Your Camera is Better Than What Legendary Photographers Used

If you think that buying a better camera or lens will instantly make you a better photographer, consider this: it’s likely that the camera you already have is better than what legendary photographers used to shoot history’s most famous and beloved photos. That’s the nugget of inspiration and encouragement that photographer Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography discusses in this 10-minute video.

“Every famous photograph was made with a camera less advanced than the one you are using now,” Forbes writes. “This is a quote I read a few months ago that’s stuck with me for quite some time. Ansel Adams didn’t have gear as advanced as what we have now. Neither did Henri Cartier-Bresson or W Eugene Smith or Saul Leiter.

“Photographers tend to put equipment on a pedestal. We blame our shortcomings as photographers on the gear that we have. Sony, Nikon and Canon all market to us in that way – you need the latest and the greatest because your photography depends on it!”

Ansel Adams (left) and “Evening, McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park (1942)” (right).

But painters generally don’t sit around and discuss the tools they use, and neither do people these days who appreciate the works of old masters. And the same should be true of photography, Forbes argues.

“Image quality alone does not make a great image,” Forbes, a former museum Head of Digital Media, says. “I’ve never seen anybody in a museum gallery sit there and look at images and go, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if that was a Nikon,’ or ‘I wonder if that was a Leica.’

“Photographer nerds might do that, but most people don’t. They don’t care what it was shot on — they care about the image and what that says in the end.”