David's Take: It's Not Just The Equipment, It's The User!

David Susilo

Published: 12/06/2017 09:30:01 AM EST in David Susilo

David's Take: It's Not Just The Equipment, It's The User!

I get annoyed when people ask me, be it as a calibrator or as a photographer, what equipment I use or comment about a nice photo I snapped, suggesting that I must be using a professional camera. These types of comments frustrate me because it's as if the person is implying that the equipment used is the reason someone can do a good job.

Sure, the tools I use are great. But it's also important to understand that tools are only half of the equation. The other half is having a knowledgeable operator who knows how to use the equipment properly. Often times, we forget that as good as today's tech gear is, when it comes to professional-level work, it isn't a matter of simply pointing and shooting, or pressing a few buttons and letting the magic happen.

Having high-end equipment and not knowing how to use it will result in a worse final product than if you have basic equipment and truly know how to use it. And that holds true whether you're talking about something like digital photography and video calibration, or even kitchen appliances and power tools. Expert knowledge always trumps just having high-end gear.

Case in point: a couple of days ago, I re-did my friend's Pioneer SC-LX801 automatic room calibration. He did it his way (which by the way, follows what the manual says to a "T,") and I did it my way (which adds my knowledge in psychoacoustics and 20+ years in sound calibration). No other equipment was used other than the supplied basic included microphone. He stored his calibration setting in Memory 1 and I stored mine in Memory 2.

We then invited members of his family, his neighbours, and a couple of his friends over to have a listen to the same video clip from the Dolby Demo Disc "I've Got You Under My Skin" (Katharine McPhee and Chris Botti). The result? Eleven people listened and switched between M1 and M2 (without knowing which one was done by whom) and all of them ended up choosing M2 - the reading done by yours truly. While it's just one example, it's quite telling that even the most basic tools used by a more knowledgeable person WILL yield a better result.

Another parallel, as noted, is in photography. Too many people blame their bad photography on their sub-par camera phone. "I don't have a DSLR like you do," they say. That's just an excuse! Just look at the photo below taken from an iPhone by Stacey Sniderman, owner of Toronto-based Update TV & Stereo Ltd.

Above are see two photos, both taken by different users with the camera in the same BlackBerry Q10 smartphone. The one on the right was taken by me and the one on the left by another person. We used the same angle, and had the same lighting conditions. It's clear from the results that the person standing behind the camera is just as important as the camera being used. In this case, I used the limitations of the camera to my advantage, leveraging the slowness of the camera's exposure reading to fool the auto exposure into thinking that the room lighting was brighter, then quickly recomposing the framing and snapping the shot. That handy work resulted in the more vibrant picture you see here, with a much more accurate exposure.

Further, the growing list of professional photographers showing off their stunning photography taken with smartphones further proves that it isn't the camera alone that matters. (Though admittedly, the cameras in many of the latest smartphones are absolutely fantastic these days.)

The point I'm making isn't just to toot my horn as a pro calibrator and photographer. I know where my strengths lie. It doesn't matter how high-end of a power tool you might put in my hands, for example, or what professional-level cooking appliances you might outfit my kitchen with - an expert craftsman or cook with the most basic, worn out tools will do a much better job than me. And I understand that. Why? Because it's the expertise that counts.

Article Tags:  david's take, expert, calibration, photography, professional


David's Take: It's Not Just The Equipment, It's The User!

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