No, you don’t need a DSLR.

At least once a week, I get a question that goes something like this:

“I want to take pictures like yours.  What camera do I need?”

“I’m thinking about buying a DSLR so I can take better pictures.  What should I buy?”

“My camera is too slow/doesn’t shoot indoors well/doesn’t take good pictures.  Should I get a DSLR?”


Questions like these make up, by a large margin, the bulk of the questions that I get about photography.  Not “how did you take that shot?” not “what’s something easy I can do to be a better photographer?” not even “how did you learn photography?”.  9 times out of 10, I get questions that are variations on the theme that a DSLR is what makes a good photo.

Guess what?  9 times out of 10, my answer is a variation on “learn the basic principles of photography and how to use the camera you have, first”.

I’m going to be starting a series of posts called “Don’t need no DSLR”, about what a DSLR can/cannot do for you as a photographer, what you should look at buying, what you can do with the camera you have, and why thinking that my camera makes my photos what they are is as stupid as thinking that the food from a talented chef is only as good as the stove he cooks on.

Keep your eyes peeled!

Me with a (borrowed) original Canon Rebel. It was a godsend. I shot my entire thesis with an advanced point and shoot, and my committee never had a clue.

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2 Responses to No, you don’t need a DSLR.

  1. Justin says:

    To be fair, a stove is a lot simpler than a camera. As long as it heats up, it does what it needs to do, and the rest is all for convenience. If anything, I would think a good chef would have less need of a fancy stove than a poor chef. If a camera is too slow (assuming they’re talking about aperture and light sensitivity, and not frames per second), it will obviously limit the conditions that can be captured. Even with a DSLR, if I didn’t have my f/1.4 lens, there are plenty of situations where I’d really have little choice but to pack my camera away and give up, or make due with dark and blurry photos.

    Certainly, a good camera doesn’t make a good photographer, but I do believe that a good photographer will go further and miss less opportunities with a good camera.

    • Kelsey Freeman says:

      Yes, but I find that many folks write off their camera entirely, without having ever read the manual or seen what their own camera is capable of. Most of the people I have talked to with the “slow” issue don’t know what aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc are. Without knowing those things, even having a DSLR isn’t going to help you. That’s the bulk of the argument I’ll be making in this series. It’s not that a DSLR isn’t a good idea in many cases, but that it often isn’t going to solve the problem wholesale.

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