This worn-out comment, relevant to the making of an enjoyable image is commonly used to suggest “it’s the photographer.” But… Is it? Just like the thought implied if only one question is asked (”What camera did you use?”) to suggest that all the credit should instead go to the photographer is also an oversimplification. This is not unlike saying that the success of a movie, e.g. “Avatar” is all due to the genius of its director. Hmmm. Again, is it? Did the screen writer(s) have anything to do with it? The actors? The camera operators? The digital effect artists? The costume designers? The theme music? The gear and technology? And last but not least (depending on how we define “success”) the marketing & distribution network?

Many factors must come together to create a successful work of the visual arts. This is as true of still photography as it is of any movie. E.g. The photograph below was made using a non-descript, generic, Korean-made cell phone, equipped with a ~2MP sensor and the typical, tiny, plastic ‘lens’ that usually gets smudged with skin oil in the hands of the average cell-phone user (e.g. myself). Photographically speaking this package is far smaller and less capable than even the cheapest ‘point and shoot’ camera at any big box supermarket. So… does credit for the image go to the camera? It might be instructive to consider some of the actual factors that contributed to the making of this specific photograph.

* First and foremost came the impulse/inspiration/desire to capture the moment; the ‘wow’ factor, the emotional response to the subject matter — in this case my 4-year old grandson practicing his moves on a tiny skateboard.
* The ’script,’ the ‘directing’ and the ‘acting’ were all provided by my grandson himself. The cameraman (me) had nothing to do with any of that.
* Next was the ’shooting’ — the act of following the subject on screen, looking for possible compositions as the action unfolded, then triggering the shutter. This was the sixth or seventh shot from that session — the rest were all ‘duds’ — something was not quite right with each. But this one had potential, I thought.
* Luck was a major factor… and it was sorely needed because, among other things, this cell-phone camera, like most, has a shutter delay… after clicking it takes the better part of a second for the capture to be completed. A lot can happen in a second of fast moving action. Luck of course cannot be controlled or turned on at will, but the odds improve with an increasing number of attempts.
* Last but not least was the post-processing work in ‘the digital darkroom.’ Even though the subject position /composition were good, the background was cluttered and interfered with the composition. The solution, made possible by digital imaging technology , was to blur the background and thus make the subject stand out, as well as enable experimentation with complementary colors & light/shadow effects.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it helps illustrate the point. True of all photography — nature / sports /photojournalism /portrait / wedding / …

It’s not (only) the camera, nor (only) any one other factor…
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