I was photographing my local high school hockey team last night and there was a father of a player on the opposing team alongside me. As photographers secretly always do, we were both sneaking peeks at the other's choice of camera and lenses. He had a high-end Canon camera and lens, both of which are often seen in the hands of professionals. He held the camera dearly, shooting and immediately checking the results on the camera's LCD screen, and seemed genuinely interested in why I was just standing there calmly watching the teams warm up, my camera snuggled in my bag. Surely I couldn't know what I was doing.
During the player introductions, I pulled the camera out, took one test shot, and stood at attention during the national anthem, while he was still shooting and frowning at the results. Once the game was about to begin, we exchanged pleasantries, and that's when the chat-fest began. He was having trouble getting good color rendition, exposure, and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I had previously set a custom white balance for the ice rink so that my colors were perfect, and I know the light levels in the rink, so that my exposures were always consistent.
He went on to explain that he had upgrade to this high-end Canon camera, then was upset at Canon because the lens he had been using didn't work on the camera, and he had to invest in a new professional lens. I asked him why he felt he had to upgrade the camera in the first place. He mumbled something about needing better photos. I wasn't really listening because I was actually photographing the game, while he was talking about photographing the game. I then listened to him explain...in vivid detail...about his camera purchases over the last couple of years, and was really upset that his photos were not getting any better. He asked me what camera I was shooting, and how come I only took one shot before starting to photograph the game.
After I told him what camera I had, and how I knew exactly what I needed to do to get good photos, he drifted off, intently studying the LCD on the back of the camera to figure out what he was doing. I'm not sure, but I really don't remember even hearing his shutter clicking at all while I was standing next to him.
As I walked away, all I could do was think about the interaction and how it has become so commonplace among amateur photographers with deep wallets. I should have suggested that he save half of the $10,000 he spent to feed his hobby and get some lessons and go to some seminars to learn how to be a better photographer.
I have never had a camera tell me what direction the light was coming from.
I have never had a camera tell me how the light was striking my subject.
I have never had a camera tell me how to frame my subject in the viewfinder.
I have never had a camera tell me when to press the shutter to capture the best moment.
The smartest cameras on the planet will try to automatically focus on something in the viewfinder.
The smartest cameras on the planet will give you a good exposure for a neutral grey.
The rest is up to you.