" It's not what you have, it's how you use it. "

Why you don’t need a pricey DSLR to be a great photographer

Many people will tell you that you’re not a real photographer unless you’re using a digital SLR, or shooting in manual, or you can’t be a photographer with a smartphone. Every one of those people is 100 percent, completely and utterly wrong.

I’ve gotten this response a few times when someone catches sight of my Olympus (I have a Pen E-P2). They think that because it is small that it isn’t a serious camera and couldn’t possibly take quality photos. Yet, the photos I capture with it are every bit as good as those from much more expensive cameras.

A Canon 5D or Leica M9, two extremely capable cameras, aren’t going to make you a good photographer. Today, a kid armed with nothing more than an iPhone can take better photos than someone with a $3,000 digital SLR.

A camera is a tool, and a tool is only as good as the person wielding it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who believe that a pricy camera guarantees good photos and they’ll do anything to justify their purchase. Sure, an expensive camera has the potential to take higher-quality photos than a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be better.

The best photographers make the most of the tools they have. If all you have is your smartphone, make the most of it. You might not always get the highest quality shots, but photography is about a lot more than resolution. Composition, color, exposure are often more important. Plus, having a few so-so photos to help tell your story is a lot better than no photos at all.

The photo of the jellyfish was captured with my iPhone 7 Plus at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans this summer. The battery in my mirrorless camera had died and all I had was my phone. Did I stop taking photos? Of course not! I pulled out my phone and made off with some of the best pics of our trip.

Shot with an iPhone

Here are just a couple of the many shots I’ve taken around the country using an iPhone. Note: The following photos have been scaled down for faster loading times and the image quality may have been reduced when uploaded.

A Smartphone will never replace a DSLR in terms of versatility, imaging quality and control, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking great photos.

If you want to take incredible shots, learn to use your camera, whether it is a smartphone, a point-n-shoot, a mirrorless camera or an SLR. It doesn’t matter how good your equipment is if you don’t know how to use it.

Still, don’t believe me? Check back next week for my photography story. I’ve never had professional equipment and that’s never stopped me.

Further Reading

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Please comment and share

So tell us in the comment section below:

  • What do you shoot with?
  • Do you shoot with your smartphone? If so, what apps do you use?
  • How were you introduced to photography?

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  • thecedarjournal

    👍 – The jellyfish is a great shot.

    February 15, 2018 - 12:49 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Thanks! I am glad you liked it. What is your favorite smartphone pic? If you’d like you can share a link in the comments section.

      February 15, 2018 - 10:30 am Reply
      • thecedarjournal

        Thanks- I have always used my cell phone when kayaking until recently when I purchased a Lumix FT5. I was always very happy with my pictures. Here is a link to a piece where I used only my cell phone. https://thecedarjournal.com/2017/11/20/echo-lake-moose-lake-state-park-mn/

        February 16, 2018 - 7:07 am Reply
        • tobiasmann

          That’s a great shot! I’ve been looking at the FT5. How do you like it?

          February 18, 2018 - 4:24 pm Reply
          • thecedarjournal

            I really like the quality of the pictures. The video is awsome. The fact that it is water proof and shock proof is what sold me. It is bulkier than a cell phone. The cool thing is that with an app you can control the FT5 from your phone or tablet. That should be handy when kayaking and I have it mounted.

            February 19, 2018 - 12:28 am
          • tobiasmann

            I looked at Panasonic’s TS line before trying out the Fuji FX120 and returning it for the Nikon W300. I’d say it’s Nikon’s version of the camera, only a little newer. I agree, it is bulkier than a cell phone, but I don’t have to worry about dropping it. It will survive the drop, my phone probably wouldn’t. The Nikon also has the remote control feature. I hadn’t thought about using it on the water. That’s a great idea.

            February 19, 2018 - 12:01 pm
  • HikingWoman

    I agree with all of this. One of my best selling prints was taken with my phone… while my daughter was driving and I was shooting out the window.

    February 15, 2018 - 6:41 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Some of my favorite photos were taken with my iPhone. I am not going to lie, in most conditions my mirrorless camera takes better photos (mostly because I’m not stuck shooting at f/1.8), but there are situations where the iPhone is just better. If I have to shoot a burst close up, the iPhone can shoot 100 frames in the time it takes my Olympus to capture 20.

      I’m inviting every commenter to share a link to their favorite smartphone shot. I’d love to see this bestselling print.

      February 15, 2018 - 10:33 am Reply
  • VanMarmot

    I have to agree too – art is about the artist, not their tools. It’s like buying a brush and some paint and thinking your first effort will rival the Mona Lisa.

    February 15, 2018 - 8:42 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      “It’s like buying a brush and some paint and thinking your first effort will rival the Mona Lisa.” That was so well put. I was really worried a lot of readers would start debating the technical aspects of smartphone vs. DSLR. I am glad everyone seemed to understand what I was getting at.

      Please feel free to share a link to your favorite smartphone pic in the comments.

      February 15, 2018 - 10:34 am Reply
  • Matthew Wakelee

    Excellent post. I definitely agree. I’d like a really nice D-SLR, but it’s not the only way to take great photos.

    February 15, 2018 - 10:20 am Reply
    • tobiasmann

      Matthew, No it’s not the only way to take great photos and knowing the limitations of your gear can help inform your next purchase decision.

      February 15, 2018 - 10:37 am Reply
  • George & Shelly .... Off The Track

    So true. I take pics with my iPhone all the time. Yes I do also have a DSLR and it’s amazing, but like you said, you need some sort of idea of photography anyway or no photo is going to be amazing. I need to learn more about my DSLR as there are many functions I’m yet to use. But yes my trusty iPhone still comes out and takes many of our photos too!

    February 17, 2018 - 11:32 pm Reply
    • tobiasmann

      There is always something new to learn when it comes to photography. That’s what makes it so much fun. If there is anything I have done to become a better photographer it’s been to learn to shooting in manual. It’s not as hard as you might think, and it forces you to be more patient. For me this meant I took about half as many photos but almost all of them came out great. Best of luck in your photography journey.

      February 18, 2018 - 4:28 pm Reply

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