Your Camera Takes Great Pictures

I just got the following comment on my blog, “Your camera is incredible. Every time I see your pictures I am blown away. Truly beautiful.”

If you were the writer, I do not mean any offense by quoting you…  I appreciate your compliment and I know you meant it as one.  I just need to say that the camera does not make the photograph.  It records the image that the photographer tells it to and shows the vision of the artist behind the camera.

On that note, here are 2 “What the Duck” cartoons on the subject:



Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 2


    That is a cute cartoon. It is true that it is the talent behind the lens- however- I must say that having a good camera and good lens does help the quality of the photograph. But I have taken great pictures with a point and shoot- and actually with my camera phone as well! but point and shoot and camera phone can’t get a photo like my SLR can..

  2. 4

    Amie says

    I don’t mean any disrespect, I think you are a fantastic photographer…but in my opinion people tend to get overly defensive about this subject. You can’t deny that a great camera does play a role in the clarity and overall awesomeness of a photo. Obviously it doesn’t compose pictures for you or control the settings and if you mess those things up a great camera isn’t going to fix them magically. But it does factor in.

  3. 6


    Lol, seriously!! It’s like saying to a cook, “wow, that pot and stove make really good food.” Yes, better equipment will create better results, but a bad cook with a $300 pan isn’t going to make great food.

  4. 7


    Amie, I totally want people to express opinions here so thank you. It is not easy to speak up.

    And I agree that good equipment helps – but it only helps when you know how to use it. Trust me – I can prove this with pictures of myself that my husband took – with the exact equipment :) LOL

    I actually did a post about this a while back and showed my progression – and as my skills and equipment got better so did my picture. It is a combination of things. I have taken a few pretty cool iphone pictures, but yes – if my “big camera” was with me – they would have been even better. But if someone had shot without regard to lighting and composition in mind – iphone or SLR – it might be bad…

  5. 8


    File that under ‘backhanded compliment’ or ‘left-handed compliment.’ Though evidently intended as praise, it insultingly elevates tool over talent.

    Was Julia Child admired because her oven was incredible?

    Do Itzhak Perlman and Jascha Heifetz have incredible violins? (OK, of course they do … but still.)

    And how ’bout those incredible guitars that John Lennon and George Harrison played, and that Paul McCartney still does?

    That’s why I hope no marketing communications client ever tells me I have an incredible keyboard.

    What unfair for you and other lens artists is the misguided belief by non-thinkers that because we all snap images . . . now more than when you began, thanks to digital . . . camera size and sophistication are all that separate pros from snapshooters.

    It’s like the ol’ line about an abstract canvas, overheard at a gallery or museum: “My kid can paint better than that.”

    Says way more about the speaker than the artist . . . in your example, too.

  6. 10


    Those are two of my favorite What the Ducks! I really do hate that “compliment” even though it mostly comes from a good place.

    And I’d like to mention – you can take a great photo with a point and shoot as well as an expensive DSLR, if you know how to use them and know what you’re doing.

  7. 11


    Yes, your photos are beautiful! The camera is a tool. There are good tools (my point and shoot) and better tools (whatever I’m getting next, eventually). You’d get great pictures with my P&S. But I’ve been running into the limitations of my camera this weekend (wanting to shoot without flash inside a convention center) and I can only get so far with the lens and ISO limitations I have.

    You have a great combo: great equipment, and artist behind it!

  8. 13

    Donna says

    If it was only the person behind the lens, there would be no need to buy expensive cameras and lenses. In fact, it would be a waste of money. All you’d have to do is pick up a disposable and get fabulous pictures. It annoys me when people have this reaction to this kind of comment. If you truly believe that it is just the person behind the lens, then why aren’t you shooting with a cheap camera? Would people be making this kind of comment if you were shooting with a polaroid?

  9. 15

    Samantha says

    i had a girl once tell me if she had my camera she’d have fabulous family photos too so i lent it to her. didn’t get one similar result. now she’s taking exposure classes :)

  10. 18


    Donna, we get irritated because people are directly relating the quality of the picture with the equipment. I even had someone say to me once, “If I had enough money for your camera, I’d be able to take pictures like that too.”

    Nobody here is silly enough to think equipment plays no role. The fact of the matter is that my expensive digital SLR gives me a flexibility a small box camera never will. But this is pointless if I ever never learn how to take it out of green mode and shoot manual, if I am unable to see lighting conditions and make adjustments, if I don’t know how to maximize the potential the camera has.

    The annoyance comes from the idea that all these people need to do is put an expensive camera in their hands, and their photography will match that of a professional. It’s like saying all I need to do is hold Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar and I will be able to play like him. Or all I need to do is sit in Mario Andretti’s car and I can drive like him.

    The equipment IS important. It’s why we spend thousands of dollars on it. It gives us the flexibility to take our photography to the next level. But without learning how to use our equipment? Our pictures won’t benefit from the equipment and the quality of our work will not progress! Trust us, we can tell when someone respects the equipment AND the talent. But so many times, the respect is given solely to the equipment and none to the person controlling it. It’s something one needs to experience to understand. Just wait until you have taken a beautiful photograph, combining all your knowledge of composition, lighting, client interaction, camera settings, and yes, nice equipment, and someone says, “Wow! I wish I had your camera, then my pictures would look just like this!” and see if you don’t get a little annoyed!

  11. 21


    Ok, here’s the thing – no, it doesn’t matter as long as you have ANY dslr. You ARE limited on a P&S. Beyond that though, I’ll give some non-pro my 1D2 and take their 300D for a day. Both are DSLRs. I’ll KILL them as far as quality goes. It won’t even be close. Give them a 5d2. It won’t matter. As long as you give me the MOST basic DSLR there is and you take the best DSLR, if you don’t know how to use it, I win. That’s the point.

  12. 22


    while it is ultimately the photographer that takes the photos, the better the camera body and, more importantly, the lens, the better the photos will be.

  13. 23


    Brilliant discussion, and even more brilliant comics! As a photographer I have had to deal with this too, but more internally than externally. When I first started, I thought my camera would make me a “photographer”, but it has been totally the opposite, and I couldn’t be more happy. I now know how to use my camera and I am banking on making a living off of it now. You can’t tell me someone who doesn’t know how to use their camera (DSLR/SLR) can make a living AND have the respect of the photography community at the same time. Wont happen. Its the photographer, not the equipment. Matt Antonino said it nicely. The one with the knowledge wins, hands down.

  14. 25

    honey says

    I’ve seen brilliant photographs taken with an iphone. The photographer is way more important than the equipment … ask anyone who thinks buying that slr will improve their photographs, only to be frustrated with the results. I’ve heard many people think they have a defective camera. I think if you are going to use an slr like a point and shoot … stick with a high quality p&s! A friend of mine wants me to help her with her camera she bought because of my photographs. Sure, let me cram all of these years of practice & study into a couple of lessons. How about a 40 hour photoshop lesson too? I have been shooting with an slr for years now and am still learning … not to mention the extra artistic touches photoshop can add. No, it’s not just the camera. Once you master the basics you still have to have an eye for composition and the most expensive glass isn’t going to get you that. Years ago I gave my husband my d70 and then my d200. If he picks up my D700 to get a shot of me with the kids the photograph is always just so-so. If I grab that old d70 and give it a beach work out the photographs are really good … a bit grainy but good! An artist will produce a better painting with quality materials but could still rock out a box of crayons! Paul … you are so right about the light … it’s 90 percent of it and it takes uber skill to find and use it correctly. Still learning a craft I love and yes, I do get insulted by the camera remark!! Alan … the julia child comment was great … and I am sure she had some amazing cookware!!!

  15. 26

    Monica says

    I love this post because I have heard it a few times. It never makes you feel very good when you spend hours and hours learn how to take good photos pays respect to the camera over you.

  16. 27


    As a photographer, I agree that it’s the eye behind the lens that makes the picture. Equipment obviously comes into it but if you can’t ‘see’ the image you want without putting the camera to your eye you won’t get it in the camera. One other point regarding P&S, phones, etc: Any image is better that no image at all, so if you haven’t got a camera with you (something I’m guilty of myself sometimes with dslr gear) you’re stuffed when that ‘image of a lifetime’ presents itself.

  17. 28

    Gale says

    The first cartoon is a hoot and, of course, it is the photographer that has the talent and not the equipment. But with that said, perhaps leaving out your comment regarding the poster who only wished to offer you a sincere compliment would have been tactful and kind. I perceive this discussion as smacking of some kind of insider joke amongst professional photographers yucking it up at the expense of someone who is still learning and who wants to learn otherwise they wouldn’t be here checking out your blog.

    I think this discussion could have been opened up without spotlighting any individual who only wished to leave a compliment no matter how badly worded some might feel it was.

  18. 29


    I am printing these and hanging them over my desk too! I had a client that I work with just tell someone the other week that my camera takes such great pictures. She is an awesome baker and i had to bite my tongue to not say Wow your cakes are awesome, you have such great pans! I completely agree that better quality cameras make a difference such as better quality pans make a difference too. But if I can’t put the ingredients together properly then it doesn’t matter how good my pans :) I do know that she meant no harm which is why I bit my tongue.

  19. 30


    [ “It’s like saying all I need to do is hold Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar and I will be able to play like him. Or all I need to do is sit in Mario Andretti’s car and I can drive like him.” ]

    I totally agree, Paul, while also recognizing this unfair disconnect:

    In their lifetimes, virtually no amateurs will stand on a concert stage or in a recording studio. Nor will they buckle into an Indy racer. But most everyone has clicked shutters since childhood.

    Some think that makes them a photographer, which it does in the narrowest sense. But just as some shoot fuzzy images, they also blur the distinction between hobbyist and pro, tinkering and technical skill, vacation shooting and vocational shooting.

    Museum curators and self-anointed ‘fine art’ connoisseurs in past decades also took a long time to get it, as you know.

    No suggesting slights should be shrugged off, just understood . . . and dealt with accordingly.

    And as an amateur who knows just a tiny bit of what he doesn’t know, I bow in respect to you ALL!

  20. 31


    So true! I haven’t gotten that comment often, but people tend to assume you get good pictures just because you have a nice camera. Then they buy a nice camera and realize there must be something more… :)

  21. 32


    I know this is really a hot topic among photographers. I think this kind of comment should not be taken as an insult if the person is truly talking about the quality of the camera. After all, the photographer did not create the camera and the lens. I think it’s a bit of a slight when the person making the comment is implying that the only reason you take good photos is because of the camera.

  22. 33


    Ugh, my mother in law says that to me all the time and I just want to shout, “Here! You take the camera and let’s see what you come up with!”

  23. 34


    OMGosh!! I get that ALL the time! I’m trying to come up with a funny…not so snide…sounding come back. It frustrates me to no end…because it has absolutely nothing to do with the chick behind the camera. :)

  24. 36


    In defense of the original comment writer, what if they are new, or just trying to get into photography? What if they desire to have the quality of photo that you can get with your nice equipment and they are stuck using a p&s or like me a super basic xti canon? What if the comment isn’t degrading to the artist? But a true comment on your equipment and the quality it produces? I think you all may be overthinking the comment a little bit to be offended by it. Yes, I believe the underlying knowledge is that you have talent (so it goes without saying).

  25. 39

    Beth says

    I find the camera:baking equipment to be a rather erroneous comparison. The equipment for baking doesn’t make nearly as much of a difference in the final product as a good camera does. I can make a cake mixing only by hand, with a cheap hand mixer, or an expensive KitchenAid (ooooh, pretty mixer, if only you took up less space on the counter), and the only difference is the speed and the size of the mess, the cake tastes the same in the end.

    However, plenty of talented people are limited by the equipment they can afford. I can compose great shots all day long, but if I’m limited to my P&S, I’m going to end up with a shot so noisy that all I can make out of it is an art photo. It’s just a limited piece of equipment (thanks, Fuji!) and except in limited circumstances (read: sunlight required), my photo just isn’t going to be that great.

    I think a better comparison would be camera:baking ingredients. Better camera/ingredients, better final product (though cheap baking ingredients can still make a darn fine cake).

    Take it as a compliment on your taste in equipment instead of getting your feathers ruffled.


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