Tech vs Talent

Tech vs Talent


David Duchemin has been ranting for as long as I have known him about how gear heads mix up tech for talent, vision for glass. Many, many years ago I used to work as a camera sales man in ‘Ronnie Marquin’s Highland Camera and Video’, in Waco Texas. The store is long gone now, but I used to have rich doctors and lawyers come in and tell me they wanted to start taking pictures of their kids or they were just getting ready to leave on a cruse and they wanted a new camera for the trip. I would show then an AE1 or the OM1 and they would grunt and then ask for the Canon F1. I would then sell them a camera that I would have killed for. I remember watching them walk out of the shop and thinking, this is just wrong. These guys are swatting mosquitoes with cannons Canons. They had far too much camera and for the most part no skill. But I wasn’t running a workshop I was selling cameras and as much as it made me frustrated, no lets be honest, jealous, that they walked out with a camera I could have made sing and they would only make grunt, I had to let it go. I was making money for Ronnie. A costly camera doth not a photographer make.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had people tell me “Wow, you take really great pictures. I bet you have an amazing camera!” I used to get my feelings hurt. I mean, come on, yeah – a nice camera and nice piece of glass can help a photographer a lot, but without talent it is just a black box, and believe me there are a lot of black boxes out there. I don’t get those comments quite as much now a days. These days what might be true is to say “Wow, what a nice digital camera, I bet you can take a lot of images and really hone down your craft!” Now that doesn’t roll off the tongue like the other, but it is much more accurate. The only thing a nice camera did for most people years ago was make your screw ups a lot more expensive. But now in the digital age, a nice DSLR will give the newbie a chance to excel and to be much better. It is still no replacement for talent, but it will allow the new photographer to shoot and experiment and at virtually no extra cost.

I will close this bit of a rant with this story:

When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe. “you must have a wonderful camera…It must be the best camera in the world…You must show me your camera.” Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”

FaceBook Comments


About The Author


  1. jefflynchdev

    Okay Matt.

    Truer words were never spoken! But if you’re from Waco then y’all know the sayin is “its like swatting a fly with an atom bomb”.

    Jeff from Sugar Land, TX

  2. Matt Brandon

    Jeff, Right you are. Good to hear from a fellow Texan.

  3. Ian

    Hi Matt, my first posting here but i’ve been a regular reader the past few weeks and love your work.

    I only got into photography at the back end of last year but i’m loving it and despite being somewhat late in life (44) i’m cramming in the studying and equally trying to “hone the craft”. In doing so, i’m on my 3rd camera already (s9600-400d-40d) but would agree comletely with what you’re saying here.

    I can’t deny the upgrades have helped me to get better quality in the pictures i’m now taking i:e less CA when I moved from bridge to dslr, etc – but the only thing that’s making an actual difference to the ‘quality’ is learning, be that reading as much as I can or just getting out and making the mistakes.

    Smething I wanted to ask though if you don’t mind, was related to a post you made somewhere else in reply to this article where you stated you only really moved up to a 5d because of clients wanting a bigger image size than your 350 could do.

    That’s basically the reason i’ve moved up to the 40d from the 400d and I can see a noticeable improvement in image quality in using it but I know when I tried decent stock sites with the 400d they usually got returned with a “too soft for size” message. I’m hoping the 40d might help cure that problem a bit but since it sounds similar i’m wondering if that’s the problem you had and until I get a 5d or 5dMkII i’d be banging my head on a wall to even be looking at moving into that area?

    I’m more than happy to spend my time honing the craft, but at the same time i’m just wondering if my time would be better spent on a wider approach to my photography with maybe the occasional a3 or a4 print, than trying to head towards stock too early and doing little more than frustrating myself.

    Many thanks for the endless inspiration

  4. Matt Brandon


    I don’t think anyone of us on the vision side of this argument would nix the importance of the right gear. I love gadgets! But this issue really is about obsession over the latest gear and the thought that it will make the image. It really is a just a black box. But tI think you are agree ing with that. I was contacted by a rep of Getty and asked to submit some images for them. Once they realized that much of my work was shot with a Rebel they were no longer interested, their excuse was the images were not large enough. Oh well.

  5. Ian

    Many thanks for the reply, much appreciated. And yes, I do agree there, I was guilty of it in the beginning and wanted to buy out the shop in the thought that it would give me better pictures but, sometimes you live & learn the expensive way as well as the hard way.

    Thanks again

  6. Matt Brandon

    Well said!


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Review: Peak Design Camera Capture, Think Tank Photo Camera Clip Adapter

Are You a Traveler?



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Sign up to be notified when released. We will inform you when workshop space becomes available. Just leave your valid email address below.
Email We won't share your address with anybody else.