the camera doesn't matter

Buckle up, buckaroos: I'm about to drop some deep knowledge on you because I'm feeling existential AF.

So you know how sometimes Facebook ads are so well targeted that you think they are speaking directly to you? Like those addictive looking blackhead masks that peel off your face. You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I was scrolling my feed and I saw an ad for this class with Annie Leibovitz. I obviously stopped and turned up the volume, because when Annie Leibovitz speaks you show her some goddamned respect.

 Annie Leibovitz is basically Yoda to me.

Annie Leibovitz is basically Yoda to me.

Not only did I want to immediately buy this class (which I didn't), she made a comment that I really related with. She said she's not a technical photographer, meaning she doesn't like to talk on and on about the gear she uses.

"If that's what you're thinking about," she explains, "you're not taking pictures."

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I am in several photography and small business groups on Facebook full of creatives and I see little debates pop up all the time. Canon or Nikon. Black and white or color. Beyoncé's maternity photos or Beyoncé's newborn photos.

One popular topic photographers especially like to hate on: the iPhone as a camera. There is a growing opinion that iPhone = shitty pictures. In this day in age, more and more people have access to a camera and are able to document their lives. Yet instead of celebrating this or feeling motivated to become a better photographer, I still see comments like, "Anyone can take a photo with an iPhone," or, "There's no skill to it." This disdain comes off as insecurity at best, egotism at it's worst.

The new iPhone X came out recently and I would be lying if I said I wasn't impressed by the picture quality. But I'm not intimidated by its awesomeness.

I once was shooting for a shoe designer in LA, and while I was setting up and styling  the shot, her assistant leaned in, snapped a photo of my setup with her phone, and put it on Instagram. She then turned to me asked a question that I'll never forget:

"Aren't you afraid an iPhone is going to take your job one day?"

 This photo of donuts was my most popular photo on  Instagram  in 2014. I took it with an iPhone. 

This photo of donuts was my most popular photo on Instagram in 2014. I took it with an iPhone. 

Do I honestly believe a handheld robot would take my job? Of course not. An iPhone cannot move around and snap the photo on it's own (not yet, anyway). But do I think one day an iPhone could be a viable option for a professional camera?

Absolutely.

In any industry we would be hiding our heads in the sand if we ignored progress in technology and didn’t plan for it to affect us. Just look at the coal industry. The only solution is to continue to learn and become better.

The photo above might look simple, but I didn't just take a photo of a plate of donuts. I put that plate on top of a refrigerator, because that's where the best light was. I switched out the art behind the donuts, because it made more sense than what was there in reality. I thought about the colors and the theme and I framed it purposefully. 

Which brings me to a simple math equation:

Intention/Donuts > Camera choice

 I took this photo on my iPhone when I was in France. My mother asked for a print of this photo over a similar photo I took on my professional film camera.

I took this photo on my iPhone when I was in France. My mother asked for a print of this photo over a similar photo I took on my professional film camera.

 

The more I think about it, the less intimidated I am about anything or anyone taking my job. I'll tell you why, baby angels.

In reality, the camera doesn't matter. The person behind the camera is calling all the shots. Literally.

I currently shoot weddings on a Canon Mark IV (my husband surprised me with it last month because he loves me so much and he's the best husband ever). A couple months ago, I shot them on a Mark III. Before that a Mark II and before then a 7d. I often bring along my completely manual Hasselblad from 1962 to weddings , because my clients like the look of what that camera produces. I have photos in my portfolio from the first wedding I ever shot. 

 A photo taken with a camera that doesn't even have a screen.

A photo taken with a camera that doesn't even have a screen.

I could walk down the street and ask a stranger to stand next to me and take a photo of a fire hydrant at the same time. I bet you that person would frame, angle, focus, and approach the subject differently than I would. 

A good picture is a good picture, and a good photographer is a good photographer.

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You see, the insane, beautiful, magical thing about photography is that no one can completely duplicate someone else's image. They could frame it the same way. They could imitate the lighting and the posing choices. But it will never be the exact same picture.

I'm confident in my work, and my ability to take a picture. The camera I use is just a tool, and I can take a good photo or a bad photo with just about anything.

As an artist, there is always room to challenge yourself to be better. It’s one of the reasons artists are collectively so unhappy. We are constantly trying to one-up ourselves. So we can blame a camera all we want on why we are losing out on work, but in reality we just need to go with it and use it as a reason to grow. Become the best iPhone photographer ever. Keep looking for the best light. Don’t rely on filters to “save” an image. 

Because a bad photo with a filter is still a bad photo with a filter. 

The camera doesn’t matter. It’s how we use it that matters. And as long as we only compete against ourselves (and not other photographers or technology) an iPhone will never take your job.

After all, I will never be Annie Leibovitz, and an iPhone will never be me.