The best camera you can ever have

I was recently profiled by Asian Photography magazine and one of the questions I was asked had to do with my technical arsenal. You know, my Nikon cameras, Nikkor lenses, accessories, and such, that I currently own.

This got me thinking about the best camera one can have. It reminded me of memorable photos from early years when I was still dabbling and what I had with me when I took the photo.

Just last year, this photo of Icelandic horses playing in Reykjavik was taken with my iPhone SE, which is several models behind the latest version. Having just disembarked from a horse, that was the only camera I had on me because I wasn’t allowed to carry my DSLR with me. But as travel photographers, we are observational and oftentimes working on instinct based on what’s going on around us. So, I studied the horses when they were getting rowdy and got the shot.

With my old model smart phone.

This photo was one of 20 in the portfolio that netted me the 2018 Bill Muster Photographer of the Year Award.

Going back several years, I thought about what camera I had with me when I shot my (iconic to me anyways!) photo of the monkey drinking Fanta in Cambodia. I looked through my metadata and saw that it was my very first Nikon D40 camera. A cropped frame camera that probably is out of production now. That photo caught the attention of editors at National Geographic magazine who picked and featured it as one of their Daily Dozen Photos

Cambodia - Monkey drinking Fanta photo by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

In Ccaccaccollo, Peru, weaving alpaca wool is a daily source of sustenance for its villagers. While the village men plow fields or work as porters, Ccaccaccollo’s women create products from alpaca fibers.

The women work on handmade wooden looms, spinning the fibers into yarn used to make sweaters, scarves, blankets and other items. Fibers from alpacas come in more than 50 natural shades, but the women also use other natural pigments to color the wool. These dyes are extracted from local roots and plants such as eucalyptus, red berries and flowers.

That same entry-level camera which I used to capture the Alpaca Weavers of Ccaccaccollo years ago was a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the Year awards.

The point of this post is not to list awards, but rather to say that:

The best camera you can have is the one you currently have on you.

Yes, professionals (myself included) understand the need for high quality equipment that would get you the best possible and highest resolution you can have for your client.

For beginners, this is the trap I see many budding photographers falling into too early – spending thousands and thousands of dollars on gear instead of actually developing their artistic eye.

That is why I see a ton of technically-perfect landscape photography, yet I have no idea who the photographer is or what their own style is.

What makes you different?

What is your style?

If every single person loves your photography, then you haven’t found your voice as a photographer. Shake up your work. Find your own style. Play with color or not. Heavy contrast or muted tones. Find your own slant to the medium as a travel photographer.

Because no amount of photography equipment or having the best camera will make you a better photographer with a unique eye.

So, whenever people say “Great photo! What camera do you use?“, tell them “It doesn’t matter, I created the photo.”