The Fuji X-Pro2 is a wonderful camera for journalistic photography

Professionals Make Emotive Images

Let’s face it, there are images that make us say, “OK, that’s a picture,” and then there are images that make us go, “Wow, what a picture!” We’re not always looking for the “Wow!” because like a well-performed symphony or a good novel, high intensity and constant action eventually wears us out, and the audience becomes desensitized, or even drained. That is why there are crescendos and troughs in creative works. You have to have comparative highs and lows, because if everything is great all the time, then nothing is special. Of course, no one wants to have junk become the benchmark, so that mediocre becomes the high water mark. Your photographer should be able to create “good” images and “great” images, whether they tell a story, or make a statement. And most of the “great” images get to that point of being the emotive image that makes you stop and stare for a while.

Unless photographers are shooting a specific project for their portfolio, they don’t get to choose our subjects. People are different, and come as they are. Not everyone is a model off the pages of Vogue, but everyone deserves to be photographed in the best way possible. Putting aside good humor and bedside manner which should be the norm of any photographer working with people, it’s the combination of knowledge, camera equipment, lighting equipment, and control over environment that determines whether your photographer will give you images that you’ll be happy with. And when the photographer doesn’t have to reshoot frames over and over, there are less “missed shots,” you get more, and get better. So yes, in a way, the camera does matter.

But so do a lot of other factors, starting with the photographer.

Not About the Camera

If I had a nickel for every time I heard “It’s not about the camera,” I’d be a rich guy right now. Alright, maybe not rich, maybe I’d have just enough to enjoy a movie. But you get my drift.

This phrase, “It’s not about the camera,” is mostly true. But it gets waved around like a team pennant at the World Series, and I’d really like to address it. Now, mind you, there will be lots of people who disagree with this perspective, because they subscribe to a either a stricter or looser interpretation of  “It’s not about the camera,” or think it’s ALL about the camera. But I’m going to straddle the fence on this, as it were (no matter how much that visual hurts me).

First of all, let’s get this straight. A bad photographer can never be anything more than a bad photographer, even with an awesome camera; there is such a thing as “experience.” But substitute the word “mediocre” for “bad” and it still works. And that’s what that phrase is really saying. For example, if you gave a toddler a point-and-shoot, or if you gave him an advanced DSLR, the images will not be better just because of the camera. So yes, I agree there, it’s not about the camera.

But when you get past that, and you have changed out the person behind the viewfinder to someone who has experience and understanding, you’ll get a different result. That result being, an experienced photographer with a point-and-shoot will take remarkably better images than the average joe with the same camera. That’s because they know about how a camera wants to function. And that same person given the advanced DSLR might take much better pictures than what he or she was taking with the point-and-shoot. I say might, because this is where things get dicey. More on that later.

Why Should Equipment Matter to Clients?

So what does this matter to you as a paying client, if you go to a photographer to have your picture taken? How does any of this matter, if at all? Well, you can often tell about the experience level of a photographer based on the photos in their portfolio, which can often be a reflection of both their equipment, and abilities.

If you’re paying someone to take pictures of you, your family, your children, it’s not just the camera that matters. Certainly, if I hired a photographer based on their website or portfolio, I’d want the same level of quality and style that I saw when I hired them. But if the photographer showed up with an entry-level camera, I’d have to wonder.  The proof is in the pudding, though, so I’d hold off on judgment, because  there’s so much that goes into a good photograph. So let’s explore that.

This is a quick run-through of how I like to work. Others might be looking for something different because, of course, everyone has their own style. And equipment helps to bring that style into play consistently. Here’s an overview of why I use what I use. It’s not necessarily a full inventory of equipment, but that’s not the point. Let me walk you through a rough idea of why my images are the way they are, and the look that I achieve with the equipment I use.

What Camera?

I just said above that an experienced photographer with even a point-and-shoot can take great pictures, at least better than average. I choose the camera that’s best for what I’m creating, and the subject that I’m shooting. The camera does not work alone, and isn’t chosen in a vacuum. It works in tandem with the mobility of the subject (how fast does the camera react? Can it keep up with the little kiddie?); with where we’ll be shooting; with the lens that’s on it (how fast is its autofocus ability, and what is the lowest f-stop it can manage?). To that end, I have several cameras that are good at different things.

Krish’s Canon kit with lenses

My Canon 6D is a full-frame DSLR camera, with a cadre of lenses that are professional level, made for high-resolution captures, and is good for low light. The full-frame means that I can blow the prints up very large without losing detail, and that I have more pixels to work with if I decide to crop the image for either creative or technical reasons.

My Fuji X-Pro2 mirrorless rangefinder-type is more of a walk-about camera, and has a smaller sensor, with 2 lenses that fit my needs for journalistic captures. I often use it for street photography, or where I will have to walk a lot, so I save my feet from getting overloaded and tired dragging around heavy equipment. It also has several  “film” settings that I could not get with any other camera, which gives me certain looks with various color palettes that are only available from Fuji’s line of analog films; it’s compact, low-profile, easy to carry, and is inconspicuous when it needs to be.

Beyond these digital cameras, I also employ my 4×5 camera for when I want a very specific look, and I want to slow my process way, way, down. The 4×5 is when I’ve already visualized what I want, and the scene isn’t dynamic, full of action. The 4×5 negative, when scanned and translated into digital format, can achieve clarity and color that far surpasses any modern DSLR. And! And! It has a cachet that reeks of pure photography, old school. And there’s something to be said for that alone.

The Wisner Technical 4×5 is actually a very colorful and beautiful camera with its bright red bellows


I often, though not always, like to incorporate creative blur in my portraits. So the maximum aperture of my lenses matter. I have 4 or 5 lenses for my Canon that range in use from portraiture to landscapes, including two that are very similar. My 70-200 f/2.8 L IS (image stabilization), is almost the same as my 70-300 f/4-5.6 L IS. But it’s the 70-200  f/2.8 that I use for portraits, and the 70-300 for nature and landscape. One has a wider maximum aperture, the other has longer reach. You could argue that I could get rid of the 70-300 and use a teleconverter with the 70-200 and I’d be better off. Maybe, but for now, I’m keeping both.The wider my max aperture, the more creative blur I get, if I choose that route for the image I’m creating. The problem for most amateurs is that the bigger the max aperture of a lens, the more expensive it becomes, so most people skimp on their lenses after spending money on their big, fancy camera. There are other factors, like the type of glass a lens is made from, but at minimum, a large aperture is one of the most sought-after facets when judging a lens, and denotes a professional who cares about delivering good images. It allows more light in, which means that you can shoot in lower-light, or create delicious out of focus blur that photographers refer to as Bokeh. In other cases, we’re not looking for bokeh, but a related shallow depth of field so that sharpness drops off visibly, from one part of the image to another.

Here’s some examples. These images of  rubber duckies, which I borrowed from my daughter’s collection, were shot at different apertures, on 2 different lenses. Notice how the duck in the front is more isolated as a subject, the wider the aperture gets (the smaller the f-number). Lenses that don’t have the ability to go to a wide aperture won’t exhibit the kind of image quality that the Sigma 85 f/1.4 does.

The Canon 85mm f/1.8, and the Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4.  Both are 85mm lenses, as you can see. Seemingly there isn’t much difference between f/1.8 and f/1.4, number-wise. But there’s enough of a difference in image quality to warrant the extra dollars and weight of the Sigma, especially if we are photographing people. The Sigma is a heavy beast, and literally twice as large as the Canon f/1.8, both in height, and in the width of the front glass element. The Sigma Art lens is almost 5-inches high, and 3.75-inches wide at the front, and weighs about 2.5 lbs.


A photographer who knows how to operate their fancy DSLR or other camera, will know how to manipulate the settings so that they can get that Bokeh or a shallow depth of field, within the limits of their equipment. One who doesn’t have appropriate equipment, or doesn’t have the knowledge to compensate, will not achieve the pleasant result that could be had with a few tweaks, or change of strategy.If and when a photographer achieves the look he wants, it goes without saying that the image should then be exposed properly. While there are instances where technology goes awry, your photographer shouldn’t be constantly fiddling with settings with furrowed brow.

Lighting Plays a Big Role

Most photographers will automatically start out learning to shoot in what we call “available light.” That could be in open sun,  shade, inside lighting, whatever. And for the most part, that’s perfectly reasonable. But the mark of the professional is someone who knows how to use all light, not just what’s available, and to light a scene or subject with artificial light as needed. Artificial light is generally referred to as light coming specifically from extra lighting equipment that the photographer introduces in the shoot, but can be as simple as turning on the living room lights to add to the ambient lighting.When we talk about artificial light, most often we’re talking about flash guns, or studio strobe. So if a photographer doesn’t have this set of tools and what are known as “light modifiers,” they are giving up opportunities to control their lighting. And ultimately what professional photographers want is control over lighting.

Ability to Control the Environment

This is tricky. Nobody is perfect or does it perfectly every time. Chaos is the norm, unless you rein it in. There are some things that are out of a photographer’s control, but the professional remains calm, and enlists the help of anyone he or she can to make sure that the shot is the best one possible, and that he or she is capturing the best image with what the amount of control they have. Where you shoot can impact how you shoot, and what kind of images you come away with. This is why many photographers choose to work in the studio, but that’s not always in the best interests of their client, nor does it serve the image they’re trying to create for them.