light because I simply like the look better.

7. Depends on the lense. You mention that nowadays lenses can hardly be rubbish. However, not every photographer, especially hobbyists have the 'new' lenses. I am sure you know there are lenses that are in fact rubbish.

8. I don't know if this is stupid. I believe people who don't edit their photos are missing on so much. However, one first has to define edit. I know people who edit as in Lightroom, but don't retouch faces or they don't change skies, etc. The 'RAW' look may be appealing to some in a world where most of us do some form of editing.

Michael Krueger's picture

I've said a few of those.

"My camera isn't good enough" I shot an event in low light with a Nikon D3200 and saw comparison photos from Canons flagship FF DSLR that compares to the D5. My camera certainly wasn't good enough in that situation.

"This lens is rubbbish"
Early on I tried buying those adapters that screw onto the lens filter thread to make it 2x, fish eye, etc. Seemed like a cheap alternative but they really were rubbish. Got better results cropping.

James Cowman's picture

I thought number 8 was a great point. I see a lot of photographers hesitant to crop or manipulate photos because it’s not real. However, drawings and paintings, even in a realistic tradition are not real. It’s an abstraction. If you know anything about art, it’s not about reproducing what’s real, it’s about expression. I can’t even tell you how many photographs I see daily from photographers that fail because they don’t understand design or have a fear of cropping. It’s time to let this go and start creating images that are art. Don’t let this mindset prevent you from that point.

Ben Quick's picture

I’m happy to swap gear with the author if it doesn’t make a difference.

Peter Jones's picture

Never, always, must , mustn't, can't, should, shouldn't are amongst many words that should never enter the minds of photographers.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

They must always avoid them, until they just can't use them. It shouldn't be tolerated.