I have a friend who describes his job as being paid $100 to push a button. $1 of that fee is actually pushing the button, the other $99 is knowing what button to push, and when to push it.
People who aren’t professional shooters tend to focus on gear, specifically the camera. However, people who are actually working pros tend to focus on how to manipulate light, and the camera is tertiary at best. Some of them, like Ansel Adams and Robert Frank, learn how to adapt the light that’s there to what they want to see. Others, like Irving Penn* and Mark Seliger, learn how to add and subtract light until the get what they want.
These guys know that no amount of money invested in a camera is going to make up for sucky lighting, but they learned early to either how to master the existing light, or else a few dollars spent on a decent beginner’s strobe setup and a few more dollars (and a little time) spent on learning how to use light will make all the difference in the freaking world in your pictures.
Look at those two shots above: Unless you knew what the light actually looked like and knew what was needed to make it look better, you’d have taken the first shot. More importantly, because this was a wedding, you wouldn’t get a second chance to get a good shot?
Understand the metaphor yet, or do I have to hammer it home a bit more?
The photog knew he needed to solve the challenge of getting a good shot at that time and at that place, and he knew that a camera alone was not up to the task. As a result, he relied on his training and experience to under-expose the ambient light by at least two stops and then fill in the subject with a strobe light so that she’s properly exposed.
He also knew that standing up and shooting the camera at eye level wasn’t going to get him the results he wanted, so he got out of his comfort zone and got onto his belly to make the shot.
Get it yet, or do I have to use the phrase “tools in the toolbox” on ya? 🙂
Learn the rules. Learn to adapt the rules. Learn which gear helps you execute the rules to their fullest extent.
Then go have fun.
* If you’re doing commercial photography, specifically product photography, and you don’t know who Irving Penn is, chances are, you’re doing it wrong. What ol’ AA was to landscape photography, Irving Penn was to taking pictures for a client. It starts with him, so start there.