More than just the camera

The Canon 80D DSLR camera with a 18-135mm Canon zoom lens. [COURTESY CANON]

Kevin Richtik, owner/operator of Caroline Photography in Stockton, posted a bit of a rant on social media a few weeks ago. In response to a Yahoo article with the headline “This Canon 80D DSLR camera will turn you into a pro photographer,” Richtik wrote: “Yahoo must subscribe to the ‘if I buy the same stethoscope as my doctor then I can become a doctor too’ theory. I agree it is a really good camera (I own one to use as a back up) but sadly buying one won’t make someone a professional.”

(12/7/13) Kevin Richtik, owner of Caroline’s Photography, takes a picture at the 5th annual Help-Portrait event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless’ family shelter in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

I can understand Richtik’s complaint because it’s a pet peeve of mine as well. Quite often someone will see me carrying my camera with a big lens attached and say “I bet that camera takes great pictures.” The wrong thing to say to a pro photographer because it’s the person that takes the photo not the camera.

(12/6/10) Kevin Richtik, owner of the Stockton-based Caroline’s Photography, takes a picture during the Help-Portrait event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless’s family Shelter in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Like any other photographer worth their salt, Richtik gained his expertise through education, experience, talent and hard work. He graduated from the famed Brooks Institute of Photography in 1990. He then worked for other photographers including Caroline Beebe who hired him in 1997 and who’s business he took over when she retired in 2010. Needless to say that he’s earned his photographic chops.

(12/6/10) Daniel Hawthorne and his mother Chea Rodgers at the Help Portrait session held at the Stockton Family Shelter by Kevin Richtik.

I have used both Canon and Nikon products and I can say that both brands work and work well. What I can’t say is that one takes better pictures than the other. It depends on the user on how the pictures will turn out.

(12/6/10) Brittany Ware at the 2010 Help-Portrait event by Kevin Richtik.

Professional photographers buy professional-grade gear not because it’s labeled as such. Personally, I shoot tens of thousands of frames a year in every kind of weather condition, so I look for a camera that is durable and reliable. I need something that won’t break down on me in the middle of a shoot. Before getting or upgrading to fancier, more expensive gear, concentrate on improving your technical and creative skills. Learn the concepts of shutter speeds, aperture, ISO and how to use them in the service of your vision.

(12/6/10) Andy Bayaoa at the 2010 Help-Portrait event by Kevin Richtik

Instead of paying thousands of dollars in an upscale camera, that money may be better spent in taking a class or workshop. Even after you learned the technical side of photography you still need to learn how to be creative with those skills. And even after that you still need to know how work within a professional work context.

I worked with Richtik when he volunteered at a Help-Portrait event in 2010. It was amazing to watch him make a personal connection with each of his subjects and use that connection to create photos that went beyond just a mere representation of a person to pictures filled with life and personality.

2(12/6/10) Michelle Fehd, Jessica Easter, Aaliyah Easter, Rocshaun Easter and Ojamar Easter at the 2010 Help-Portrait event by Kevin Richtik.

The last line of the Yahoo article says: “If you want to upgrade your gear or want to start shooting professional-quality shots, say hello to your new baby.” The 80D is actually what is known as a “prosumer” model slotted somewhere between amateur and professional levels. Canon is partially right. You can take professional-style photos with it but, like with any other camera, only if you’re willing to take the time and effort to raise your skills to a professional level.

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