The art of photography
Photography can be an art. Like painting or drawing it can make a copy of an scene or a situation at a moment in time, and preserve it, as faithfully as possible or with deliberate artistic interpretations or with accidental mistakes but still retain that moment.
Photography started as the inspired use of light sensitive chemicals to produce a fixed image of an object from the light that was produced or reflected by the object. To improve the image, a glass lens was used to focus the light and a mechanical shutter and adjustable iris was added to control the exposure. From those ideas the film camera was invented in 1885 and the first 35mm film camera appeared about 30 years later.
Now an electronic chip with tens of millions of light sensitive elements on it's surface is used in place of the light sensitive film, but the lens, shutter and iris equivalents are still there on most cameras, and the basic technical and optical rules that applied to the first film cameras still apply now. Whereas there are no rules and seemingly no limit as to what can be produced artistically by a modern camera.
I enjoyed using film cameras and also enjoyed developing my own black and white photographs but digital cameras have made photography much easier. I often used to enhance my digital images but I now enjoy the challenge of getting the image I want straight from the camera if possible.
"Photography is not about the camera, it's about the photographer".
I totally agree with that saying. It doesn't matter what camera you use. It is the photographer that takes the photo.
Basically, all you need is a camera that is capable of taking the kind of photos that you want to take, and to know how to use it well enough to do just that. But if you enjoy using a nice camera - why not have a good one?
Then and now
I wouldn't presume to tell you what camera to use or how to use it and or how to take a good photo, or even what a good photo is. Like the other arts, photographic tastes are subjective. But I can tell you a few things that I have learned.
I spent many years of my life lugging around a large camera bag containing heavy 35mm film SLR cameras and lenses. I mostly had a camera body, four lenses and a flashgun in my bag.
After that I spent many more years of my life lugging around a large camera bag containing heavy Digital SLR cameras and lenses, especially when using full-frame DSLRs and large aperture lenses.
Then I tried a mirrorless camera and realised that I didn't need to carry large DSLR's and lenses at all. So I now use smaller, lighter, quieter APS-C mirrorless cameras and lenses and only need a medium sized camera bag to carry them in. When not out specifically to take photos I usually carry a camera and a single zoom lens or a couple of small prime lenses in my manbag. If I am not carrying a bag I will put a small fixed-lens APS-C camera in my pocket. I stopped using a camera strap when carrying a camera in a bag or in a pocket. It's just something else that can get in the way. For security I use a small home made wrist strap. Details. I don't usually take bulky lens hoods and I don't bother with front lens caps if I am using a camera bag. It makes changing lenses quicker and easier.
From DSLR to Mirrorless
Once I used to go searching for the 'perfect' picture because I thought that was what photography was all about. I hoped to take the sort of 'lucky' picture that starts a career off. But when I realised that I would never become a successful professional photographer, probably because I didn't have the talent, or I didn't have the drive, I was able to relax and enjoy photography more. I did make a little money out of taking pictures once but now I like to go my own way.
My love of photography comes down to enjoying using good cameras and taking photos with them. I tend to mainly shoot JPGs and do very little post processing because don't want to spend any more time than I have to staring at a computer screen processing massive RAW images or trying to make my shots look even better than they were. If the photos are really important then I will shoot using a RAW-plus-JPG option.
If you are a professional photographer you might need all the options you can get by using expensive equipment, shooting RAW and using extensive post processing in order to produce the best possible images - unless you are so famous that you can do anything you want to and get away with it. If you are an amateur, possibly with a less expensive camera, you can also do anything you want too, but now and then you will probably need to produce images that people will actually want to look at, especially if they are in the shot, so you may need to learn some of the basic rules of photography and apply some of them now and then.
Have you ever wondered why you photos don't look as good as other peoples photos do? It could be because they are using some of the basic rules of photography, even if they don't realise that they are. I would advise anyone to learn at least the following three rules:
1) The rule of thirds.
A rule that can be used when you are composing a shot.
Imagine dividing your picture into six equal size boxes using two vertical and two horizontal lines. Sometimes it makes a more interesting picture by placing an important feature of the photo on one of these lines or on an intersection of two lines. But learn when to use it. It does not work for every photo.
In the first photo on the right the tree is in the centre and the horizon is across the middle.
In the second photo the tree is at the intersection of the top 3rds line and the left hand 3rds line, the horizon is on the top 3rds line and the straight furrows tend to follow the right hand 3rds line into the picture.
2) To blur or not to blur.
Learn how and when to avoid or to use background-blur.
Some photos need the subject or the foreground to be sharp and clear with the background out of focus to give maximum emphasis to the subject. Sometimes the whole photo needs to be as sharp as possible so that everything everything is in focus. This is known as controlling the depth-of-field and it depends on the type of lens used and the aperture that the lens is set at. The greater the depth of field the more the nearer and the further away items will be in focus at the same time.
Wide angle lenses have a greater depth of field than telephoto lenses. Setting any lens at smaller and smaller apertures such as f8, f11, f16 and above will give an increasingly larger depth of field. Setting a lens at larger and larger apertures such as f2.8, f2, f1.4 and lower will give an increasingly smaller depth of field.
In the first photo on the right, a telephoto lens was used with the aperture set at f11, making the depth of field too great. The background is only slightly blurred and so the peregrine does not stand out very well.
In the second photo, the same lens was used but it was set at f4 making the depth of field much smaller. So the background is more out of focus allowing the sparrowhawk to stand out.
3) Heads with lampposts. When you are composing your photo and the subject of the photo seems to be in the right place, take a quick look around the rest of the frame to see if there is anything that you may have missed that is going to catch the eye and detract from the subject and so spoil the whole photograph.
Learn more about these three rules and other rules from books, photo magazines and YouTube.