A Camera Is For Life Not Just For Christmas


Christmas Eve

You know what it is. You have been asking for one for months, and there it is. Or at least there the gift-wrapped box is, sitting under the tree, a shiny coin to your magpie. It’s taking every ounce of your willpower not to rip open luxurious red wrapping paper and reveal your new precious. But you will wait, it’s just a few more hours. You haven’t been this excited for Christmas since you were 9 years old, this, however, is not a train set, it’s your hobby for life, perhaps a future career.

You have loved photography ever since you got your first iPhone. You take some pretty decent photos with it, lovely exposures, great colour, and people say your composition is pretty on point too. It’s time to up your game and take photography seriously.

Cat and presents under Christmas Tree
You have a cat, now you are getting a camera. By Kevin Turcios

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.”Henri Cartier-Bresson

Christmas Day

Your alarm is loud, but in truth, you didn’t need it. You haven’t slept a wink all night. Your partner mumbles about the time under their breath. You detect a few profanities in their mumbles and decide you wait for them to wake up before ripping open your future.

The wait is agonizing. Your partner snores and snorts, twists and turns. You decide that breakfast will be the thing to wake them. The smell of bacon and coffee is enough to wake the dead, it wafts gently up your partner's nose and their eyes open. Their first vision of the morning is you, bright-eyed, brimming with excitement and anticipation. “Ok,” they say, “let's do this”

You get downstairs quicker than a fireman on a call. You hurriedly throw your partner a random present. They, in turn, give you a small tube-shaped present. “Not this one,” you say, “can I open that one there?”

Your partner smiles, and gestures. Before they have even finished, the luxurious red wrapping paper is in taters. Before you is gold, 24 carat image making gold. It’s even in a gold box.

You slow down, you want to savor the moment. With a knife you carefully cut the seals, listening in joy to the faint woosh as the box halves separate. Before you is a thing of beauty. Sleek, black, buttons, dials, and a lens. For a moment you are bemused. The camera doesn’t come with the lens attached? Your partner smiles wryly. “It’s not difficult,” they say.

Fujifilm camera and lens on box
The lens is not attached? By Jason Row Photography

You pull the camera and lens from the box, flinging manuals, guarantees, and plastic bags to the far side of the Christmas tree. The body and lens caps are self-explanatory, except for which direction they turn. Your partner, who knows a thing or two about photography tells you to line up the red dots on the camera body and lens. At first, it feels a little stiff and cumbersome but eventually the lens clicks into place. It’s a sound you know you are going to love for a long time.

Your partner hands you another small present. It’s flat, very flat. Ripping it open reveals an SD card. It’s 128GB, that's the entire capacity of your current iPhone. After a few minutes search you find the little cover and push the card in place. You remove the battery from its plastic bag, find the slot, and push it in. You are so excited, you can barely contain yourself. You look at your partner. It’s a look of love and gratitude. You look at the on switch. Briefly, you caress it before turning the dial on. There is a brief noise before an indicator flashes on the LCD screen.

The battery is dead.

Old Agfa camera in a Christmas tree
Will you get a camera under the tree this year? By Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A Few Hours Later

Having spent half an hour looking for a spare USB charger, you eventually connected the camera via USB-C. The wait has been unbearable, but Christmas dinner still needed cooking, and calls to relatives took your mind from wandering too much to your precious. Now the time is here.

The battery is charged.

This time when you turn that switch, the camera springs to life. The LCD panel fills with what appear to be hieroglyphics, and the screen illuminates. It’s bright, it’s colorful, you are ready to shoot. Now it’s time to apply all the skills you learnt on your iPhone to shooting the lights on the Christmas tree.

Carefully you compose your shot, you caress the shutter button and the camera starts to focus. It fails. You try again, it fails. Your partner tells you, you are too close. You move the camera back. This time it focuses. You take the image and review it on screen. It’s colorful, it’s sharp, but the lights are too far away, and the composition doesn’t work. There is a slight swell of disappointment.

Out of focus Christmas tree lights
You are not used to blurry photos. By Mourad Saadi

Your cat walks into the room and starts to play with what remains of the red, luxurious wrapping paper. Perfect you think, I can shoot the cat. You get down low, compose the shot, and fire away. The cat is oblivious to you, running, jumping, and tearing away. You review the shots, and again there is a wave of disappointment. The cat is a blurry mess, you cannot see its face. Your partner tells you this is motion blur. You retort that this never happened on your iPhone.

A Christmas domestic is brewing.

The Revelation

You are feeling a little dejected. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Surely a big expensive camera should be much more capable than your iPhone. Your partner is rummaging in the kitchen. You cannot understand why they are not helping you, after all, they know a thing or two about photography.

“Where’s the cat treats?” they yell. Cat treats you think, what the hell?

“Don’t worry, I have found them.”

You wander into the kitchen. The cat is now sitting in the window, munching on treats. There is a beautiful soft light illuminating its face, the green of its eyes looking amazing. “Well, where’s your camera?” your partner says.

Hurriedly you fetch it. You position the cat through the viewfinder. Its eyes are on the thirds. The light is beautiful. You again caress the shutter button and the cat snaps rapidly into focus. You fire away for several minutes. This is more like it, this is fun. Your partner tells you to set the big dial to A and set the aperture to the smallest number. You continue shooting. This time the background looks out of focus, the photos look professional, and they look better than anything you have taken on your iPhone. Your faith is restored but you realize that you have a long way to go. This is not a point-and-shoot camera, this is a camera that will constantly surprise you, constantly infuriate you but ultimately a camera that will be with you for a long time.

Green eyed, grey tabby cat shot with window light
Your big camara really does take good pictures. Especially of cats. By Jason Row Photography

“The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.” – Eve Arnold

The Moral Of The Story

There’s a good possibility that some of you will get a camera this Christmas. For some, it will be your first, “big” camera. When you first start shooting with it, you are going to feel some disappointment. However, photography is a learning curve. That curve is flat at the beginning and that makes it easier to start learning. With the help of photographer friends, websites like this, and lots of practice you will soon realize that that camera was not just for Christmas.

Come to grips with your first big camera with some Photography Projects!

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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