You Make Pictures Not Your Camera!

It really doesn’t matter which camera, lens, or even brand, for that matter, one uses to take pictures. Virtually all digital cameras since about 2009 have exceeded what is required to make beautiful images for nearly any type of photography. An experienced photographer can make even a “consumer-level” camera sing and dance. Therefore, when you ask the questions, “Is my Nikon good enough? Is my kit lens good enough?” I posit that it indeed is good enough. There are good reasons to have higher-end cameras, and generally, image quality is not one of them. If you are careful, you can make a masterpiece with nearly any DSLR-type digital camera, and even most point-and-shoot cameras.

Image taken with a Nikon D5100 prosumer camera and its 18-55mm Kit lens

Image taken with a Nikon D5100 prosumer camera and its 18-55mm Kit lens

As an example, I offer this image I made with a Nikon D5100 and its AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm kit lens (at 42mm, 1/125 sec at f/8, ISO 100, handheld while hanging out a car window on the side of the road with people blowing their horns at me.)

This is a “postprocessed” image, originally shot in RAW and converted to JPEG in Nikon Capture NX 2. What did I do in post processing? I selectively darkened the sky toward the top of the image to provide contrast to the clouds and Sunsphere. I added a little extra saturation to the gold of the Sunsphere and the red of the roses. I lowered the contrast of the right side of the rosebush (opened the shadows). The camera was on Auto White Balance. I did not modify the White Balance. I was shooting with the Standard (SD) Picture Control to make the image have a little more “snap” (contrast) overall, but not too much. That is how postprocessing is done, not globally changing things—selectively changing things that NEED changing to make the image beautiful. It takes a while to learn how to use the tools one needs to effectively postprocess images.

If you are a relatively new photographer, may I give you some advice? Let your camera do the work right now. Set it to AUTO on the mode dial and just go take pictures. Enjoy the camera and taking pictures with it. Start studying the deeper things and choose a set of software tools you will need to learn the complex things of postprocessing. Software such as Lightroom, Capture NX 2, Aperture, and even Photoshop Elements is all you’ll need.

Taken with a Nikon D90 and an 18-55mm kit lens

Taken with a Nikon D90 and an 18-55mm kit lens

So many choices, so many books, so little time. It can take several years to really get a handle on digital imaging. Slow down, enjoy the process, take your time. Don’t work so hard. This isn’t a race. You have a good eye for composition. Let the technology help you at first. A year from now you will understand why I am saying this. Shoot JPEGs in AUTO mode for at least 30 days. When you can consistently make good images in AUTO, switch to Aperture priority (A) mode and move deeper. Above all, have fun!

You are a photographer. It’s not the camera who makes the image, it’s you!

Keep on capturing time…
Darrell Young

Dancing clouds on Blue Ridge Parkway

Darrell Young is an active member of the Nikonians User Community, Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and the author of 15 photography books from NikoniansPress through Rocky Nook, including Beyond Point-and-ShootMastering the Nikon D610Mastering the Nikon D800Mastering the Nikon D7100, and the upcoming Mastering the Olympus OM-D E-M1, to name a few. He’s been an avid photographer since 1968 when his mother gave him a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

His website,, was created to support the readers of his educational books, photography students, and clients. Visitors to his website will find articles and reviews designed to inform, teach, and help you enjoy your photographic journey.

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