I Wonder What Darwin Would Think of My Theory of the Evolution of Photographers


A “real camera” is a part of our evolution of photographers. But do we need one?

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First, I’ll be using the term “real camera” in this post. I’m using the term because it’s the usual lingo to describe a more complex camera. But to be clear, the cameras on our phones are real cameras, too, just less complex. 

And on top of that, I think the cameras on our phones are, in a lot of ways, fine for making pictures. 

Yeah, they don’t have the image quality, file size, or the bunch of functions we get with bigger and more complex cameras, but the technical specs of a camera aren’t important in producing uniquely creative work. That’s on us.

How It Begins

I think nowadays, our first exposure (no pun intended) to making pictures is by using the camera on our phone. If we enjoy photography, we probably think of getting a “real camera.”

We Get a “Real Camera”

So we get the real camera, meaning a mirrorless or DSLR, and our mind boggles over the level of functionality and settings. 

We’re overwhelmed and confused about the exposure and focusing modes, not to mention the buttons and dials and the menus that drag us into the abyss of camera technology. 

We want to use it to its fullest potential but discover we have no idea what we’re doing. So what do we do? We set the camera to fully automatic. It’s a camera that puts the world of composition possibilities within our reach. But, since we’re using it in fully automatic exposure mode, we’re not using it much differently than we used the camera on our phone. 

Granted, the image quality and size we get are technically “better” and bigger, but we still think our pictures aren’t what we want them to be. 

The Crossroads of Our Evolution and Real Cameras

This is an excellent place to be. We’ve come to a crossroads. We can give up on using the real camera and go back to using the camera on our phones. Or maybe we sell the mirrorless or DSLR. Maybe we set it aside because we think that one day, we’ll get around to learning how to use it to its fullest potential. Or we can keep using it and evolve as photographers.

We can also evolve creatively with the camera on our phones. But, we need to understand that the technical limitations of our phone camera will limit us. It doesn’t give us anywhere near the technical or creative options available in mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Guidance From an Old Fart Photographer for Using a Real Camera

Based on personal experience, my guidance is to don’t give up if we like photography. And don’t put the DSLR or mirrorless aside for the future. It’s a good idea to keep using it and evolve as photographers. Or, at the very least, learn to operate the camera on our phones thoughtfully and intentionally by learning to think like a photographer.

If we’re feeling ambitious, this is what I suggest doing. Use the mirrorless or DSLR as much as possible, even if in fully automatic exposure mode. We should make all the pictures we feel inclined to make. 

Maybe we make pictures with both cameras.

Whatever our approach, especially when using our mirrorless or DSLR, It’d be good practice to note where we struggle or get stuck. 

What’s the Use Of The Notes?

Those notes are the map for us to evolve as photographers. It’s an opportunity to understand what we don’t know and need to learn to get to where we’d like to be as photographers. 

Once we reach that point, we might start looking at “how to” videos online or reading books. And maybe, at some point, we start looking for a good teacher.  

A good teacher is worth it because a good teacher listens and understands what we need to learn to get to where we want to be. And a good teacher should teach us camera operation, composition, and light.  

But while finding a good teacher is a good idea, if we don’t do our part by studying and practicing, we fall short of who we aspire to be as photographers. In other words, we’ve got to practice what the teacher showed us to study. 

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