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Saturday, 14 November 2009


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1. Interesting and/or beautiful subject matter

2. Good eyesight

3. An appreciative viewship

A working brain, a sense of art and a camera. I suppose a computer is needed as well, but nowadays they're so common it can be taken for granted.

The first two are not as easy to come by as you'd think. Witness your standard photography forum.

Incidentally I remember your parody on Internet Photographers; that was sheer brilliance.

Lens. Chip. Technique.

What three things would I need for my photography ?, I guess it would depend on what I am photographing…… for my landscape work, my trusty 4 x 5 view camera , black and white sheet film and a spot meter.

Film camera, dark room, internet (the latter for the internet film photo club, APUG).

Good health, a Rolls Royce and an Instamatic.

Time, Place and Attitude

I guess my 3 things would be similar: a computer/internet connection, a good quality printer, and last but not least, an appreciative audience---people who like to see my latest pictures. That last one probably says too much about myself, but I can't imagine working at improving my photography and learning the craft without the feedback I get from those who actually see my printed work...not that my work is all that great, but still...I'm just saying....

Rod G.

- My Lumix L1
- google for tutorials
- photoshop/elements

Also, my HP 8750, and my IBM Thinkpad.

OK, first the flippant answer:

* More time than I have.
* More money than I have.
* More talent than I have.

And now the serious answer (I assume we're talking about digital photography):

* A high-quality calibrated display.
* A fast computer with lots of memory and storage.
* Efficient image management and editing software that suits my workflow (in my case, Lightroom and Photoshop).

I hardly ever print, and mostly consume photography online. So my list does not intersect yours:

1. Willingness to go out and walk around or otherwise arrange to be in different places with your eyes open.

2. Willingness to spend time with your computer looking at the pictures you've taken and thinking about which of them move you, and why.

3. A camera that's light & handy enough that it'll be with you while you're in motion.

A Subject

I guess a camera of some sort helps too, but everything else is optional.

The "spot meter, a densitometer, and a sheet film camera" are only essential if you aspire to the Ansel Adams school of photography ... something I once did, though access to a densitometer was enough for me. Photography is a lot more broad these days (and was in Adams' time).

I quibble with your inclusion of "an internet connection". This mainly works against achieving a significant and individual body of photographic work. Sure it's useful for tips to get you started, downloading bug fixes for software that you shouldn't have upgraded to in the first place ... but otherwise it's just a normalizer of style and gets you hankering after new gear that will set your photography back years. The real photographers are out photographing with whatever gear they've got, blissfully unaware of how the latest widget will change their lives.

Looking at photographs IS important, so agreement on the bookcase ... but supplemented by getting out to view real life prints on the wall in public and private galleries, especially if you want to improve your craft. So is reading about photography as a medium, something this site used to be great for.

The printer isn't important because many will find others to print their work for them.

So what's important? 1. A camera (take your pick). 2. A bookshelf (for monographs, histories, words about photography) supplemented by regular viewing of exhibitions. 3. Strength of character and perseverance to recognize your own individual eye and get out there and use it. (Maybe the last is self admonishment.)

Mike, slightly different angle. A computer (internet connection is fairly easy to presume) with the appropriate software, a camera that you've learned to use as second nature, and at least a little bit of money on order to travel. I can come up with a few projects at home but I've got to get out and about for new subjects and inspiration. It might be a pub walk, a trip in the van, or the occasional international adventure.
I love printed images but the vast majority of photos never get sent to a printer. Bin the bookcase too; there's so much current info online. I enjoy your blog every morning and appreciate your efforts. Thanks, Bill Harvey

1) Leica
2) Lens
3) Light

1. A camera/image creating process (you mastered so you can dance tango with it like you would with your lover).

2. An Internet connection.

3. A website (to publish your work to the world under your conditions only).

(Leaving out a fourth because I take it for granted — a non-physical ingredient: a developed personal style and an idea "to die for".)

14-24mm f/2.8 Nikkor... searching eye... command of rural French to communicate with the folks I've chosen to live amongst!

Shelfspace (for various older cameras), scanner (for getting the film into an online format) and good shoes (for spending lots of time walking around town, camera in hand).

I'll go along with the unstated assumption, plus the bookcase and the internet connection, but I bet I am not alone in not having the space or patience for the fine-art inkjet printer. And if I did, it would quickly get ground down printing the kids'homework assignments, for which our HP Officejet is quite adequate. I subscribe to some of the print offerings, and dream of taking a platinum printing class someday. But in the meantime, I want to know more about good flat panel monitors and more effective means of web display.


Agree with 1 and 2. For 3, I'd substitute "time to think and reflect". Exploring ideas and developing a personal style takes a lot of that, and it's often the thing in shortest supply. The bookcase helps, too.

1. Open mind
2. Sharp eye
3. Beating heart

This is easy. I need, in order of priority:

1. The free time it takes to capture and render my photographs. (This is a leisure activity for me, not a full-time profession, and as a husband and father of three young children, free-and-alone-time is scarce.)

2. A reliable computer with a large hard drive and fast Internet connection. (This should require no explanation.)

3. An inkjet printer capable of producing equally high-quality photographs in black-and-white as well as color. (Without such a printer my photographs are too virtual for my tastes. The one I have now is barely adequate. I'm going to have to do something about this.)

Vision. No, not eyesight, the ability to compose a scene well. This ability is not inate in most people. It must be learned, so one of the things you need most is some education. It could be actual courses or simply studying well done art. On the internet, IMO, about 5 percent of the displayed photographs show that the poster has actually acquired this need.

Actually it may only be two things.
I leave out the computer on the same basis that the darkroom was left out of the original list. That entitles me to leave out the internet which is, nowadays, pretty much integral with the computer. It also entitles me to leave out the bookshelf since the computer enables access to all those online learning resources about digital photographic techniques as well as a whole lot of stuff about the "art" of photography.
All I'm left with is my pigment printer and any digital camera. So just two things and I can take photographs, enjoy the printed results, make books from them, and, occasionally, exhibit the best of them. What more do I want - or need?

An eye, a mind, a camera.

Internet connection is of course needed( and how much!), and we could add a display profiling tool, but I'd really take all that for granted.
On the other hand pigment printer may not be that essentail to photography - I couldn't do without mine, but friends do well without, they simply get their printed externally - or enjoy them on screen which I really can't regard as a sin.

A digital camera, plenty of spare time and Photoshop.

I think a very good and well calibrated screen is more important and useful than a printer, unless you're in the bussiness of selling prints as art.

A calibrated monitor, a computer and a printer. I'm a happy bunny with those things. I haven't bought a new camera since the original 5d came out (and by new I mean new to me). My last major purchases have been a new monitor, a new laptop, and PhotoShop with a couple of plugins.

1. Access to a computer
2. Open eyes and mind to find the shot
3. Familiarity with the camera

I shoot with a DSLR, a cheap point and shoot, and an iPhone. There are some other items that could be added, like a good backup strategy and spare batteries, but I think the first 3 are the essentials for me.

If we're only talking about equipment (ie: not "time" or "inspiration") and if we're leaving out the most obvious parts (eg: camera, lenses), ... that's an interesting question!

On top of my head, I would say I definitely need a good calibrated monitor, Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop, and stuff to listen to while I'm working (music, podcasts, lectures, ...)

(I recommend Brooks Jensen's LensWork podcast, free lectures from www.academicearth.org, TED! Talks, etc.)

Girls, Girls, Girls

"The Online Photographer," a great idea, and money.

Perhaps you need to extend your list of fourth items to include a relatively new computer and a good monitor. Personally I can survive without either the printer or the bookcase.

-- Guy

A RH Designers Analysis Pro, a good Chinese brush or fountain pen, and boatload of TMY-2

I think good post-processing software should make the list too. Since I got lightroom my photos have improved alot, simply because I can give them the look they deserve.

I'm almost entirely amateur and do it all because it's fun, so for me...

1.) A pro Flickr account
2.) Spare time
3.) A peer group of critics I respect

...and like every other possible list of only three items, the rest are taken for granted: camera, computer, internet connection, etc etc..

The last one's probably the most important to me. It's far too easy to drown yourself with people who like your photos and only ever say nice things. It's much more important to push yourself, and I can think of no better way than to be part of a group of people who genuinely inspire eachother and aren't afraid of a bit of criticism. It's got to be an open group, though - cliques turn in on themselves!

I'd have to say the original advice you received is spot-on. A very good photographer (Michael Smith) said that he who has only one meter is always sure of his exposure. He who has two is always in doubt. I've settled on a one-degree spot meter. I've only recently acquired a densitometer, but it is proving its worth as I start to do platinum/palladium contact prints. The savings in chemicals has already paid for the densitometer. As for sheet film cameras, 8X10 is my most frequently used format. And the glue that binds these together is the darkroom. Mine may be a makeshift place in the garage, but it enables me to explore my vision.

A film camera, slide film (I choose Velvia), and a continuing source of processing. I'm worried about the last.

I project my images to about 2 feet by 3 feet onto a canvas and sketch them, then paint with oils. I'm not such a great artist, but I like my results.

A camera, a computer, and since I do this for a living, a gainfully employed wife.

I need:
time to stroll around with my camera and one lens in the range between 28 to 40 mm, my laptop and a printer - thats all.

Equipment, transport, processing. Those three and nothing more. Unless you count literature.

Chemicals, a scanner and money for the fun part using film. But I do also practice the digital when the money runs out.

I agree on the bookshelf and the inkjet printer (and the fourth of course). The third one is enough time to put the other two (or three)to good use.

One thing that's missing from the list is inspiration. Its also been missing around here for almost 12 months. Mike's words a while back about getting out of the house when feeling low, and not forgetting the camera helped. I take the damn thing walking but thats about all the exercise it gets.

A sense of wonder

An appreciation of light

The courage to make mistakes, often.

what a great (and way difficult) question. For me the 3 things are:
-a camera
my inkjet printer
-open-minded curiosity
But an old friend and mentor maintained that photography came down to two simple rules:
f8 and be there.
Another maintained that there were only two decisions:
where to stand and when to press the button.
Isn't oversimplification grand?

As you take the computer for granted, not even listing it as an accessory to the scanning process...

I need a decent Internet connection plus a decent hosting service, a decent body and a decent short zoom. So I'm good at the moment.

I don't even know what one of those things is.

I think it's clear that I don't experience photography the same way you do anyway, but your list is somewhat enlightening as to how: I don't own a printer and have no desire to, and while I have many bookcases they are irrelevant to my photography experience so far.

I feel like both camera and computer are obvious enough to leave off my list, which leaves my three things as a trainable eye, a sense of wonder, and good hiking boots.

Hiking Boots

(like you, I leave out the camera as a given).

Nice B&W photos easy to do with grey ink on my (non pigment) HP C5280 but printing can always be sent out.
3 things I need for photography:-
A camera
B film scanner
C computer

3 things that make photography even more enjoyable
A slide projector
B choice of camera to suit circumstances
C time & opportunity to actually go out and take the photos.

Cheers, Robin

Time, a tripod and a calibrated monitor (in addition to the camera).

Time. Perseverance. Passion.

It's very simple for me

1) A digital camera
2) A computer with a good image editor
3) A fast internet connection.


My three things:

- Imagination; each photograph needs to have a life an identity
- Time; as I never have enough time
- Access; because if you can't get to what you want to photograph...

This list hit me the moment I read the title, yet then I wondered about all the technical stuff. But no matter to the gear, because with out the above all the gear in the world won't help as is often proved by great photos from junk cameras.

Great post Mike, very thoughtful.

I need just a few simple things to enjoy my photography:

A passport
A bicycle

I left out a digital camera, which is obviously the fourth essential. With the passport and my bicycle I find things to photograph, in other countries and my own respectively, and iPhoto allows me to organise and see the photos enjoyably afterward, on screen and in album books.

I'm glad you included 'or film camera and scanner.' Recently, I've been shooting more and more black and white film and scanning it in to my computer. I agree with all of the items you list, but I would have to include computer and software. If I must limit my list to three items, the bookcase would need to go. I'll still want the books, but will stack them on the floor before giving up my computer and Capture NX.

I enjoy being behind the camera making the capture, both digital and film, and watching the finished product come off of the printer. But for me, a close second (or is it thrid) is working the image in the computer and trying to get the last little detail the way I want it. I like having control over how the final image looks.

three essentials:

a Leica m9
a 35mm summicron
an Apple macbook pro

a fourth thing might be a bunch of sandisk plus cards, so I can save on the fifth, the card reader...

1.Photoshop for obvious reasons.
2.Mpix to print photo books and Smugmug and Facebook so I can share my pictures with friends and family around the country.
3.My Canon i9100 to make prints I can hang on my walls to amaze my friends and family;~) (I'm running out of walls.)
4.Currently, my Panasonic/Lumix G1.

I usually need limitation (a single, prime lens), simple light (I tend to be someone who enjoys overcast), and that feeling of a direct, transit-lane motorway connection from my trigger-finger to that often-otherwise-mute voice in my head that says "There's one! There's one! There's another! Oh, look, another one!...".

I think that's it...but now everything else is clamouring in my head for priority so...this is hard! [Thinks some more...]

I think you only need one thing and that is a passion for your subject. As Tichy has shown, with enough passion you will cobble together your own camera; but the apparatus is inconsequential in contrast to your love for your subject regardless if the subject be dwarfs, or murder victims, sand dunes, or your dinner vegetables in an old funnel.

"What three things do you most need to enjoy or participate in photography the way you practice it?"

I need my Wife.

Her financial and emotional support over the years have kept me on the straight and narrow. From getting up in the morning to pressing the shutter, it's all down to her.

I need my meds to shoot.

I developed Cholinergic urticaria a few years ago and it had a massive impact on my photography, nothing life threatening but it pretty much killed my street work. Three doses a day or I'll light up like the 4th of July just walking for ten minutes.


I left school early with no qualifications. I'm still without any. I can't spell, I'll avoid signing Christmas and birthday cards because my handwriting is so bad, my grammar is just as poor, typing this will take me quite a while. Thankfully I can read as well as anybody else (but how do I really know that when my use of grammar is so poor). I have a deep love of poetry. Being semi literate is really like being able to understand somebody speaking in french but not being able to talk back to them. I would never put pen to paper and tell you why I care about something or why I think it has value, but I think I could show you. My education in photography is on going and unending. As I type this I keep looking round at my educators, they're sitting on my book case. I'd like one of yours up there, because you've been one of them.

  1. A warm basement turned studio
  2. Naked women
  3. An understanding wife

camera, lens and some time...

time is the weakest link

Time, Time, and more time.

I guess we're very much alike in the way we practice/participate/enjoy photography...

inkjet printer-I want some of my pictures printed (and I want to be able to control that process). Lately though I am conteplating about setting up a darkroom (shooting film also)...

internet connection-I want to share some of my pictures with other people so I can get opinions and critique (I can even have a book with my pictures printed using the internet)

bookcase (with cabinets)-to store photography books and my cameras

1) Time of one's own to work on personal projects.
2) Some way of showing the photographs when they're done.
3) Google Earth

1) An adequate computer monitor,

2) A good quality inkjet printer,

3) Sufficient free time.

The first two are easy. The third is the most elusive and difficult to obtain and, I suspect (or at least delude myself into believing), the primary reason I'm not as good at it as I think possible.

I am a landscape photographer. The three things I need most are: 1) money for travel; 2) more money for travel; 3) most money for travel.

Weather resistant camera

Adobe Lightroom

Inkjet printer

After 30 seconds thought, it's about accuracy and security.

To wit:

1. A cataloging system - just nested folders on my hard drive but also for my commercial stuff, some method of naming etc. - Adobe Lightroom in my case.

2. A monitor calibrator - Spyder Pro in my case.

3. Several redundant external hard drives and a bootable backup on each - LaCie and SuperDuper in my case.

An interesting subject, a reasonable amount of good light although I enjoy the challenge of working in not so good light to get a picture and Lightroom.
Sorry to say, I do find it hard to take interesting pictures of a boring (to me) subject, something I need to work on.

Unencumbered free time
Willing eyes
and a sturdy tripod

Since you are assuming the camera, here's my list:

-a sturdy tripod
-a computer with Lightroom on it
-a pigment inkjet printer

I love reading TOP, but internet connectivity isn't necessary for me to enjoy photogtaphy.

A subject that gives me pleasure to photograph and no it doesn't have to convey a message-- maybe just a feeling.
A recording device, be it film, digital camera or scanner.
A system (Darkroom or Computer) to control or render the end result for viewing the photo.
The most important part of the equation--enough cash and education to make it all happen.
The realization that great photo's can be created with a $10 camera or a Leica etc. and the viewer is none the wiser.
Being at the right place at the right time is a very important part of the equation, "Moon over Hernandez" is one good example.

$$$ (That makes three, doesn't it?)

Or, on a serious level: a camera, a computer, a printer, and a good local frame shop, (whoops, that makes four).

What do I need to participate- well the obvious, a decent camera with lenses that will allow me to express myself visually, my computer with software to edit, and a ink jet printer. Which I seldom use because because most of my pictures don't deserve printing.
But primarily it's my ability to put a frame around what I see, to mentally compose a picture.

In Gordon Lewis' hierarchy of photographers I'm a "Kit Zoomer" - used DSLR w/ kit zoom lens. I take lots of crappy photos.

I need my kids... Without them my personal point-and-shoot photography would be pointless.

1) A decent calibrated/profiled digital darkroom, from monitor to Photoshop (or equivalent) to printer. I kind of see this as one giant digital "widget" with interchangeable or upgradable parts.

2) A digital SLR with manual controls. You won't learn very much about photography if you let your camera make all the decisions for you.

3) Access to great original prints for study. Books are wonderful, and they're a huge part of my life. But there's no substitute for personally examining great photographic prints by the masters of the medium.

I would elaborate a bit on that last part, because I think it's so important. Personally studying the finest available prints may be even more important in the digital era than with traditional photographic prints because of the vast range of possibilities. Seeing with your own eyes how beautiful a really expertly made print can be, seeing what's possible, is priceless.
A few years back a museum about 40 miles from me had a large Ansel Adams exhibition. I went back repeatedly to carefully study the prints; I got to be on a first name basis with the museum staff, who undoubtedly thought I was daft. But I finally saw what Adams did to get his prints to glow. Most of them "lived" in the 3/4 tones, which contained such rich texture and details that the contrasting highlights glowed by comparison. It was a eureka moment, something I never got from poring over books. My own black & white printing improved greatly after that. I had a bit of the same "light bulb" experience when I saw Pete Turner's prints in person. Ah, so that's what you can do with color.

I need time, interesting natural light, and my muse.

Time is important because, like many others, I also have a full-time job that is unrelated to photography.

Interesting natural light is self-explanatory.

My muse is an actual person who appears in 90% of my photographs.

These answers are not flippant, my work truly suffers if any of these three things are lacking.

1. You need to enjoy surprising yourself.
2. You need to be excited by visual stimuli.
3. You need to understand the relationship between things and images of things.

If you have these, then you can enjoy photography with a multiplicity of equipment, a multiplicity which keeps multiplying.

If you don't then you just have equipment

I wrote an essay about this some time ago,it's partly directed at pros, but has useful info for the advanced amatuer:


Photographers are largely treated as disposable objects at all but the highest levels, and sometimes a name is more important that being competent. Remember that... you could be the worst photographer in the world and still make a killing off your well marketed shots, you could be the best photographer in the world and still be anonymous when you are looking for gallery representation, that’s just the way it is. Be humble, be smart, and learn to value what you shoot, especially when it’s not an assignment.

That said, I would impart the following 10 things to anyone thinking about photography “seriously”. It is unlikely any of these things will actually help you generate income, however, they are the things that you should consider for the ultimate advancement of your photography in the “marketplace”. As they say before boxing matches: “Protect yourself at all times”.

1) IPTC captioning. A long time ago, my photo editor once said to me something which still resonates with me today. “A bad photo with a good caption is better than a great photo with a bad caption”. Within the publishing industry, IPTC captioning is the standard data field embedded in every photo. This metadata is handled by such programs as PhotoMechanic, Aperture, and Lightroom, to name a few. The reason why this is so important is because if you don’t put IPTC data into your photos, no one can/will pay you. No publisher will publish a photo that doesn’t have this information, because they simply cannot contact the photographer who took the shot. If there is no contact information, the photo is anonymous, and it won’t be published because the person publishing it doesn’t want to get sued down the road for printing a photo without proper accreditation. Your photos are worthless, no matter how good the shot.

2)Learn to “ingest” properly. Ingest is the operation that occurs when you transfer the photos from your flash memory to your computer. Photographers in the digital era deal with thousands of images. It’s not uncommon for me to shoot a wedding and have 2700+ images between me and my assistants. If you don’t stay organized, this will get confusing very fast. When I ingest a photo, about 6 major things happen.

1- images are titled with the name of the subject 2- images are dated 3- copyright and contact information is embedded in the IPTC 4- the photo is tagged 5-the photo is given a four digit numerical suffix 6- a folder with the name of the subject/event with a date is prepared to receive the photos.

This all happens instantly, with no work done by me save the title of the photo and the name of the folder. For example, if I were shooting today on the streets of manhattan, the photo name would look something like this: nyc street 6.16.091234, and the folder receiving the photo would likely be nyc street 6.16.09. This is scalable to millions of photos, I know, because I have millions of photos.

3) Learn to use an autofocus fixed focal length prime lens with a normal FOV and a fast aperture. For Nikon digital systems, this means four lenses only (as of this writing). In order of preference... DX- Sigma 30mm 1.4, Nikon 35mm 1.8, FX- Sigma 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 50mm 1.4.

Zooms are all the rage, and the quality and versatility of said “normal range” zooms is something many photographers could only dream of just 10 years ago. That said, they still can’t touch a good prime. The reason for learning one lens is simple, comfortability (yes, I know thats not a word). I am now @5 years with my sig 30. This means I can raise my camera to my eye and know exactly what I am going to get... I know where to place myself as far as photographer to subject distance, and I don’t have to think. Holding a d80 in my hand, there is little need for me to even look through the viewfinder. Even if the viewfinder of said camera is covered with electrical tape, I will still get a perfectly composed photograph, every time. This is big, because there will be times (if you carry your camera around all the time as I do) when you need to do things unconsciously. Digital photography is more of a technical exercise than people realize, the ability to reduce those variables that force you to actually concentrate on what you are doing will pay huge dividends because you know you are going to get the shot, there will be no fumbling, no need to change the FOV, no need to turn anything... nothing. Point and shoot, be fast.

4) Replace the phrase “What should I shoot?” with “What can I shoot?”. Going on safari in Africa with a nikkor 500mm VR is a good way to find interesting subjects, but few of us may ever have that chance. Learn to adapt to your surroundings and refine your sensibilities to the world in which you inhabit. The place in which you live may be boring to you, but not everyone lives there, and other people may want a peek, even if its bum fuck Idaho (I actually love Idaho, but I think you get my point). A doorknob, a broken window, peeling paint, rust... shit like this is everywhere, but how often do we actually pay attention to such banal subjects? I recently saw photos in the $30-$50k range of womens mouths, heavily made up, stuffed with ornate jewelry (necklaces and such). They were splendid, and these editions were selling quite fast. I was looking at prints in the 40*80 inch range, bigger than most of us will ever print, nevertheless, the point is this... subjects are created as much as they are documented. Richard Prince sells $1 million dollar photos of magazine adverts he re-shot and blew up to extreme sizes. Call the guy a copycat bastard if you want, but his show filled the entire Gugenheim in NYC. The incredible foot traffic I saw at the Gug was testament to the fact that someone out there likes his stuff, knockoff artist or not. My last tutorial on these boards featured 6” models I picked up at my local Target (big american retail box store). I was thrilled with the results, and happily created a nice series I am quite proud of and which was featured by Alien Skin software for their June newsletter. It’s not the Gugenheim, but it was well received. The ingredients list for this shoot: creativity, 30 minutes, and a $10 model. On this very forum I have seen outstanding stuff created with minimalist equipment, imagination is always the key.

5) Pony up for the full version of Photoshop. Lets face it, Photoshop is an expensive program, but it is still the industry standard, and will be for years to come. You can try to get around having it by using some of the newer products like Elements, Lightroom, Gimp, or Aperture, but the fact of the matter is, you will always be behind the curve. Photoshop is a complicated program, if you are intimidated, try and find a course at a local university or subscribe to Photoshop User magazine, this will speed up the learning process... better yet, find a graphic designer friend and try and sit in on some of their work, you will be flabbergasted at the things even a mediocre graphic designer can do with a photo. More than that, thousands of tutorials are available in the public domain which help to make you a better photographer. The internet is a great thing sometimes, I say this because anything you are likely to do in PS, has already been done, and there is likely a tutorial available somewhere showing you the best way to do it. In addition to PS’s basic features, there are numerous plugins available that will make your workflow more streamlined and will enhance your photography at the same time. Some of these plugins cost more that PS itself, but they exist for a reason. To dismiss the robust tools available as PS plugins would be a serious mistake for any photographer. With enough time, you can do anything to a photo within PS’s core architecture, but some of the plugins available will make your job so much easier, you can concentrate on the creative process, rather than how to actually get there. What used to take me hours of fiddling and compositing can now be done in seconds, and the results are fantastic. Plugins like Alien Skin Exposure and Nik Efex should be a required part of every photographers arsenal... why wouldn’t you want 30 versions of a good photo (it only takes me a few seconds of batch processing to do so)? Then, you can turn to your client, and ask them to make the decision. Variety is the spice of life. When you give your clients options for a photo that could only been dreamed of 10 years ago, you look like a genius. Sepia, cross processing, grain, BW conversions, they can all be handled with the click of a button. To think that your photos wouldn’t benefit from multiple versions is naive (I speak from experience) because you simply can’t tell when a photo is going to take to different tonality and color. Sometimes the effect can transform fairly banal subjects into something that really pops.

6) Forget the rules. If you think your photos are going to stand out because you followed the rule of thirds and read the book about classic compositions, you are in for a surprise, even if they are technically perfect and the light was “just right”. Landscapes would be a good example. I went to the Peter Lik gallery in Manhattan the other day (you can google him if you have never heard of the dude) and was quite impressed. Any classic landscape you intend to shoot, has already been done, by Peter Lik, better. Not only that, but Mr. Lik has the best equipment, the best printing and framing, and has the resources to wait for the best light for any given subject. These are facts... you won’t be able to touch his stuff, and the prints are 1 meter by 3 meters plus. This is not to say you should give up shooting landscape, far from it, but what you should really be considering is how to do the classics different, where they resonate personally, from a unique angle. It’s a cliché, but get off the beaten path (unless of course you are in Laos, the Falkland Islands, or parts of the Golan Heights, where there are lots of landmines). There are a probably 100 million people in the world with decent cameras (of the quality we are used to here on NG), if they all shoot just one landscape a day, thats a 100 million landscapes. Some of these photos will be terrible, but some of them will be great, perhaps even the guy who serendipitously stumbled into the best light ever, his first day out with his d5000. I use landscapes as an example but it applies to all genres within photography... go nuts. If you decide to read the books on how to shoot, do it so that you can know what has already be done, and then go forward with the intention of breaking the conventions.

7) Take blurry photos. The first couple of years I had a DSLR, I was obsessed with getting sharp shots. Hand holding technique, breathing, and physical exercises were all part of a regimen I constructed to enhance my critical sharpness without using a tripod in the field. At some point you may find that sharp shots are, well, boring. I was forced to go in a new direction... meaning there was little more for me learn with regard to technical proficiency. Instead, my new goal was to achieve sublime imperfection. Shapes and colors are just as interesting as sharp shots, sometimes more so. If you take enough bad shots, eventually, something good will come out of it. You will find that a particular shot, because of its blurriness, instead of in spite of it, is compelling. Abstract forms, distortion, and motion blur have been the hallmark of some great shooters, there is no need to fear them, as they are as much a part of photography as the rule of thirds. Learn to mess up a shot, learn to be distinctive... this of course will take some time, but in the end, you may be surprised how many keepers you get employing “bad technique”.

8) People photography. When someone is in front of your camera, they will do what they are told, even if they are the President of the United States (he gets posed too), provided you have extreme confidence. This is as much psychology as photography, but it is worth mentioning because I see a lot of young photographers second guess themselves in the field. My theory is that as the photographer, you are the director of the action, just like in the movies. I have an anecdote for this, please indulge me... I don’t remember where I heard the story, but I will rehash it here as best as I can recall:

The story is about Stanley Kubrick (who just happened to be a great photographer as much as he was a great director). One day, on a movie set, a delivery was made... it was a pair of directors chairs, the kind with the cloth back and the crossed wooden legs. An actor on set saw both of the chairs and noticed they were identical, in every way, shape, and form. Both were emblazoned with the name “Kubrick” on the back rest. This famous actor (I forget which one) decided to perform a little experiment on Kubrick to see what would happen. He would wait until the director was on set, and before Kubrick could see the chairs he would hoist them both in the air and ask Kubrick to pick one. So, as the story goes, Kubrick returns to the set and the actor lifts both identical chairs into the air, one in each arm, and in front of the whole cast and crew, asks Kubrick which chair he wanted. “Which chair do you want?” he said, “The left one.” Kubrick replied instantly. Sometime later the actor asked Kubrick why he chose the left chair so hastily, when upon any inspection the chairs were obviously the same. Kubrick responded: “It doesn’t matter what decision I make, as long as I sound like I know what I am doing”. The moral of the story is this: you are the director... as a photographer, when you make a decision in front of a subject/client, do so decisively, the only person who knows it’s a shitty decision will be you, and you can always bin those photos... but, if you waffle in your decision making trying to make a superb choice, everything you do for the rest of the shoot will be questioned by the participants. If I happen to shoot a CEO, or a supermodel, they are going to notice even the slightest trepidation in your approach, that’s what they do for a living. These are extreme examples, but the lesson should trickle down to everything you shoot. Nobody knows you are fucking up but you, and if you fuck up confidently enough, nobody will know at all.

9) Color management is complex. This is actually 3 suggestions:

1- Shoot RAW for the widest possible gamut 2- RAW files must go into the ProPhoto color space when translated by your RAW converter 3- Buy a hardware calibration device for your monitor and calibrate regularly.

There are numerous tutorials on all this on the web and books available in print, so I won’t belabor the point here, needless to say, if you don’t do these three things, your photos are piss in the wind. ‘Nuff said.

10) Learn to print with an archival pigment printer of a professional grade, and visit a master printer or take a digital printing course (printing is still so complex that trying to learn it by yourself will set you back years). The cheapest printer I suggest for this available right now is the Epson 4880 (I wouldn’t invest in an epson 3800 at this time due to the newer inksets available). Unfortunately, any book you pick up on this subject is already old news, because 16-bit printing has just reached maturity... better to learn from the Epson Academy, what you can glean from online forums, or attend a Michael Reichmann or Nash Editions seminar. An investment of a few hundred dollars up front will save you thousands of dollars of wasted media down the road (and it saves trees).

Without thinking it over too much:
1.) Digital camera (this should include a lens, a memory card and a device for downloading photos to #2)

2.) A computer with (again, an inclusion: Photoshop or some other photo-processing program)

3.) An internet connection for sharing/transmitting/filing one's work.
3. alternate) A Printer. I don't print my own work these days. 99% of my work appears on the web or the people I send it to print it, so although I completely agree that for max appreciation a photograph should be printed, in these times not everyone needs a printer to enjoy or participate in photography.

Great question by the way!

Well, hmmm. There's the way I'd *like* to make pictures, and the way I *actually* make pictures. The way I'd like to do it (or, perhaps, the way I'd like to like to do it) involves fancy printers, graphics tablets, expensive cameras, Photoshop and related tools, and lots of beautifully framed prints. Fact is, though, I really don't have the patience for all that.

For the way I actually do it, I need:

  • A camera that's easy to carry around, with a good zoom lens. (I'm a big Lumix fan.)
  • A pair of legs, to carry me around while I look for subjects in odd places.
  • A laptop computer, on which to save and view the resulting photos.

Occasionally, when my wife insists, I'll make some prints...of family snapshots, rather than my favorite shots.

Your list is good, although I will argue that an internet connection could be considered a given. That would make my list of three easier, because I still need/want/love a darkroom. So, I guess I'll stack my books on the floor - no bookcase necessary.


Trying not to be too influenced by your list…

  • Some way to make a print. Could be a darkroom, could be a nice inkjet printer (or anything in between), what is essential is that the image ends up as an object that can be held and looked at.
  • Other photographers to share work and ideas with (in person, via sites like Flickr, doesn't matter much just so long as it affords the opportunity to look at and discuss each other's work).
  • The time and inclination to reflect on one's work.

I have a spot meter, a densitometer, and a sheet film camera, not that they have been used in the last year and a half. My answer though would be a bulk loader, E-6 chemistry, and a Jobo. My most active photographic period revolved around these three things. The process of going out for a day, composing and taking photographs, then mixing up the chemistry and running the film through the Jobo in the evening, to be rewarded with little colourful jewels is not something that I have been able to recreate in the digital world.

Perhaps I need to upgrade my printer and read more books. But frankly fiddling away in Lightroom or Photoshop is too much like work, and where is the magic of images revealed?

I need: a RAW setting on the camera, Photoshop, an inkjet printer

A digital SLR camera (I tried compact digital cameras, but couldn't break the SLR habit from film days), a Macintosh computer for processing (I never really liked photographic darkrooms, even though I spent a considerable portion of my life in them), and a decent A3+ inkjet printer (I tried labs, but somehow, I always seem to want to change the results).

I guess if you take the digital camera as a given, then substitute a receptive gallery owner willing to give me a little wall space, once a year or so.

I guess when you mention internet connection you're also taking for granted that one has a computer. Or I should say computers since that what were pretty much taking pictures with, how they are processes and for the most part viewed.

This I suspect is what many will replace the book shelf with, a computer with some programs for digital editing/viewing. That is if we have to keep the list to three.

For myself, if I did not have a pretty broad range of tools for post processing where bascially anything is possible photography would be a much different world.



I taught a digital photography class at NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies for a couple years, and the first time I taught it, some students showed up with low-end point-and-shoot compact cameras, most or all of which wouldn't allow them to set the aperture.

From that class on, I made a digital SLR the minimum requirement. I also discovered that having a spot meter in camera was also extremely useful for some of what I taught. Zoom lens? Not so important. But the faster the lens, the more we could learn about depth of field.

So I'd say my own list of three things I need are: manual or at least aperture-priority setting, relatively fast lens, and spot metering. If I were shopping for a pocket camera, I'd sure want those options.

A thought-provoking essay, Mike -- simplification (or perhaps 'distillation') is almost always a productive process. I am quite comfortable leaving the digital capture device off my list, since I often live my life photographically without a camera in my hands: the most rewarding thing about photography for me is that it has taught me to focus my attention and look. My three essential things are naivety, enthusiasm, and the capacity to take joy in what I see.

TOP is on my list, too, just a little farther down. Thanks!

-- David Miller

I'd add at least one more: some sort of image manipulation / editing / management program that you are comfortable with. Just as printing was an important aspect (and skill) of analog photography, post-processing (no matter how minimal, even if you just have a program that you use to sort the "winners" from the "losers") is an important part of digital photography.

Exhibit A: I have enjoyed digital photography much more since purchasing Lightroom. It simply makes dealing with the thousands of files a less onerous and soul-crushing task. No longer do I have to stare at thousands of "DSC_9527524.jpg" (or .nef) files trying to figure out which picture I was looking for. Comparing two similar pictures is a breeze, as is sorting, etc. Imagine if after you developed your film in the analog days, someone had magically taken your negatives, created an exact copy, placed them in negative sleeves, put the sleeves in envelopes marked by date, shooting location, etc. and then filed the originals and the copies in the appropriate file cabinet. What would that have been worth to you? I tell people to buy Lightroom (or something similar) before they even think about buying a second lens or other photo gear.

Exhibit B: Editing pictures after the fact can be enormously gratifying and sometimes provides greater room for creative expression than the act of shooting itself. Yes, it can be (and is) overdone. But that doesn't make it any less valid when done right. Ansel Adams' negatives don't all look like much on their own... Plus, knowing how to easily fix white balance, recover slightly blown highlights and add moderate sharpening can really improve your pictures and save frustration when camera settings are slightly off.

Best regards,

Here is my answer:

1) A digital camera with 24-70 mm lens . 2) A computer with post processing software (not necessarily Photoshop). 3) An internet connection to make prints at a photo lab.

Since I can get excellent prints made at pro quality photo labs, I would rather not spend the money for a printer and invest in the best lens I can buy instead.

What we “take for granted” probably tell us something about ourselves as much as the three things we need.

To enjoy photography today, I need a photo editing program, a good monitor, and a printer, I take having access to internet for granted; by extension, I need a computer anyway regardless of photography, so I don’t count that as big three. Bookcase is important, but it is really a lot of space that I need, and I never seem to have enough (also regardless of photography)… Oh, how then do I capture the images?

An uncluttered mind, an open heart and a functioning finger (to release the shutter). Perhaps the first two are not 'things,' but the types of 'things' (cameras, printers, etc) don't really matter that much.

An eye, a heart and hope. To see it, to feel it and to believe you can capture it.

My Leica, my MAC, and my HP B9180

Add a large trashcan and the will to use it.

A camera, some friends, and a bicycle.

I wish I knew that 3 things when I start to do film photography 18 mnths ago. For digital (color) one may think

- Photoshop (darkroom) and a mac
- colour profiling software
- colour card (the xrite pocket one)

well at least technical equivalent and not necessariy obvious when one starts

this is especially true now that most digital camera is good enough

not sure printer is a must and many end up with small print and web and even for large print you can someone to do it for you

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