Valuable photography lessons from a basic point-and-shoot camera and Leonardo da Vinci

Above: Bali fisherman Fuji x100f image by Gina Milicia

I can’t believe 2018 is almost over! It’s been a huge year, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the two most valuable lessons I have learned.

Those of you who regularly read my newsletter, follow me on Instagram or listen to my podcast will be aware of the frustration, dummy spits and challenges I have encountered making the switch from DSLR to mirrorless.

To be clear, I still shoot with DSLR for my commercial shoots because I believe mirrorless isn’t quite there yet as a pro commercial camera. It’s close, but I’m not ready to make the switch – yet.

I did, however, make the switch to mirrorless for all my personal projects and after a few frustrating months, I’m over the moon with the results. I love my Fujix100F more than Nutella! There I said it. This year, this tiny little pocket rocket has taught me more about photography and life (yep it gets deep), than shooting DSLR has in the last five years.

The reason for this is that DSLR shooting was comfortable for me. I was getting lazy. It was too easy. I’ve been shooting with the same type of system for nearly 30 years. Switching to a small point-and-shoot mirrorless for personal projects taught me the following lessons…

The best camera is the one that you will actually use

I’m almost ashamed to admit how many photo opportunities I missed because I didn’t have my camera or couldn’t be bothered taking out my DSLR, attaching a lens etc. I carry my compact mirrorless everywhere, and this means I shoot more “just because”.

This had led me to change the way I see and shoot, and some of this has extended to my commercial style.

Easier and faster doesn’t necessarily mean better

Shooting with fixed frame (35mm equivalent) mirrorless has forced me to slow down and frame my images more carefully. I’m closer to the action which changes the energy of an image and the energy of the actual shoot. I’m also shooting fewer frames and trusting my intuition more.

Downgrading my gear and focusing on technique has been a gamechanger for me

This year I’ve invested hundreds of hours working on my personal project shooting technique and forcing myself to work with minimal gear. This has been the most important lesson for me. I’m trying to create better images with a single light and cheap modifier and basic camera system.

Slow Down. Do the work. Review. Rinse. Repeat.

Next year, I plan on working harder, more focused on technique and whenever I feel uninspired or lazy I’ll ask myself WWLD. (What would Leonardo do?)

If Leonardo was alive today, I’m convinced he would have a paint and paintbrush sponsor, gallery reps, agents and maybe his own line of brushes and paints.

In today’s world, it’s all about the tools. Everyone is looking for a shortcut or easy option “paint by numbers” way to success.

If Leonardo was alive today I’m convinced he would have a paint and paintbrush sponsor, gallery reps, agents and maybe his own line of brushes and paints. The tools make your work easier, hard work and repetition make your work better.

Leonardo da Vinci was a successful artist in his lifetime and could afford the best brushes and paints, but that’s not the reason he was such a phenomenal artist. The secret behind Leo’s success was the fact that he did the work.

Da Vinci was not only a great painter, but he was also a master drawer, studied the human anatomy, mechanics, architecture, drafting, and chemistry. It was his work ethic and curiosity that made him great, not the tools he relied on.

As photographers, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding all the new gadgets that promise to make us better photographers, but gear alone is not what will set you apart from the pack.

As 2018 draws to a close, I urge you to forget about gear and focus on the work. You don’t need to go to the extremes that da Vinci did to create great art. By committing to 10 minutes a day to improve one skill, take one photo or study the work of one artist you admire, will do more to enhance your work than investing thousands in new gear ever will.

The tools make your work easier, but it’s hard work and repetition that make your work better.

Thanks for supporting me in 2018 by reading my newsletter, listening to the podcast, joining my Gold Community or sharing my work. Wishing you and the people you love a happy, healthy and creative holiday season and looking forward to whatever gifts and lessons the new year may bring.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. William Arthur Ward

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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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