Does the equipment you use, affect your creativity ?

sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
edited January 2015 in Nikon Lenses
A long running discussion on nrf is zooms vs primes

I think we agree

Top end primes have wider apertures than top end zooms which affects dof and bokeh
Top end primes are sharper than top end zooms ( how much shaper is not the question)

The question is
Does the equipment you use, change your creativity
Does that fact you are shooting with a zoom or a prime make any difference to your creativity
And if so why ??

Please feel free to extend this to cameras as well as lenes

Post edited by sevencrossing on


  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited January 2015
    Question 1: Yes, it does.
    Question 2: Yes, it does.

    Creativity goes hand-in-hand with the tools one uses, be it photography or any form of the arts. Take for example a painter and his many brushes, or the canvas he or she uses in relation to the brush. How about a piano it on a Steinway, or as he hit the notes on a Digital Yamaha. Creativity abound on both...

    Question 3: With respect to photography, given a setting, each of my lens will bring out multiple opportunities in how creative I can be. Case in point: in 2014, I shared many of my sunset photo's. On many shoots, I took along both primes (short & long) and telephoto's (wide and mid-range). Depending of what nature offered on that day, I mounted a lens and let my imagination run wild. Knowing what each lens can achieve, it the key for me in maximizing its result.

    Have a look at my sunset flicker account here and see for yourself. Lenses used: 14-24, 24 1.4, 24-70, 70-200, 300 2.8.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    LOL, :)) , :)) , I would love to get into a lengthy discussion about my creativity, and agree what I have in my hand does affect the outcome. But, my creativity is limited and for me the question is, can I translate my desire to produce a given result into an appreciation of what equipment to attempt to utilize to achieve this?

    In some cases I can get all this figured out after a few trials, but in many instances I accept the result, then decide if it worked or not.

    In other words, the answer is "probably not" in terms of changing my creativity, and the prime/zoom issue is a result of my primary desire after I have come up with a shot i want. Or, if I want to pound a nail, I use a hammer, cut off a board, then a saw is needed.

    I thin k i have avoided giving a meaningful answer quite well..... :-B
    Msmoto, mod
  • framerframer Posts: 491Member
    To me, creativity comes with the setup. How I light, pose, move, position the object or person. Creating the conditions of what's being photographed is the art IMHO. Mostly I take snapshots, only a few times a year I get creative. Operating, manipulating a camera is mechanical not creative.

    My answer to both questions is, "NO".

  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,186Member
    Reminds me of the old saying "It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools"..
    I will throw that out there for a bit .. ;-)
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    "It's a poor craftsman that blames his tools"..

    A true craftsman has the correct tools and looks after them
  • HammieHammie Posts: 258Member
    Personally, I feel that a person is either creative or not creative. It has nothing to do with the tools.

    If a person can envision something, they will be able to create it no matter what they have at their disposal. Granted, better tools may make it easier, but not always better.

    Look at some of the artists out there creating with limited tools -- the elderly man who creates art with only a typewriter, the people who can paint a portrait upside down with just one or two colors of paint, even some of the photo samples from iPhones or cheap point and shoot cameras. These people are creative... period.

    A person needs to be creative to consistently make impressive art. A parent who just wants to take shots of their kids birthday parties and christmas mornings may get some sharp shots with expensive gear, but that doesn't mean they are being creative.

    I'm not a pro, just voicing my opinion.
  • ggbutcherggbutcher Posts: 392Member
    edited January 2015
    I'm going to answer "No" to both.

    When I shoot, I'm taking the frame presented by the camera and composing the most interesting shot my little brain can conjure. Rule-a-thirds plays prominent and I usually frame initially with it in mind, but I don't always end up there when I push the button. I also tend to look for leading fore-to-background lines, or try to put something in the foreground where the distant thing is the object of attention. And so, that frame is something I consider before I start the above-described mental composition dialogue, and I crank my zoom to accommodate. If I was using fixed lenses, I'd switch lenses to do the same. I remember thinking of the shooting process the same way back in my younger days with the F2 and primes, and I find myself doing roughly the same now with the zoom.

    To a similar thread on a railroad discussion forum, I rank-ordered my priorities for good photos as follows:
    1. Composition. See previous paragraph.
    2. Lighting. IMHO goes hand-in-hand with #1.
    3. Perspective. Here's where the equipment plays a factor, specifically focal length. Certain focal lengths lend themselves to certain compositions, so there's that feedback loop to consider.
    4. Image Quality. Used to be film grain and EV range, now the sensor dictates.

    Most of the railroad photographers were interested primarily in the gear, so I didn't get much response. But my point to them was that the gear ranks second to what you put in your frame, and how you arrange it. If I could only own one prime lens, it'd be a DX 18mm, and I'd spend the rest of my life happily shooting wide-angle-perspective photographs, looking for compositions and light to suit. But, I would miss my tele....

    Such are the joys of a particular amateur photographer. I think professionals have more to worry gear-wise, because they are out to sell certain types of images, and they need to choose the gear that will let them light, compose, and capture images that will appeal to the buyers.

    @framer, @Hammie: Yep, your perspective (pun fully intended) is spot-on with mine.
    @sevencrossing: Agree fully on proper tool selection, but I fit that consideration within the above missive.
    @Golf007sd: Yours is an interesting process, choose the lens and see where it takes you. I like that...
    @PitchBlack: That photograph is probably the most powerful one I've regarded all year (2014).... I'm going to show it to my 18-200mm zoom; poor thing has developed a persecution complex :D
    Post edited by ggbutcher on
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 4,494Member
    edited January 2015

    The question is
    Does the equipment you use, change your creativity
    Does that fact you are shooting with a zoom or a prime make any difference to your creativity
    And if so why ??
    1. No. Better equipment helps in some situations, and I prefer higher end gear, but if someone cannot frame a good shot in the first place it doesn't matter what gear they have.
    2. No. Creativity has nothing to do with spec sheets. Gear is an extension that helps in the process of creativity, but is not the source. As a result, using a zoom or a prime is irrelevant. Does narrow depth of field help in the creative process? It can, if your goal is subject isolation via narrow depth of field, but if it is not no.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    The OP's question:
    The question is:
    Does the equipment you use, change your creativity?
    Does that fact you are shooting with a zoom or a prime make any difference to your creativity And if so why ??

    As the OP states the question, I believe that the answer is no to both in.

    Now if the OP's question is slightly rephrased:
    Does the equipment you use, change "your ability to express" creativity?
    Does that fact you are shooting with a zoom or a prime make any difference to your "ability to express your" creativity And if so why ??
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    Question 1:
    To the extent that your creative vision is enhanced by better equipment, the answer to #1 is almost certainly yes. The ultimate quality (lens sharpness, sensor resolution etc.) effects your ability to express your creativity at a detailed level. If you are a sport, action, news or event photographer, primes will generally limit your creativity more than zooms. Zooms will allow you to express yourself in a fluid situation that you have little or no control over, even in regards to shooting position. The only exception that I can think of is in very low light, where a faster lens, which is only available in primes, makes the difference between acceptable and unacceptable noise. If your creativity involves shooting wide open a significant amount of the time (as mine does), your creativity is going to be significantly constrained with a zoom, for the simple reason that the fastest zoom is a 2.8 (the Sigma 1.8 is on the wide end, and since it is DX, will have a similar depth of field to an FX 2.8).

    Continuing on question #1, the quality of the lens will impact your ability to express your creativity. I am not talking about image quality (though this may be important) but the subjective quality of the lens. For some shots, I love shooting my 50mm 1.2 MF at f/1.2. The spherical aberration is very obvious, but I love the “quality” of it with certain shots. I only wish I could induce it as a wider aperture. In other circumstances, I love the ability of my 85mm 1.4G to shoot wide open with little image quality degradation.

    To Pitchblack’s example of the beautiful image taken with an 18-200 (WOW!). That is valid. But I cannot imagine Pitchblack giving up his bag for a 28-300 (FX equivalent).
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    Question 2:
    In answer to #2, let’s set aside the obvious technical factors relating to zooms vs primes. For example, a zoom cannot shoot at f/2.0 – I will ignore that. I will ignore the fact that you may not have time to change primes in a sports, action, news or event setting.

    My answer is "yes".

    Let's assume that you have the ability to control the timing and situation to a significant extent, either through providing direction (eg. portrait), advance planning (eg. capturing a golden hour landscape) etc.

    Regarding my own personal style, I tend to be a deliberate careful shooter, planning in advance what I want to achieve. I can shoot spontaneously, but that is not my preferred "style". I will typically have the time I need to change lenses multiple times, so I am not in any way constrained in this regard. This is not to say I only take 5 carefully planned shots in a day. I might take a thousand in a day. But that is because I have set up say 10 shots and I am taking 100 images of each shot from a variety of different perspectives such as aperture, focal length, slight changes in perspective and framing, multiple redundancy etc.

    I find that if I have only one focal length on my camera at a time, that I take the time to explore all the possibilities that are available to me at that focal length. I then switch focal lengths (lens) after I have done that. If I had a zoom, I would be more haphazard. That is a matter of discipline. I find that the best way to discipline yourself is to constrain yourself. For example, I discipline myself to get exercise by organizing my life around not having a car – there is no way I could motivate myself to got to the gym and perform mindless repetitive exercises. But I enjoy walking and constraining my access to a car to promote better health. If I need a car bad enough, I will take a taxi or rent one.

    Another factor that is relevant to me and I think relevant to many shooters is as follows. If I have a prime, I am going to be alive to the fact that I am restricted to one focal length (unless I change lenses) so I am motivated to think about what the optimum shooting position is with that lens. This will slow me/the shooter down and force us to more carefully consider the shot. Once that occurs, we start thinking more carefully about other aspects of composition. For me, this results in better images. For a novice that is motivated to become a better photographer, I think that this is a superior learning process. That does not mean that they cannot start shooting zooms once they complete that process. I just think something important is lost if one never goes through that process. It is not unlike how lighting is taught in the photography program that I am taking. Sekonic light meters are standard issue and expected to be used and we will fail if we cannot demonstrate their use. Do we really need them? Probably not. But there is a learning that is imparted that I think would be difficult to accomplish otherwise. We are taught in the lighting courses that exposure ratios must be achieved with lighting and cannot be corrected in post - but then in the Photoshop and Lightroom courses techniques are taught that permit just that. Does this mean that the lighting courses are irrelevant? No, we are learning to get it right in camera so that we can start with the best possible image before we go to post which will result in better final images.
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,545Moderator
    I posted this in another thread then found this new one so I'm copying and posting it here:

    Call it a rant if you like, but:

    To be Honest I would say there is too much of that whole elitist mindset going on. The better the gear you buy, the more weight your opinions have in any given discussion and of course you must be an expert because of the gear on your posts footer. If you use primes, you're serious, if you shoot with zooms, well, they are 'convenient'.

    Set a Nikon zoom to 50mm against a Nikon 50mm prime, shoot a subject using both, click the lens correction button in lightroom and post them here without exif and let's see the difference and who can even see the difference. Shoot the same subject +/- 20% the same distance and zoom to the same composition and let's see the difference. Most of the time it wouldn't matter, it's only with more extreme f-l differences and on certain subjects that it really matters.

    Even over the last week or so some of the people on this forum have said that the great thing about the D800/e/D810 is that they shoot wide and crop later - where the heck does that 'grab and go' mentality fit in with 'creative vision'?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - some of the best shots I've seen have been taken with very ordinary bodies and lenses. Granted they would be technically better if they were taken with a top new camera, but also, some of the most ordinary shots I've seen have been taken on very high end gear or high end gear good shots spoiled by heavy handed or amateurish post processing.

    My keeper rate hasn't been affected in the slightest by my acquisition of my D750 over my D7100. Neither has the quality of my work improved except in the very top end of my high-ISO work. I screw up just as bad with both!

    It is the brain behind the gear that makes the shot great, from seeing it, to setting up and capturing it and then PP-ing it.

    Take the best shot from last months PAD - sevencrossing's Clifton Bridge in the mist shot. Beautiful - but any of Nikon's reasonably recent cameras could have got it if set right.

    All IMHO of course.
    Always learning.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    As I said in the other thread:

    I think that these are very good points Spraynpray. I pretty much agree with you if you stipulate that it is valid for the way most people shoot most of the time, but may be limiting to some people some of the time.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Too much is one of the old Spencer, North Carolina Railroad shops, 10.5mm DX lens (modified) on full frame. To "create" this image, had to have the equipment.

    Now, some may not like this, but i kinda do, keeping the horizontals level, allowing a basic center section not too distorted gradually moving outward into the fisheye effect.... Maybe it is al about one's taste and desires.

    Anyway, once trains are mentioned i get carried away...LOL
    Msmoto, mod
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,689Member
    The greatest limitations to my creativity/photography are in this order:
    1. My pea sized brain which fails to have good ideas.
    2. My lazziness. I would rather read about photography than actually go out and shoot.
    3. My desire for comfort. I don't want to get up before dawn so I can be out at sunrise or stay out late so I have to drive home in the dark. Thus, I often miss the best light for landscapes.
    4. Finally "seeing" or "previsualizing" and image and then not knowing how to manipulate my equipment to produce in camera what was in my mind.
    5. My equipment. If I ever do get that far down the list!
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,186Member
    I just moved cities ... previously I made a bunch of photographer friends that would organise stuff and drag me out with them... now I find I am at home reading NR forums :-) ... Point 1 and 2 is swapped for me but otherwise that list is spot on !! @donaldejose!
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,287Member
    edited January 2015
    I certainly think the photographer and the gear make a big difference, and since art is subjective, the ratio that each contribute changes a lot from situation to situation. As an extreme example, if I decide to challenge someone wielding a a Go Pro with a D7100, at an underwater shoot with no housing, it's not going to end well for me. But, if they can't figure out how turn the Go Pro on, then at least it's a wash. :D

    All jokes aside, I went from a point and shoot- a Nikon E3700, which I still shoot occasionally, to a D40, and then to a D7000. I had ideas about what sort of shots I wanted to get with the point and shoot but there were times that I really couldn't get it because the focus wouldn't cooperate or the action was over before I could get the shot. In some ways I really liked my point and shoot- it still gives me more depth of field in macro shots, which is useful but not when paired with its terrible AF system.

    The D40 definitely took my photography to the next level and helped me hone my skills, especially when I can change to a macro lens if I so chose to.

    Also, there are "looks" you can get with equipment that you can't get elsewhere. Your bokeh from M4/3 won't be the same as the bokeh you'd get from medium format. Similarly, it makes sense why a 70-200 2.8 is used for sports/action photos. So yes, equipment does matter, but if you can't figure out how to use it effectively, it still won't matter.
    I just moved cities ... previously I made a bunch of photographer friends that would organise stuff and drag me out with them... now I find I am at home reading NR forums :-) ... Point 1 and 2 is swapped for me but otherwise that list is spot on !! @donaldejose!
    Just curious, which cities did you move from?

    Best of luck in the new place!

    Post edited by NSXTypeR on
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    First, donaldejose wins the prize for the most honest. I think this is true quite often for myself.

    Yup, the 200/2 cannot be duplicated except by a 200/2, much the same way my post of the fisheye requires........a fisheye.....

    Maybe when we have more toys, like a bunch of RRS support gear, fancy lenses, new bodies, this motivates us to get out and shoot photos....

    Who knows?
    Msmoto, mod
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    I suspect that if you creative options are not as restrained, you will be motivated to take more photos. From that it would follow that you will probably take better photes assuming more experience means increased skill.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,744Member
    Actually Pitchblack, my response to Msmoto has got me thinking about your comment above:

    Does it make me creative? No. Does it open up my creative options? Yes.

    Owning the lens may actually make you more creative. The experience you gain using the lens may give you a perspective on the art of photography that you did not have before. That may trigger creative insights that otherwise would not have occurred.

    Whether you agree with this or not may boil down to a definition of creativity. If you think creativity is inborn (which it must be to SOME extent), then you may not agree. If you think creativity can be learned to some extent, then you might agree.
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited January 2015
    The greatest limitations to my creativity/photography are in this order:

    3. My desire for comfort. I don't want to get up before dawn so I can be out at sunrise or stay out late ......
    Although not a landscape photographer. I think Helmut Newton proved, getting up at sunrise was not a prerequisite for being creative :)
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • YetibuddhaYetibuddha Posts: 388Member
    I always like these philosophical discussions involving the intersection between the mind and equipment. For me, the greatest limitation on my creativity is the former, it all has to do with our "mental models" of what a photographic image should be. And yet, when I get outside this particular mental model, I see options for an image I haven't seen. Right now, for example, I am struggling with how to capture photographic images of tropical forests, which are dense and very messy. The equipment will help me see some things I haven't, but first I figure out what story I want to tell in an image and then how to do it. The equipment will help figure out what stories I might be able to tell, so they each affect the other. Having a 20mm lens, for example, help me envision how to bring depth into an image of a landscape, also I learned a lot by examining other's images and taking a couple of courses. The equipment in a sense is an enabler, but the biggest limitation may be our minds.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    Nice to see some familiar names from the past.....Yetibuddha ;)
    Msmoto, mod
  • ggbutcherggbutcher Posts: 392Member
    @Yetibudda: "Right now, for example, I am struggling with how to capture photographic images of tropical forests, which are dense and very messy."

    Can't see the forest for all the trees... sorry, couldn't resist. :D

    Actually, your rain forest endeavor strikes a chord. I went into my train trip with a certain expectation of photographs, and encountered a whole 'nother story, one quite unlike what I normally shoot. In the preparation of the train, I found a whole raft of "people situations", folks doing their work. I've never been a people photographer, but I found myself seeking compositions that included the mechanics, firemen, engineers, etc. as they went through the tasks of preparing the train for departure. When I go back this coming summer, I'm going to prepare my thinking and logistics to shoot the preparation story.

    Regarding your endeavor, I can visualize the 'mess', but I'd think there'd be rich composition opportunities in both the long view, that is, the canopy against surrounding scenery, and the short view, plant shapes and colors, and selective lighting from the sunlight shafts that make it through the canopy. Animals, and their endeavors living within... oh, that'd be interesting. Best wishes in capturing that story.
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