“What camera did you use to take that picture?” – this is one of the most common questions photographers hear (and often dislike). While the importance of high-quality gear is not to be overlooked, some outstanding photographers managed to prove that you shouldn’t judge an image by the lense it was captured with. In other words, just like your photography website, you don’t have to spend a lot to get stunning results.
We searched the web for interesting stories to support this thought, and found extremely compelling examples. Strikingly, in every story, it was a different personality trait of the photographer that overcame the camera’s technical limitations. Today we’d like to feature four amazing photographers, who used gear equivalent to the price of a large pepperoni pizza (possibly even less) to capture stunning photos that are a feast to the eyes.
Matt Usher, a seasoned multi-genre photographer, took part in the “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera” thought-provoking challenge, that has been running for the past six years already. He was challenged with a 16-year old Nikon CoolPix camera, with outdated features such as a 3MP sensor and a focal range of 36–152mm. It’s a known fact that constraints can make us more creative. It is exactly these constraints that drove Matt to create the stunning images as a result of the project.
Instead of compromising on the quality of the image, he took full advantage of the camera’s limitations. After analyzing the camera’s weaknesses, he carefully planned the post-production measures that had to be taken before even capturing a shot. Using composite photography, he took multiple images with different exposures, and stitched them together using Photoshop to bring the best out of every shot into the final image. It’s hard to believe that a 16-year old P&S camera was capable of capturing such a beautiful scene. Which just goes to show: all credit should be given to the eye behind the lens for the outstanding results.
What started as Skyler Adams’ personal project to battle her G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), resulted in a viral story that spread all over the photographers’ online universe. The challenge was to shoot with a camera worth $1 for an entire month. She bought a Canon Sure Shot 38mm camera in a thrift store with an expired roll of Fujifilm Superia 400 and embarked on her film journey.
A month later, the images spoke for themselves (each more than a thousand words). She was able to achieve results that engaged the world wide web thanks to playing with exposure, compensation and striving to find that good lighting. This successful experiment made her focus more on film photography and the importance of perfecting each shot (Do people even remember a world before digital cameras?). Looks like the lesson learned here was worth much more than $1.
Zack Arias is an Editorial and Commercial Photographer from Atlanta. As part of the “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera” project, he had to warm to up to a discontinued Kodak Easyshare camera that has no aperture or ISO settings, plus extremely basic flash abilities. Being a famous portrait photographer known for his “one flash” technique, working with a hot-shoe flash that is triggered by low light was a challenge in every sense of the word. If that wasn’t enough, the photoshoot took place on foreign grounds, accompanied by a language the photographer doesn’t speak a word of – Cantonese. Have you ever tried convincing a foreign speaking stranger to pose for you?
This time, it’s the photographer’s charisma that saved the day. Using his outgoing personality, Zack was able to crush the language barrier and convince locals to pose for him. On top of that, he managed to talk them into moving to places with low light conditions, where the flash could be set off. Once again we see that it takes a real professional to make a simple camera produce stunning pro-level shots.
A famous fashion photographer, Lara was not only challenged to use a 0.3MP toddler toy camera, she had to complete the 3-look haute couture photoshoot during a six hour layover in Hong Kong. The main tech constraints she had to face were a tiny viewfinder, shutter lag, a low dynamic range, and of course – extremely low resolution. Not to mention the obstacle of finding a shooting location on the go.
Lara won the situation by choosing locations that related to the model’s outfit, either creating contrast, or completing the image. Timing each shot according to the shutter lag, shooting the right combinations of light and color, and using simple objects (like a glass of water or a crystal bracelet) as creative fixes, helped to obtain unbelievable results. Once again we can see that photography isn’t about being proficient with highly technical equipment; it’s about mastering every possible parameter involved in capturing an image.
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