Is Your Camera Smarter Than You?

I recently saw a quote that stated "the best photographer is not as smart as the simplest camera'. Someone no doubt has another opinion on this subject-and if so I'll be glad to hear it-but I found this quote offensive and belittling. A camera is a tool, nothing more, no matter what it cost. It doesn't think, it doesn't create, it does what it's designed to do in whatever direction it is pointed. People made cameras, not the other way around. To elevate the tool above the maker is the height of foolishness. It also contributes to a helpless attitude in purchasers and users. "The camera says I can't take this picture" shouldn't be a final and defeatist statement signifying failure, it should be the beginning statement to the thought process of 'how can I bend this tool to my will to express my vision?' In the end, a camera is an expensive paintbrush that helps us duplicate images in our lives, and share our inner vision. It helps us to let others see the world as we see it. To allow the defeatists who worship their cameras to control our creative process is a great loss of potential artistry. People are smarter than their tools. No one says 'I don't draw well because I don't understand this pencil.' No. They say they don't know how to draw, and if they want to learn they either take a class or they buy a book and then they practice. Some years ago I purchased the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, and that book teaches that drawing is not a matter of the physical skill of pointing a pencil at a piece of paper, but of learning how to 'see' and duplicate our vision to paper. Wait a minute... That sounds just like what we do with our cameras, huh? Learn how it works, one function at a time. Then push those functions, and when a tough lighting situation comes up, you'll know what your tool can do, rather than letting it tell you what it wants to do. I shoot exclusively manual on my highly intelligent automated tool. Why? Because I'm smarter than it is, and the way it sees doesn't match the way I see, and it's not the boss of me. 🙂
North Cascades Pass
North Cascades Pass
This was a simple picture, simply done from the roadside during a pitstop, but the 'first draft' without a polarizing lens and with the camera settings on auto was flat and lifeless, and taken at a really flat time of day, 1 in the afternoon, a light I really hate. Between the polarizer and some dark room work, it becomes a nice picture that reminds me of a good long roadtrip with friends.

One Reply to “Is Your Camera Smarter Than You?”

  1. Ah, spoken like someone who regrets paying too much and now can’t comprehend the manual.

    It’s a shame that as a society that many think that because they can afford the tools–whether it be a hammer and saw, a computer, a word processor, Photoshop, or a fully loaded Canon–think that it makes them a craftsman. No apprentice training, no years as a helper, no learning the craft, no starving for the art, no investment in the craft other than purchasing a tool–and suddenly they’re a Hemingway or Monet or Karsh.

    The tool doesn’t make the craftsman, the craftsman makes the tool.

Comments are closed.