After talking with CJ Chilvers on my podcast I couldn’t help but to keep thinking about the mantra that he puts forth for photographers of all skill levels to follow. Chilvers’ overall philosophy can best be distilled down to: worry less about what you use to take pictures, and more about what is in your pictures. And even at that: try your best to always tell a compelling story.
And I agree with him, well in principle, because when it comes to practicing his mantra it is a whole different ballgame.
You see Chilvers went from owning a bunch of really nice photography gear, to shooting with just his iPhone. Now, yes, the iPhone is a pretty good camera and a lot of people do amazing things with it — but it’s certainly not fooling anyone that it is a full-frame or even larger format sensor. I had to wonder: could an iPhone fulfill me photographically — and if it didn’t fulfill my needs, would I have now failed to live up the Chilvers’ mantra?
So I gave it a try, not for a long time, but for a week or so I didn’t pick up my Fuji, and instead just tried using my iPhone for every photo. And what I found out was:
- I took less pictures overall than I normally did.
- I did less with the pictures after I took them.
- I overall enjoyed the pictures I took less. (Measured by how readily I shared the photos.)
To be honest, I was a bit dismayed by this. And I was even more dismayed after I started to use the Fuji again, only to find that I took more pictures, did more with them, and enjoyed them more.
So I think I disproved Chilvers right?
Well, no, not exactly. Because what this little experiment did change was the content of my photos. Before I was always on the prowl for that cool shot that would get a ton of likes on sites like 500px — something interesting to post to my photoblog. But I took the full advice from Chilvers to heart and in doing so ended up with more pictures of my family than anything else.
In other words: more pictures of what truly matters to me.
As it turns out, I wasn’t really listening to what Chilvers was saying. No, I listened to what he said about ‘gear’ and took that to heart, but his larger point (I believe) was about the subject matter of your photos. And that must have seeped in because I finally got it.
Use what makes you happy, because then you will use it for what really matters in life. You will start telling stories you will be excited to look back on, and not the find yourself flipping through your photos years from now saying: “Another tulip, cool dewy grass, BOKEH, oh funny sign, that temple everyone takes a picture of, sunset, sunset, sunrise, sunset, sunset…”
In short: life is really enjoyable, and we should be using all of our gadgets to capture the story of that enjoyment and whatever gadget you might use to do that — just make sure you are capturing the right things and not the ‘artsy’ things.