Meaningful Improvement

Read the title of this article again. 

Once more. 

Let it settle in. 

Got it? Good, let's continue.

The question everyone should be asking themselves these days is simple: what will provide a meaningful improvement to my photography? It's really a simple question, but it's an open ended question, isn't it?

So let's break it down a bit:

  • You
    • Technique
    • Experimentation
    • Practice
  • Gear
    • Camera
    • Lens
    • Accessories

Most people seem to think that they can just keep getting improvements by buying new cameras. Indeed, that's the way the camera companies market their new gear. Sometimes a new camera really does provide a real, meaningful improvement. The Nikon D3 was one of those cameras for me, the D800E another. On the Canon side, the 1DS and 1DX both tended to do that for me. With Sony, it was the A7R Mark III. 

But not every camera will do so, and thus people tend to go "dormant" on improving their photography. Truly. I've watched this time and again, with everyone from true consumers to top pros. Oh, sure, a few then move to lenses to improve something, but it's still the same crutch: gear makes you better.

I'd argue that you should spend equal time (and implied money) to all six of those subcategories I list. Note that half of them have nothing to do with buying anything. Thus, today I issue you a challenge: demonstrate that half your effort on improving yourself as a photographer is based upon something other than gear. 

Indeed, I'd go further. Ban yourself from buying anything for three months. At the end of those three months assess whether your photography got better or not. If it didn't, you're relying upon the crutch of gear worship. 

I write this today because we're right on the cusp of the next round of "ooooh aaaah" announcements coming from camera companies. Some, like Fujifilm and Sony will be first out the gate, while others might seem to take a little longer but will make the next leapfrog within twelve or so months (as I've written before, new sensor tech is always a little iffy on exact timing). 

Your gear temptations will be under full intensity soon, but just owning some buzz-worthy equipment isn't photography

The pandemic makes things even more problematic, as many of us can't get the kind of time and practice we need to push ourselves upward in photography. Personally, I'm spending my "down" time a bit more on post processing, making sure that I've caught up to everything that can be done in that realm. I'm also looking through a lot of old images—I came across a few wild images I didn't even remember taking (back in 1981!)—and trying to assess whether I can see what it is I can't yet do (that alone is a topic for another article). 

So. Enjoy the product announcements this week. But think bigger (and longer) picture (pun intended).  

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