When I started out studying photography I did not have a “nice camera”. In fact, I had an old point-and-shoot that I had bought shortly before I got married 9 years ago and it was as advanced as the relatively new digital technology of the time permitted, which was not very. But I remember trying to complete assignments on focal lengths and visual planes and lighting effects as best I could given my simple device.
But I did learn. I read. I studied, I practiced. I sat out in the cold waiting until almost dark, frozen and sea-sprayed (because my jacket was protecting my gear) whilst trying to master low light settings and motion blur capture. I remember trying to set up my flimsy, $30 tripod and chasing my lens cap down the hill while the tripod toppled over in the seaside wind. I remember sitting for hours and hours (and hours) trying to master photoshop editing (and eventually the amazing Adobe Lightroom) and watching endless tutorials into the wee hours of the morning. I remember the day I walked into JB Hifi, having scraped up enough money to buy an entry level DSLR (which was not as cheap as they are now unfortunately) and exploring the wonders of all the lens options and variety it brought with it. I remember saving all my pennies, doing $60 portrait shoots for friends and working for free (or next to it) at weddings to try and learn about posing and event photography. And then, finally, the day I had worked and saved for arrived…after years of learning, of trial and error, I finally purchased a professional model Canon 5D Mark III DSLR.
Now, my Canon 5D (aka “my baby”) is one of the best small format DSLR’s on the market at the moment, but if I didn’t know what I was doing with it, if I hadn’t spent so much time and practice learning my craft, it would be little better than that old point-and-shoot I started out with years ago. Despite the fact that DSLR’s aren’t designed to be used on AUTO setting anyway, photography is as much about the skills as it is about the gear. In fact, when I go on holidays I take a high resolution 24mm point-and-shoot instead of my heavy and expensive pro gear because it can take a comparable photo (you just can’t change the lens and the end format is not as large).
So you can see why it stings a bit when people put the quality of photos down to a “nice camera”, it’s kind of like saying an artist paints well because they have “good brushes”. And don’t get me wrong, a DSLR will usually take a better photo than a camera phone, but I’ve seen entire weddings shot on camera phones by photographers who know what they are doing, and the photos are still amazing.
So I’m not saying you can’t get your aunty/neighbour/father-in-law with their nice camera to take photos for you. Not at all. It’s just that, if you want well lit, sharp, colour correct, quality, aesthetically balanced photos you’re more likely to get that from the combination of “nice camera” and “trained photographer.”