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EOS Rebel T3 Tips on photography with old gear

Illumined
Enthusiast

Hey guys,

I've really enjoyed posting and seeing others work in this community and I'm reminded of a problem I keep encountering. This isn't really a practical question I'm asking and I know I'm being relatively vague, so please don't think I expect some magic solution. I'd just like to hear from professionals and enthusiasts on what to do with old/kind of lame canon gear. All I have currently in terms of photo gear is a rebel t3, some kit lenses and a nifty fifty - and don't get me wrong, I've had a TON of fun and learned A LOT with the stuff I have - but I'm having trouble getting those awesome shots I see all over the internet. I've heard a million times that it isn't gear that matters as much as skill, and since I literally can't afford any new gear right now (18 and unemployed, you know the drill), I'm looking for any feedback on improving the skill side of things even with old gear. It would be awesome to hear what works for you guys, maybe some photography basics and rules I missed in my research, videos - anything that helped you. Appreciate it!

- Micah

6 REPLIES 6

rs-eos
Elite

The good news is there's an absolute ton of info available to you that would be free.  You'd just need to invest the time and then practice.

Over the years, I took a look at a large amount of videos from B&H event space or Adorama.  Odds are, there's some video that would relate to any specific question you'd have.

I would also use this time to explore what specific genres you may like to pursue more in depth.

Something else that I've done over the years (and still do to this day) is more technical learning exercises where I just set up something in my house (e.g. still life) and learn one specific camera feature.

--
Ricky

Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

You pose a question to strikes to the heart of photography. It has both a technical and artistic elements.  One can be artistically successful without having the latest gear.  Let's face it, most of the images from the last century, created by highly successful practitioners, were made with equipment that would be considered totally obsolete in today's highly tech-centric culture.  So much concentration is on the technology rather than the technique, yet while better gear might make a good photographer take better images, it will not make a bad photographer a good one.

For example: since the development of digital photography there has been an increasing fixation of creating images that are sharp, yet this was much less of an issue with earlier photography.  In the following example, created by the recently discovered photographer Vivian Maier, one of her most lauded images is far from sharp, but many photographers and critics praise it for its artistic and cultural characteristics. Vivian Maier (c) J Maloof collectionVivian Maier (c) J Maloof collection  If one looks it through the lens of modern appreciation, especially on the web, it would be discarded as poor for its purely technical element.   Another image by Robert Capa, which was considered by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 in the 20 Century is this one:

Tronhard_2-1704491730181.jpeg
The image is technically awful, both from his own challenging situation, and from a disastrous accident in the film developing.  Yet many elements that are technically dubious actually add to the emotion of the moment - it expresses stress, dynamism and drama. If you have ever seen the TV series Pacific, Capa's photo reminds me of the charcoal imagery in the opening credits.   Combat is not neat and tidy.  What does come through is that it is very well composed, especially considering Capa was under intense fire on Utah Beach during the invasion of Europe in  June 1944!

People take images for a host of different reasons, and those demand different equipment, approaches and considerations to assess what is a success or not within each context.

Another example is the issue of pixel peeping - a fixation amongst modern photographers.  When one realizes that most people will look at a complete image from a comfortable distance, it becomes clear that the vast majority of people who examine closely an image will be photographers.   

This detailed examination actually came from painting and the rise of Impressionism in the mid-19th Century. 
See: Impressionism Movement Overview | TheArtStory 
At that time, painting (like many societal aspects) was going through a technological and cultural revolution.  On the technical side, while the vast majority of images were created in a studio away from the likely subject location, it was also culturally bound by a strict set of hierarchies for appreciation.  At the top were images of history or classical mythology, then portraiture, below that landscape and at the bottom (almost unaccepted) were genre images - those of contemporary views of the real world and common people. 

This all changed with a series of inventions.  Painters could suddenly travel widely through the development of public transport via the burgeoning train systems, and they did so to paint en plein air the views of the country and cities, and the actions of normal people in genre paining. To do so they could suddenly exchange large, unwieldly studio easels for portable ones.  While hitherto paint was ground from its raw minerals and stored in pigs' bladders, the invention of the paint tube in 1841 made it possible to have immediate access to consistent quality and cheaper paint without mess or waste. 

Finally, the availability of bristly brushes made from pigs' hair, instead of the super smooth and expensive sable brushes, along with new brush flat shapes, meant that Impressionists could paint quickly and layer paint onto the canvases to give it texture.   That was revolutionary, and was a major reason why other painters would want to minutely examine the techniques that produced shapes, and even new concepts of colour, represented by the development of Pointillism - which in paint echoes to some degree what was to become the principle of how colour is captured and presented in digital sensors.  (See; Pointillism - Wikipedia)  

In looking at modern images, we end up concentrating less the artistic talent of the human and more the technical performance of the camera. Still, when one looks at a lot of published commentary, especially about gear, it is often concentrated on resolution - which is very good for camera and lens manufacturers.

So, if one is going to engage in photography as a pastime, (either as an enthusiast or eventually a professional) I think one has to decide in what context one is going to gauge success.  If you have not done so, I would recommend engaging with the work of Sean Tucker, an excellent and talented photographer who explores many of the philosophical aspects of photography.  If you have not discovered him, I recommend following his channel.

I have been shooting from the early 1980's, which makes me a living fossil, perhaps. Still, I learned the principles of photography - understanding exposure, how cameras measure it and how we control the settings of the camera through the holy trinity of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.  Those are the technical bases that underpin everything, understand those and you should be able to pick up any camera that has those controls and take a decently-exposed picture.  The other part is understanding the art of photography: and for that one turns to look at and learn from the great artists who have practised composition in the paintings and photographs.  I still spend a lot of time looking at and learning from those amazing talents whose works have stood the test of time.

Another thing is to understand that photography differs from painting in that painting is an additive art - by which I mean that the artist starts off with a blank canvas and adds the elements to make their image how and where they like.  Modern x-ray examination has shown that many famous painters from Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Van Gogh painted over elements as they fine-tuned their concept. 
Photography is a subtractive art.  We usually start off with a view that will contain elements we want to make our subject, but will often contain others that are distractive. So, one has to understand what will attract our attention and use those to concentrate our attention.  That is where the art of composition comes in.  For example, use Depth of Field to focus on the things were we want to concentrate the viewer's attention and try to dissolve those distracting ones.  Back in Vivian Maier's image she used brightness to do so, and we immediately move to the figure of the elegantly-dressed woman, but are aware of where she is going by the dimmer light on the car.  We accept the camera movement because it tells us the story.

Another example of that is demonstrated by Sean Tucker's video:


I shot with film for over twenty years, doing a variety of work as a freelancer.  I switched to digital around the turn of the century and have continued with that ever since.  While I do embrace the latest tech, I keep a stable of older cameras and shoot with them to demonstrate to my students and reassure myself that one can still take acceptable images with old gear.  Technique over technology.

I shoot with the Canon D30 (not 30D) release in 2000, a 3.3MP sensor and max ISO of 400.  It can still take great photos that will publish fine on social media.
Textures: Rain on a windowTextures: Rain on a window Dimly-lit pump houseDimly-lit pump house
The Art of Ma - Empty SpaceThe Art of Ma - Empty Space
I still occasionally shoot with the Rebel Xti (400D) and 80D - just to enjoy the process.  There is something liberating about the simplicity of these legacy cameras.  I also shoot with the latest tech available when the occasion demands it, such as my preferred genre of animals.
NZ Kaka EOS R6, Sigma 60-600@ 475mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO-1600NZ Kaka EOS R6, Sigma 60-600@ 475mm, f/6.3, 1/400sec, ISO-1600 Canon EOS R6, RF 24-105L@44mm, f/4, 1/400sec, ISO-100Canon EOS R6, RF 24-105L@44mm, f/4, 1/400sec, ISO-100

So, one of the first decisions you need to ask is what kind of photographer do you want to be: genre, audience, level of commitment.  You may change that over time, and that's normal, but you have to have a clear vision of success to direct your attentions.

In the end, excellent is achieved by putting in the hard yards - study the principles, examine the works of those who are successful, and take a lot of image that you will examine critically or ask for constructive criticism from those whom you respect. 

Don't fall into the trap of chasing likes on social media - you will become the kind of photographer that others want you to be, yet in the end many of the most successful achieve that through seeking and pursuing their own vision and finding their own 'voice'.  


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

Wow, thank you so much!

I read this whole thing and this is so inspirational and encouraging. I will definitely take a look at Mr Tucker - I am certainly a philosophical person. I find myself drawn in a couple of different directions in photography. I love majestic landscapes and I'm a huge fan of Peter Mckinnon's work, but I'm also heavily influenced by my wedding photographer uncle who shoots film a lot. I love any artistic or poetic aspect of photography, and that's why I do find a certain charm to simple machines that seem like relics... Anyway, this is really really helpful stuff!

- Micah

I am glad this has struck a chord with you.  I cannot underemphasize the value of studying the work of great visual artists, and even the history of photography - there is much to learn there.  A good primer is by Tom Ang, Photography, the Definitive Visual History - your library may have a copy. 

Landscape and Weddings are very different genres (obviously).  From a gear point of view, while landscapes embrace large sensors with high MP count to get the detail and lenses that perform well up to high f/stops to get lots of things in focus, weddings tend to go with cameras that can shoot and record fast, excellent portrait and group lenses that work well in low light and have low f/stop values for portraiture.
Definitely, I would recommend spending a lot of time checking out great photographers in both genres.  If you enjoy Peter McKinnon, you might also like the world of Canadian photographer Michael Levin: MICHAEL LEVIN .  For some kinds of landscape, such as woodlands I would recommend: 
Courtney Victoria: Courtney Victoria Photography - Outdoor Photographer and
Simon Baxter: About Simon Baxter - Simon Baxter Photography 

Then, of course there are the works of Ansel Adams!  I would also encourage you to explore Japanese art, and in particular the discipline known as Ma - the use of isolation and open space, as expressed in one of my own examples.  The ability to simplify is one of the great skills in composition.

I am not a wedding photographer - it's a vertical market and the few I did I found very frustrating (lots of people politics, folks getting drunk and playing with your gear - I could go on).  Still a very respected wedding photographer is Vanessa Joy Wedding Photography Austin | NYC | NJ (vanessajoy.com), who is also a Canon elite.


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

jrhoffman75
Legend
Legend

Search Results | Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Here are some offerings from Canon.

What do you consider awesome? A lot of the shots that seem to have great initial impact have been heavy processed through various apps.

The T3i is perfectly adequate for scenics, travel photography, family shots etc. Particularly if your sharing medium is digital.

You won't be able to get 40x60 wall prints and you won't get great stop action sports shots, but for honing your skills it will be a great tool.

 

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, LR Classic

Tronhard
Elite
Elite

You might want to try engaging with the following page for keen photographers:
(1) Focus on Photography (community.forum)

It's a great learning and sharing forum


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris
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