There’s something very odd about photography. Something that seems not to seep into other creative endeavours. I’ve never heard a discussion about what brushes Salvador Dali used or what oven Gordon Ramsey quite literally swears by.
- Is it Richard Rogers’ HB pencil that is responsible for the Pompidou Centre, Terminal 5 or the Millennium Dome?
- Where would JK Rowling be without her trusty fountain pen/typewriter/Mac Book?
- Are we to presume that Elton John’s success is chiefly down to the type of piano he plays?
Of course not, but seemingly not so with photography!
Kit and creativity seem to be inextricably linked. I can barely recall an event where someone hasn’t come up and said ‘what camera are you using?’ or ‘that’s a big lens!’ (my favourite). The misconception being that the better the kit the better photographer you are.
Maybe the continuous drive of new technology and market forces makes us feel that’s the truth (look at the latest iPhone billboards ‘shot on the iPhone 11’). In fact the all new whistles and bells cameras on smart phones is pretty much the only selling point in recent years. And while our phones are excellent at giving us a pretty good take on what’s in front of us, we’re not really in control. The camera’s sensor is superb at working out the best overall average of the light and colour that it’s pointing at but there’s not much you can do to change it. Then there’s the whole thing about ‘the eye’. ‘She’s got a great eye’. But strangely never the plural.
In my experience photography is 30% the kit.. the camera, the lens and working out what all the buttons do and 60% composition – getting an interesting angle, framing the shot in an enticing way. Which leaves 10% down to luck. Right place, right time, right settings. But as we all know you only get lucky by working hard. If I had a pound for every time someone smugly said to me ‘…ahhh but the best camera is the one you have in your pocket…’ I could take the staff of Living Magazines out to the Ivy. And this is where camera phones have proved their worth. What they have sadly done is caused the rise of citizen journalism (where readers are sending in their own phone snaps), usually of a poor quality; laying off hundreds of staff photographers but also more damaging is the assumption that these photos are acceptable. Hence our standards of what is a good photograph have been driven down. So just think of what a good job you could do with a handful of good compositional tricks. I know of a few really excellent photographers locally who only use smart phones but take exceptional landscapes and street scenes that any photographer with a £10k kit bag would be envious of.
World Photo Day is designed to celebrate and showcase great photography and now more than ever we have some good gear in our pockets all the time. As a bonus we live in an amazing area with woodlands, canals, bustling towns and stunning landscapes all there for the taking. So it’s no wonder that folk enthused by their great snaps on their phones have taken the step up to buy a digital SLR. And with a little bit of training the benefits are enormous. I regularly run one-to-one bespoke training workshops mainly for people who have just bought a DSLR or who have had one kicking about and want to learn what it can do. Without doubt the best moment, without fail, is when they pick up one simple trick, the penny drops and instantly their photos leap up a whole new level.
So if it’s a photo of the dog you want, the cake you’ve just made to celebrate easing out of lockdown, or maybe you have been asked to take the pictures at your cousin’s 2021 wedding (because you’ve got the kit), let me help you with getting 90% right and the luck, well that really is down to you.
Adam Hollier is a portrait, commercial and event photographer based in Northchurch. He supplies imagery to businesses, schools, small companies, individuals and charities locally and across the country. His photos have appeared in national and local magazines and newspapers and websites. He published his first book, Tring People – Portraits of a Town, in 2018. Work on the companion book, Berkhamsted People is due to resume later this year.
Find out more about his work and training courses by visiting www.adamhollier.co.uk.