The Question that Seems to Annoy Photographers… and Chefs?

I hear and read a lot about how photographers don’t like the question,

So what kind of camera did you use?

Some make the claim that you don’t ever ask a Chef what pan or oven he/she uses after making such a de’lish dish. As with most everything, when I really think about it, who gives a damn about this issue? Why do we exert energy discussing whether or not we think this question is ridiculous? The bottom line should be

Go have fun making photographs.

I love taking a photo, whether on my phone, the point-and-shoot, or the DSLR. But sometimes my phone isn’t fast enough to capture the moment and I wish I had my real camera. Sometimes I’m tired of lugging around the DSLR and wish I had just brought my point-and-shoot (unless, of course, I end up taking a killer shot that only the DSLR would’ve captured as my truest interpreter).

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If you’re interested in photography, you may ask me which camera I used. Maybe it’s just the vague type of camera: phone, pocket, DSLR, etc. Maybe you are extremely passionate about photography and want to know more, so you then specifically ask what type of DSLR camera I used. In either case, maybe you want to know if you too can get the same kind of shot with the same method I’m using. Actually, that’s what I like to know when I’m looking at images created by the “pros.”

Not only do I care about composition, lighting, and feeling, but I also enjoy knowing more about the behind-the-scenes technical aspect of making a great photograph. I like to eat good food but I rarely ask the Chef about the ingredients or what she used to make the meal (though it’s typically written on the menu). I enjoy this dish for the end result.

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If I enjoy cooking (which I do), I’ll ask about the ingredients. If I spend lots of time and energy in the kitchen (which I do), I’ll look into good cookware. I’ve been cooking since I went off to college and all I used was what was handed down or bought for me by my parents. I couldn’t afford anything but the ingredients and concentrated on making a good meal. I also went to Kmart during this time and bought a cheap point-and-shoot 35mm film camera. I started learning how to make a photograph, mostly for the sake of documenting my college years. Eventually, I’d borrow an SLR and then buy my own. When I started my career in my early 20s, I started buying quality kitchen instruments and talking to Chefs about their choices. I ended up with a lovely set of Wusthof knives and All-Clad stainless steel pots and pans. (Some Chefs told me Wusthofs hold their edge better and All-Clad is simply bombproof.) By this time, I was also shooting with a Pentax digital point-and-shoot and would soon make the move to a Canon DSLR. This is probably a good time to make the point that I’m neither a Chef nor a professional Photographer.

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I can make a decent image with either a phone or a DSLR just as I can make a decent dish with either a Cuisinart or an All-Clad pan. The end result may or may not be identical if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing and know the limitations of the tool used. However, one instrument may be of greater quality, durability, and effectiveness than the other.

I also started backpacking and traveling extensively in my 20s and that too coincided with photography. At the end of my trip, my friends and family would love to hear and see about where I had been and what I experienced. Again, the big picture was the overall experience and the highlights: the composition, the lighting, the feeling. Not many asked me about the gear because they weren’t that interested. Only the ones who were interested for whatever reason (whether they’re naturally curious or they pondered the thought of doing it themselves) began asking me about my backpack, tent, sleeping bag, food, etc. What’s the benefit of that tent over this one? This backpack instead of that one? Though most of these discussions boil down to personal preference, it becomes a significant inquiry.

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Know yourself and you know your preferences.

Do you want to go into the wild and have luxuries at camp or do you want to walk long distances with minimal weight on your back? This tent is easy to set-up and is bombproof, but it weighs a lot. That tent takes more effort to set-up but hardly weighs anything. Do you want to keep it simple and just point-and-shoot or do you really want to learn what it takes to make a photo? This camera — that camera. Do you want full-frame or crop sensor? This camera — that camera. Do you want this tech or that tech? This camera — that camera. I simply want the right tools that will make my experience richer.

As I grow, I know more about myself and want the things I’m passionate about to cater to my current self. This new gear may make my hobby experience better.

Hey, Pro, I wanna know what camera you’re using because maybe it’ll make my photography experience a little better–especially if I relate to the way you shoot.

I’m very interested in cooking, backpacking, and photography, so I’m going to ask deep questions about these topics. But when I look back at the photos I’ve taken throughout my life, I don’t really think about the camera–I think about the experience. At that specific moment of capturing time, if I have the right gear to help me along the way, then I have a better chance of creating the ultimate future retrospection.

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