A Simple Chart Every Photographer Should Keep in Their Back Pocket as a Reminder


It doesn’t get much simpler or more accurate than this silly little pie chart. Shared by photographer Jeremy Cowart on his Facebook page yesterday, the most socially influential photographer on the Web (according to EyeFi) simply captioned the image, “‘Tis true.” We really have nothing more to add beyond that.

So the next time someone you know asks you what the latest and greatest camera is, or you think about upgrading your gear before you ‘upgrade’ your skill set, remember this little chart.

(via The Phoblographer)

  • Will Mederski

    i’ve always loved ken’s wise words on the subject:

  • bob cooley

    I would take Ken’s words with a block of rocksalt. He has some useful overviews of equipment specs, but he’s not much of a photographer, his musings are incredibly biased towards the simplistic, and his views change on what’s ‘best’ and the best way to approach things on a completely random basis.

  • Harry Cunningham

    My photos improved immensely when I bought a new camera. I think there’s more to be said for the camera than many photographers are willing to admit.

  • muellerworks

    I whole-heartedly agree with you. Gear is everything to me, but I am everything to my clients. The above chart breaks out “how much work is done” by each. I can guarantee you the work is done by me and my gear is the icing on the cake. But if you put my spectacular gear in the hands of an amateur there would be a profound difference in the quality of the image(s). My favorite comparison is someone turning to a chef after an amazing meal and asking them what kind of stove they use. You hire the photographer, not the camera.

  • bob cooley

    TL;DR version:
    I disagree to a point, because folks today rely on a lot of automation in their cameras, which didn’t exist in the past. And it’s hurt the marketplace.

    Longer version:
    I’d say this was more accurate 15 years or more years ago, all the way back to 30 years ago when I started in the business.
    When I started as a beginning photojournalist:

    – we had to know the characteristics of different film stocks

    – we had to know how to develop and print by hand (which was part science, part art), which also varied by film stocks, developers, paper types, etc.

    – there was no really effective autofocus until the late 90s (everything was mostly manual, shooting fast action and sports required skill – not everyone could do it well)

    (sorry, long rant)

    – in-camera metering was MUCH more primitive

    – accurate TTL flash didn’t exist (it did come along in the film days, but it only got much better in the last decade), so knowing metering and light ratios was much more critical.

    – There was no ‘AUTO ISO” – you had a roll of film in you camera, and you had to work around that film speed (ASA) until you changed rolls of film.

    – Program modes (in conjunction with metering) are much more advanced – you would never dream of shooting color slide film on program mode, but today many cameras shoot great jpgs (the slide equiv) straight out of camera.

    – the computerization and in-camera processing is brilliant, and allows for the above statement – this didn’t exist in the past, the camera body was pretty much just a transport mechanism for the film to interact with the lens.

    Please don’t read all of the above as fogie-ism, or negativity. I use the most modern cameras available (Nikon D4, Nikon D800, Fuji XT-1, Fuji X100s) and they are a hellova a lot easier to shoot with than my Canon A1, Nikon F or F2 (even up to the F4s) ever were. To the extent that sometimes I feel lazy shooting with them, because modern cameras give you so much help in creating the image. And that, generally, is a good thing.

    But I also think its created a marketplace where people can pick up a camera, create mediocre images, and build careers around marketing themselves a photographic experts, when they clearly have no mastery of the craft (Jasmine Starr and her contemporaries) – It’s also created a market where fees have plummeted dramatically because today’s photographer’s can get away with skipping a lot of the fundamentals of learning the craft, because the camera will do most of the work for them the majority of the time, and the level of work by many ‘professionals’ has meted out to a level of ‘good enough’.

    I don’t want to continue down that rant, because its all been said before, and its certainly not an absolute – there are some brilliant newer photographers coming up today who really do love the creation of compelling images, and do still take the time to learn the fundamentals, and I applaud that – especially with the challenges they will face in an over-saturated market.

    So fundamentally, I disagree w/ the simplicity of the chart in today’s age and market because of the advances that computerized and digital cameras have brought.

    A great photographer can create good images with any tool; but just about anyone can create competent images with today’s advanced cameras.

  • Will Mederski

    i’ve come across maybe five photographers who’s work inspires me.
    that’s not why i go to ken.

    and give me an example of “the best way to approach things on a completely random basis.”

  • Chris Pickrell

    You can be the greatest photographer in the world. But if you don’t have a camera, your skills mean nothing.

    A camera is nothing without a photographer, and a photographer can’t work without a camera.

    And these arguments are stupid.

  • James Tarry

    I do find these “its not the camera, its the photographer that makes the photo” postings rather pretentious…. try taking a photo with a sausage, yep, see its the camera that makes the photo not the photographer. Ha-I tease of course, but really that chart should be more like 50-50 esp with digital.

  • bob cooley

    Will, There are a lot of examples, but I’ll site a few:

    He’ll state on one part of his site that the Nikon D3300 is superior to any Mirrorless camera on the market, yet when he reviews the Fuji series Mirrorless cameras, he claims they are superior to Leica’s

    He states that you never need more than a 6MP file (for anything) – which is fundamentally flawed, as he also extolls fim photography as “real raw” although the equivalent of a 35mm film frame is about a 20MP in terms of native resolution.

    He mentions in MANY places how unimportant the sharpness of lenses are, yet, he sharpens (in post) all the photos he puts on his site to a distracting degree

    Emphasizes the superiority of Nikon over all other brands in some parts of his site, Canon in others, Leica in others, Fuji in others – not on specific products, but in broad generalized statements.

    He’ll state on one part of his site where you should never use photoshop, but in most of his images he goes on to describe what post he did on his images.

    I also find it irksome that he often does equipment reviews for equipment that he’s never actually touched (in some cases taking official Nikon and Canon product shots, and slapping his watermark on them.

    And as someone who’s worked professionally in the field for 30 years (who also has a physics minor), I know some of the things he says on his site to just be blatantly incorrect.

    I’m not a rabid hater of him like some I’ve seen on the net, and I do visit his site for a quick look at specs (filter sizes, general technical info about features, etc.) – he has a good, easy to read format for his equipment pages; but I take all of his opinions as fairly worthless. He gets some things right, but its often said much more concisely, and with experience and authority that I trust more on sites like Thom Hogan’s, David Hobby’s (strobist) etc.

  • Robert Mark

    I like to be in control of depth of field, diffraction, and overall sharpness, so I generally most comfortable shooting in Aperture Preferred mode. Last year I switched to a camera with an EVF. Almost immediately, I started using the well placed exposure compensation dial to improve the exposure. Being able to see the results of the EV compensation in the viewfinder gives me many more shots that require little or no fiddling in post.

    So I could say that the new camera improved my photos. But I won’t. The same new camera in the hands of someone who leaves it in Full-Auto or Program mode will still deliver images with exposure and focus problems.

    What I am willing to admit is that a better camera body lets me respond faster to changing conditions, if I understand how to use it. That’s a big if for many.

  • Robert Mark

    A great chef can cook an incredible meal with crappy pots and pans.

  • Will Mederski

    thanks for offering a little (or a lotta) salt!
    consider a little respect transferred from ken to you, sir.
    i appreciate the points, and the tips.
    (looking at byThom as we speak)

  • Greg Sereta

    We’ll said, I couldn’t agree more.

  • bob cooley

    Thanks :) Again, I’m not hating on anyone – but there are much better resources out there – Ken is the master of getting his site to the top of the google listings, which has given him a lot of credibility that isn’t always deserved. cheers!

  • Jason Yuen

    I agree because that’s what happened to me as well. I don’t dismiss the importance of knowledge one bit, but cameras and lenses play a pretty important role in the way that it allows you to control the light the way you want. Provided with the same composition, a cell phone camera and a “proper” camera will look immensely different.

    I went from cellphone cameras to an A7 with Leica lenses and there’s a huge difference. That’s when I got into photography and also learned a lot. Both are important, but gear plays a bigger role than suggested.

    Another thing that’s important is to get to know your gear. It doesn’t matter if you got it last night or 5 years ago. Knowing your way around the features of your gear gives you the capability to put your knowledge to use.

  • Vinicauneto

    So go there and try shooting with a Tecpix – “A c├ómera mais vendida do Brasil!” :P (Brazilians will get this one.)
    Acctually I think it’s that both sides need to complement each other. The photographer sure makes the hard work buth without the camera he couldn’t take a single photo.

  • Pickle

    If you want to get technical about it, the camera does 99.9% to the work of capturing the light against the sensor and all the electronic components that took thousands of people to create and assemble just so the photographer can push a button.

  • Pickle

    A camera could be set to shoot automatically intervals without a photographer around for months at a time. A photographer by himself will never take a picture.

  • Pickle

    Can he cook a great meal with rocks and cameras?

  • Karl Quint

    Is there an app that makes those nice graphics/diagrams?

  • Eric Harding

    Absolutely up to the 1950s. I have a Speed Graphic in my office as a constant reminder of how easy I (we all) have it today. Try giving up, the light meter, auto focus, zoom, and the viewfinder & LCD preview, and limit your self to 12 exposures, that you can’t see until you go back and develop them in the darkroom. The Camera deserves more credit

  • moonbase2

    where’s the part of the pie on how to use the camera and have an understanding of light, subject, and capture? LOL!

  • moonbase2

    what if you had a memory and a paintbrush? ;)

  • OtterMatt

    This is exactly what happened to me when I got both my new camera, and before when I got myself a new guitar. Once you’ve invested in something, then you feel a bit closer to it, more determined to really get something worthwhile out of it, especially if you’ve just been on the fence before.

  • Carla Plouin

    @PetaPixel, the source isn’t Jeremy Cowart, it’s PPA (Professional Photographers of America. I know one of our designers created it ;-)
    Just placing the source where it originate. Thanks for taking it into account.

  • steven spaulding

    my new favorite saying is

    “my eyes take pictures, i just can’t show you until i pick up my camera”

  • Jyoti

    and not to forget, the make-up artist, costume designer, retoucher, etc in few selected cases

  • Chris Pickrell

    Who set the camera?

    And that’s pretty much what I said.

  • Chris Pickrell

    Then you’re a painter :D

  • Mike

    You’re stupid


  • nikonian

    When you photograph enough with various tools you start to notice the difference. Better tools do things better whether it is my 1934 speed graphic or my 2009 Nikon D700 the image quality has something a coolpix cant produce,…

  • DL

    Totally true. Gear is at best 10% of the equation. Which is why you see photojournalists in war zones only using iphones and galaxys to do their work. Same as at NFL, NBA and MLB games.—even the olympics. Camera phones are good enough that you can crop away with no problems. In fact the added bonus is that you can instantly send the photos to AP, Reuters, etc right from the phone and within 30 mins of being taken, the whole world can see a picture.

    Camera phones have also taken over wedding photography. No more waiting 5months for photos. Everything is just uploaded straight to an online album and bam! people who didn’t go to the wedding are able to share the experience the same day

  • DL

    oh I should say tablets too, Instant upload, instant edit if need be and it’s your computer too! imagine back in the day where you had to carry around heavy film bodies, make contact sheets… develop the film. What took a couple days takes no more than an hour now.