When Everyone Has Access to the Same Cameras…

Bestselling author and marketing guru Seth Godin published an interesting thought to his blog yesterday that is very relevant to aspiring photographers. He writes,

When everyone has access to the same tools then having a tool isn’t much of an advantage. The industrial age, the age of scarcity, depended in part on the advantages that came with owning tools others didn’t own.

Time for a new advantage. It might be your network, the connections that trust you. And it might be your expertise. But most of all, I’m betting it’s your attitude.

The photography industry is definitely one that has experienced (and is experiencing) a leveling of the “tools playing field”. Even more so than before, it’s what goes on in the 12 inches behind the viewfinder that sets players apart.

When everyone has access to the same tools [Seth Godin via A Photo Editor]

Image credit: PHNAT.jpg by gary_pix

  • Neoracer Xox

    Its 100% about the creative vision behind the camera..I see plenty of soccer moms with pro cameras set on AUTO.

  • Samuel

    A camera can do everything for you technically with D-light and auto and such but it cant tell you where to be and how to shoot to make good images. Yet.

  • Mr C

    I have gear coming out of my arse and still can’t find th sense to remove the lens thing covering

  • Dustin Henderlong

    My two favorite blogs are Seth Godin’s and Petapixel. Awesome overlap today. Well played. :)

  • Norm Cooper

    As Syndrome said in The Incredibles…”I ‘ll sell everyone Powers… and when everyone is Super,… no one will be” same with cameras… the gear doesn’t a photographer make

  • Olivia Paige

    Hey Michael, relates to the essay I sent you a couple weeks ago–becoming more than the gear that you have, but the experience and knowledge you have with it leading to the final products. There can be such a huge difference between the two, and it’s really interesting to look at.

  • Digi

    When everyone has access to the same ___________ (insert commodity). You could say the same about computers, cars and pots and pan. Equipment is devoid of talent, hard work and ideas. Not everyone is a chef, F1 driver or programmer or designer.

  • shashinka

    No, but the problem comes in now that these heavily computerize devices
    (cameras) are so well designed now that any one who presses the shutter
    will get a near perfectly exposed image every time.

    Case in
    point, one for the newspaper I work for ran a reader’s choice poll,
    where they mixed the images from the newspaper photographers pool with
    those taken from reader submissions and allowed the readers to vote on
    their favorite shots. No names, or camera models posted to the
    poll/gallery, yet 62% of respondent preferred the user submitted images.
    Average staffer age is 40, with a college degree in photographer or

    The old adage, it’s not the camera the
    photographer seems to be less and less relevant unless the overall image
    is judged by professional/hardcore hobbyists,

  • kyoshinikon

    I will say however that most still dont know the features of their own tools

  • Digi

    Maybe…but put the average citizen shooter in a tough situation in a moments notice with multiple lights, angles and such and watch what happens. I’m a designer who also doubles as photog and it was the same for design when everyone who had a copy of Adobe CS? could apparently design. Well, it turns out it wasn’t so.

    The biggest difference I find is that in fairly perfect setting, people can get some images, but need something fast and good, and experience will win the day. If I didn’t have the experience I’ve gained over the years doing many assignments, campaigns and shoots (design and photography), there’s no way I could craft something, almost literally out of nothing.

    The comment about the tools is spot on too. Take away the “P” and that eliminates many.

  • Eziz

    This is silly. I believe even back then it was about the photographer and not about the gear. I guess, one has a need to feel superior than the rest.

  • Ralph Hightower

    True. The only tool out there now is digital.
    Oh, wait! Some still shoot film! My 30+ year old Canon A-1 still works like a champ.

  • Richard

    A soccer mom with a DSLR set on Auto can have creative vision too. No? Vision isn’t in the settings, it’s in the brain.

  • Richard

    What is the relationship between knowing the features of tools and creative vision? Does one have to know the technical aspects of photography to have creative vision?

  • Rudolph P.

    Richard, you must be a soccer dad. No?

  • Richard

    Rudolph: No, far from it. It just seems belittling to put people in boxes, don’t you think?

  • eraserhead12

    ohh those silly women whose children who play sports, they could never capture art with anything set on auto, let alone possess any artistic vision! disagree and you must be a–shudder–DAD.

  • eraserhead12

    imo network/connections have always been the first and foremost advantage for any artist. but I’d argue that, at least in one sense, that too is becoming less relevant thanks to social media.

    though, with instant access to media and–as this article points out, access to the same equipment–you pretty much have sensory overload. it’s increasingly more difficult to make a lasting impression; you have your 10 seconds of incredible fame and that’s that.

  • eraserhead12

    sans proper equipment, you can’t really develop your talents; you can’t become a proper chef if all you had to learn from were one spatula, a dingy nonstick pan, and a can of spam. that’s not to say a full kitchen instantly makes ‘pro’ material, but at least there is potential for development.

  • Sergio De Gregorio

    So, that’s why I use DXO Optics Pro with DXOFilms, you can choose the camera rendering you like. Basically I can even choose the Canon 350D for my 5DIII if I want to!

  • Ken Akiva Shapero

    The kid’s got the cool stance.

  • Carin Basson

    Perhaps knowing the features of your tools enables the execution of the creative vision. Or at least makes the end result look better.

  • Richard

    Carin: It’s a chicken-egg issue: knowing how to expose an image doesn’t mean you’ll know where to point and when to click. Lots of gear heads know all about their cameras but their images lack creative vision. I think it may be easier to learn the tool than to summon up creative vision.

  • Carin Basson

    Agreed – a excellent bike doesn’t make a excellent cyclist, but a excellent cyclist will do much better with a excellent bike.

    One of the most photographed landmarks in my area is Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Most of the pictures might be perfectly captured, but they’re so boring. It takes someone with creative vision (and good timing) to get a really special shot.

  • Richard

    I love this (seriously). So, the interesting piece of this for me is, many of us get high end gear with the hope that we’ll grow into it. Some people grow out of low end gear and only then get high end gear.

    There is no right way to do it and I don’t se anything wrong with getting high end gear just for the love of gear, but as I say, it doesn’t necessarily make for creative vision.

    Sometimes creative vision comes from struggling with the limitations of lower end gear.

    And, back to the “soccer mom” piece of it, I don’t see anything wrong with buying a 1Dx and a bag of L lenses and leaving the camera on Auto or P. If you know where to point it and when to click that gear will make some nice images. One can grow into the other capabilities of the camera in time, or not. If the images please the photographer then who’s business is it? Most who would get down on people with money but few skills are simply jealous. Understandable but not great support for fellow photographers going through the process.

  • this guy

    I agree with Yoda

  • Deirdre Ryan Photography

    I used to sell cameras and the number one question was which camera takes the best pictures. My answer was the person behind the camera takes the pictures, the camera was just the tool.