eric kim photographer hanoi portrait by cindy a nguyen

The 3 Biggest Lies You’re Told About Photography

Dear friend,

Here are some lies that were spoon-fed me in photography, and I will debunk them for you:

LIE #1: The more megapixels, the better

The first #1 sucker belief (that suckered me, and still suckers me today) — that having a more megapixels is better. In truth, more megapixels, more problems.

For example, often the image quality of smaller megapixel-cameras (like an 8 Megapixel image from a Sony a7sII) can be superior to the image quality of a 100-megapixel smartphone.

More megapixels doesn’t mean better photos. It just means more megapixels.

Often, having fewer megapixels leads to better image quality.

For example, if you have fewer megapixels, you can control noise better. Which means, often camera companies reduce their megapixel-count (let’s say from 24 megapixels to 8 megapixels) and end up having superior high-ISO capabilities.

The Sony a7s-series cameras are a great case-in-point. Sony reduced the size of the megapixels in the sensor. Now you can shoot at 100 million ISO, with little noise. The Sony a7s is a great choice for shooting in pitch-dark situations, or shooting video.

Not only that, but often cameras with lots of megapixels have worse image quality — like a medium-format digital camera. Medium-format digital cameras actually have worse high-iso performance than full-frame digital cameras.

LIE #2: The bigger the sensor, the better

Not only that, but it is a common misconception that ‘bigger is better’ (our American motto).

The truth is, often the smaller the sensor, the better.

Case in point: just because a camera is ‘full-frame’ doesn’t mean the image quality or the ISO performance is better. Often ‘crop sensor’ or ‘1.6x’ sensors are better in image quality.

If you compare the original Canon 5D (Full-frame) versus a Fujifilm XT2 camera (crop sensor), the Fujifilm crop sensor is vastly superior, even though it has a smaller sensor. Why? Because the technology in the sensor is newer, and better.

The truth: the quality of the sensor is more important than the size of the sensor, or how many megapixels it has.

LIE #3: Buying a new camera, lens, or gadget will make you a better photographer

Okay we all know this lie, but we get suckered anyways into buying new gear that we don’t really need.

My practical suggestion for overcoming ‘GAS’ (gear acquisition syndrome— buying cameras for the sake of buying them) is to re-read old review of the camera (you already own), or to read camera reviews from 1 year ago. Or to realize that buying anything in new life is same— you will eventually adjust to it, no matter how expensive it is.

Also remember: ‘good is never good enough.’ You always want to upgrade. It is called the ‘hedonic treadmill’ — you keep running faster and faster on this hedonistic (pleasure) binge of newness. But everything gets old sooner or later.

Kind of how people who buy iPhones upgrade to a DSLR, then a full-frame DSLR, to expensive zoom-lenses, to buying smaller mirrorless cameras (also expensive), and then constantly upgrading whatever models.

Kind of how you start off with a 1991 Nissan Sentra, want to get a Mazda Miata, then want to get a BMW M3, then want to get a Lamborghini, then a Bugatti, then your own private jet, then your own spaceship. Then your own space colony. Then your own planet. Then the whole universe.

You should still upgrade your camera when it makes sense. For example, I upgrade my laptop every 3-4 years. I also upgrade my smartphone much more regularly — probably every year or two.

But instead of upgrading your camera, upgrade your mind. Upgrade your creativity. Draw inspiration from cinema, from Japanese Woodblock Printing, from POP ART (I’m really into BMW ART cars as of late), from sculpture, from Renaissance art (Leonardo da Vinci is a favorite) and also from Cubism (I love Pablo Picasso — he inspired me to start ‘Photo Cubism‘). Or listen to rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, or Kanye West. Or find inspiration from Elon Musk, who wants to save humanity.

eric kim photographer hanoi portrait by cindy a nguyen
Hanoi, 2017 // Portrait by Cindy A. Nguyen

Some films I recommend you to watch:
AKIRA (Japanese Anime)
– Ghost in the shell (the original anime and also the new one)
– Citizen Kane
– Metropolis 1927
– The Matrix (all of them, you can probably skip the last one)
– The Godfather (the first two are good)
Dr. Strange
– Batman (all the Christian Bale Ones) like The Dark Knight

Study composition, the masters of photography, and find inspiration in nature.

Don’t just stay inside one genre. Be promiscuous. Shoot landscapes, shoot abstract, shoot textures, and shoot street photography.

The whole world is your sandbox.


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