Thursday, July 16, 2015

Giving Up on DSLR Photography

Seeing the tremendous response to this article, I asked AmateurNikon readers to take a survey. The results (data & analysis) can be found here


A bit weird article for today. But just like you have to talk to your children about death when a pet or grandma dies, you must also talk to yourself about the possibility of giving up on DSLR photography. Why should you do that? When should you do that? What do we mean by "giving up" anyway?

Photography is a hobby. It can be other things too (like a profession for some people, part-time or full-time), but for the vast majority of people, it is a hobby. And as a hobby, it is supposed to bring you enjoyment, right?

For the purposes of today's article:
Giving up on DSLR photography means you sell/give away your interchangeable lens camera as well as all your lenses. Any equipment you use to take photos is fixed-lens.
This practically means you decide to take photos with a mobile phone or, for a few of you, a compact camera.


Why would you want to do that? There are many possible reasons. Read the following, and if you see yourself in any of the situations below, you should consider it very carefully - and, above all, objectively.

Taken with a DSLR, but, honestly, you could do the same with any mobile phone camera

1) It's too complex for you
I have spent countless hours trying to learn how to play the piano. It just doesn't work for me. Maybe my brain isn't wired properly, maybe I don't have a talent for music, maybe I just don't want it enough. It doesn't matter.
The same applies to using a DSLR camera. It doesn't mean you're stupid, or a bad person. Instead of punishing yourself and spending money on something that makes you miserable, get rid of what feels complicated, and take photos with your mobile phone or a small, simple-to-use compact camera. You'll take photos that will be far more rewarding and meaningful to you.

2) It's too expensive.
Although there are solutions in the used market, let's not fool ourselves. DSLR systems are comparatively more expensive than other photographic tools. A 10+ year old camera with the most basic kit lens can be found for about $100-120. You can get a far more modern used compact (or even mobile phone) for the same amount of money, or even far less.

3) It's too big and heavy.
Even with mirrorless solutions, interchangeable lens cameras are bigger and heavier than compacts (let alone phones).

4) You don't see any improvement in your photography, no matter how hard you try. 
This is more complex to discern compared to the prior three, but it's still a reality. Perhaps, in fact, it's the most decisive reason for which someone gives up on DSLR photography.
Imagine the scenario: You've spent years taking photos with a compact camera and/or a mobile phone. You buy a DSLR with its kit lens, and - after perhaps struggling for quite some time - you finally manage to operate it properly (i.e. outside its Auto mode). Then you realize, your photos don't look any different than before. Even in purely technical terms, the kind of photos that used to be blurry are still blurry; the colors are still dull; the tonality is still flat. In terms of composition this is even more accentuated (since composition and art are irrelevant to the equipment used). You perhaps then fall into the trap of "hey, maybe I need another lens". And so you start spending money on lenses. And the vicious cycle begins...

Deciding. When and How

The right moment for deciding DSLRs are not for you is entirely individual. However, more often than not a decision like that might come after some important event/period, both photographically and generally.

- A wedding
- A trip abroad
- A child's birthday party or soccer game

Taken with my mobile phone camera. So what? The cocktail was more important than photography

As you can perhaps guess, this happens because disappointments/realizations related to what I said earlier (complexity, price, size/weight, lack of improvement) become very evident after such occasions. Of course, very few people give up after only one or two attempts - although I personally know one such person. But if you have been trying again and again to get great pics e.g. at your son's baseball practice and time after time you get the same results, there comes a point in which you might (quite justifiably) wonder whether it's worth it to keep funneling money into photographing equipment. Maybe - the thought process goes - using a cheap, easy-to-use compact camera is just as good in preserving nice memories, for 1/10 of the weight and money.

The "How" of giving up on DSLR photography is easy: Go cold turkey. Sell everything at once. Don't hesitate for a moment (i.e. don't keep only the camera and one lens). If you already have a compact camera, use it. If you have a reasonably decent mobile phone, start using that. Enjoy the pics you're getting, cherish the moments you experience.

DSLRs (and their lenses) are just tools. If you ever decide to give it another go, there will always be there, waiting for your money...

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