My Photographic Crutches Laid Bare

Recorded on October 11th, 2016

It’s hard when you read something that points out the bad habits you’ve picked up by acquiring better camera gear. Jeremiah Rogers has single-handedly (see?) dismantled some of my most closely-held tricks and exposed them for what they are in his Tie One Hand Behind Your Back post.

I love the Panasonic 20mm prime that goes on the GX1, but I have totally fallen victim to the trap of using it to take pictures of boring things and using blurry backgrounds to make them look important or interesting, when really they were always neither.

A modern camera with a fast lens can shoot in almost any light, can blur away a dull background, can stop bullets in mid-flight, and its raw files can be post-processed to create dreamlike high dynamic range landscapes. It can make a nice looking photo out of almost anything, but unless it’s used carefully those photos won’t be good enough to hang in any room except a hotel room.


I’ve talked before about how fast lenses make me worse at photography. Fast lenses encourage me to focus on getting awesome blurred bokeh-rich backgrounds instead of finding interesting things to photograph.


Each time I make my camera more simple to use my pictures improve. Shooting with prime lenses taught me how to see in fixed framelines and walk to get pictures. Shooting in manual only mode taught me to meter for exactly the part of the scene I cared about. Shooting at narrow apertures and in black and white further improved my photos by really making me focus on subject matter and composition — not fancy color and selective focus tricks. You might like to try this as well.

All the bad parts above have been me! For years! I need to get better at shooting the Nikkormat in straight manual mode, with its 50mm lens, with black and white film, and not with aperture opened up all the time.

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