Tools or Talent?

ImageOne of the oldest questions in photography is what counts the most: tools or talent? Most people want the answer to be “talent is more important than gear” because they believe or hope they have the talent. And, for sure,  there are some people making wonderful images with cell phones due to their talent. But they also have a great understanding of the picture-making tool they are using. Knowledge of the tool is a critical element in making great photographs. Of course, this has always been true–for woodworkers, musicians, even golfers! Great skill with the tools of one’s trade frees you to be creative, to achieve the expression of your vision both efficiently and effectively.
In photography, the camera is the tool. Ansel Adam’s 8×10 view camera, Cartier-Bresson’s Leica and Weegee’s Speed Graphic were all “difficult” cameras to use and master. Any modern DSLR is far easier to use. It’s easier to take control of a modern camera, thereby releasing the photographer to concentrate on expressing their vision and developing that talent. That’s the irony – the tools have gotten more user friendly, which has created a complacency and laziness in the vast majority of photographers so they don’t work so hard to develop their talent. They expect better results, great photos, without trying hard to achieve those results.
Like most people, my limiting factor is not the gear, but the time and effort required to make satisfying images. I like the image above, made in June on Ocean Drive, the hub of Miami’s South Beach district.