Assessing Your Photographic Personality

The single most common question we hear about digital cameras is, "Which one is the best?" On the surface, it's a fair question. After all, at the time of this writing, literally hundreds of different digital camera models are vying for your dollars. It's a given that certain cameras are better designed, better made, or better equipped than the competition. Therefore, the logic goes, one brand or model should stand out as the very best.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

The fact is a camera that might be fabulous for one person may be a disaster for another. For example, one of our favorite film cameras is our Hasselblad 500C, a beautifully crafted, built-like-a-tank medium-format classic camera that most professional studio photographers once used because of its ability to create truly superb photographs. However, it would have be a downright terrible choice for taking everyday candids or snapshots because it is hideously expensive, large and heavy, touchy and temperamental, requires considerable photographic skills to operate properly, is very slow shooting, and can take only 12-exposure rolls of film.

Many pros use different cameras for different jobs—a 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) for travel and sports, a medium-format camera for portraits and fashion, and a large 4"x5" or 8"x 10" view camera for glossy magazine ads and covers. The object lesson from this is that what is perfect for one photographer may be terrible for another, or what's the best camera for a particular subject or style isn't necessarily just as good for other kinds of photography.

So the question isn't what is the best camera, but what is the best digital camera for you? To help you determine your photographic personality, we've compiled a short questionnaire. Circle the number of the answer that best applies to you currently or to what you are hoping for once you have your digital

■ What best describes your relationship and attitude to technology?

1. I hate technology. I'm a Luddite and would avoid modern appliances and conveniences if I could, but I can't, so I live with it.

2. I function okay with technology, but I can take it or leave it. If I have to, I can sometimes figure most things out, but I'd rather not.

3. Technology can be fun and interesting. I get a kick out discovering something new on my computer that makes things better, more attractive, or snazzier. But I don't do it that often.

4. I love it! I enjoy having all that power, convenience, and fun at my fingertips.

5. I'm a geek and proud of it. I either make a living with it and/or spend lots of money on the newest, hottest, and sometimes most complex techno-toys.

■ What best describes your knowledge of photography?

1. Fuji is a mountain in Japan. In other words, I really don't know much about photography, and I don't care. All I want are nice snapshots without having to know anything else.

2. I like taking pictures, and it would be fun to learn more if I had the time.

3. I love photography. I understand what /-stops and shutter speeds are, or wish I did.

4. Photography is in my blood, and I'd love to learn more about it. If I had the time and if I could afford it, I think it might even be fun to do it professionally.

5. I do this for a living, or it is my number one passion. It's important to me to have the very best, most advanced photo equipment.

How do (or did) you get your prints from your film and what do you do with them?

1. I drop them off at the minilab or drug store. Then I put them under a magnet on the fridge, send them to grandma, and file them away in shoeboxes. Sometimes, I'll frame the very best and carry one or two in my wallet.

2. I reorder prints that I like, get enlargements, sometimes put them on the wall, and occasionally give them to friends. I like going through my pictures and showing my albums.

3. I once had my own darkroom or wished I did and would enjoy fiddling with my prints to make them better.

4. I make prints for my company's newsletter or reports. I sometimes shoot events for friends and family. Or a few pictures of mine have appeared in the local paper.

5. While I sometimes use a professional service to print my photos, it's usually a custom lab. I am comfortable in a darkroom and need or want great prints for professional or personal purposes.

What best describes the subjects you photograph?

1. Kids, animals, vacations, and family gatherings. Or, for business, quick-and-dirty scene recording.

2. All the above plus flowers, skies, and other pretty subjects, or photos for internal newsletters and other such documents that won't be seen by people outside company.

3. All the above plus conceptual pictures or photos that represent ideas.

4. All the above, plus I use the photos to document business events, products, portraits, and take pictures that have lasting meaning for others and not just me and my family.

5. I take professional pictures on assignment, or I produce professional-quality pictures for exhibition and private display.

How much do you spend a year on your photography?

1. I don't know, but it can't be more than about $100-$150.

2. Probably about $150-$400.

3. Depends on the year, but certainly under $1,000.

4. I'm not sure, but my spouse (or boss) says it's entirely too much.

5. Whatever it takes to get the pictures I need and/or want.

If you are still shooting film (or when you used to shoot film), how many rolls do you have on hand?

1. I think I have one or two rolls somewhere in the house.

2. Probably about a half dozen, though I might have used them up the last time I was shooting.

3. I generally keep about a dozen rolls in my camera bag at all times.

4. I buy film by the brick (20-roll packages) and replenish it before I run out.

5. My refrigerator is stocked with film.

1. I put the camera to my eye and press the shutter.

2. I will look at a person or scene, and if it is nice, I put the camera up to my eye and press the shutter.

3. I wait until a person or scene appeals to me, check the composition in the viewfinder, and then I press the shutter.

4. I choose what I think is the right lens and look at the scene or person from various angles until I find the right perspective, even when it means climbing on a rock. Then I frame and shoot.

5. I create the shot rather than find it, controlling as many elements as possible.

■ Describe what you want to be as a photographer:

1. I'm not a photographer. I just want to take pictures sometimes.

2. I want to learn how to take good pictures of my friends, family, business associates, and/or vacation.

3. I want to become a better photographer.

4. Of course, I'm always interested in producing better images, but I'm quite proud of my photography.

5. It's in my blood. I can't help myself. Whatever I see, no matter the time or place, I think, "I could create a great shot here."

Now go back over the questions and add up the numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) you have circled. Your result should be between 8 and 40.

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