Why mine is bigger than yours: A photographer bears all…

Before you get any crazy ideas in your head regarding the topic of this post, let me assure you that (aside from innuendo) it is completely child-safe.

I just returned from my son’s kindergarten class and “Special Persons” day. Grandparents, family friends, and some parents came to see the classroom, hear the children perform songs and poems, and get a feel for how the class runs.

By my count every kid had at least one person there, some had two or three special people. And almost every one of these special people was there to capture the magic that is kindergarten with their amazing smart phone camera.

All of them except one that is. Me.

When I roll, I roll with my pro-level DSLR, a Canon EOS 1d Mark IV. Out of humility I left the 70-200/2.8L II and 16-35/2.8L II lenses at home and dropped the lowly 24/2.8EF lens on the camera. Carrying two pounds of camera seems somehow less intimidating than five…

One grandmother came up to me prior to the program and exclaimed, “Well, you certainly have a large camera!”

It took EVERY ounce of my self-control not to say, “Why yes. Yes I do.”

But as in other arenas in life (like anthrax releases and hand grenades), it isn’t size that matters with a camera – but where and how you use it.

While other participants were standing in the back of the room zooming their iPhones in to capture shake-o-vision HD movies, I was near the front of the class resting my camera on a mini-me chair or braced against a bookshelf to get steady video and smooth panning.

Same goes for those using the “digital zoom” feature of their smartphone so they could get in “real close” for the perfect picture that turned out blurry with too many heads in the way, I was standing stage left with a nearly clear line-of-sight.

The big finale!

Was I playing “pro photojournalist” and pushing people out of the way to get the shot? No. Just being a dad with some camera skills.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge smartphone photos. I’m really exceedingly superbly glad that smartphones now have decent cameras on them. My Droid Incredible 2 has an 8mp camera that rivals my old point-and-shoot model’s image quality in the right light. It takes HD movies that don’t look too bad either.

I’ve seen some great photos from smartphones – most of them taken by pro photographer friends and mostly because they know how to take a great picture, no matter what camera they are behind.

Like any tool, you have to learn how to use it well to have good results. For starters, go ahead and read this article from PC World, “11 Tips to Ensure Great Smartphone Photography.”

I liken the current boom of imaging via smartphones to the introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900. No doubt pro photographers of the era – who paid for their art with early death via toxic darkroom processes – bemoaned all the “amateur” snapshooters.

At the end of the day, those nostalgic photos – often with an era-appropriate level of out-of-focus, vignetting, and camera shake – are the ones we remember from albums handed down through generations. To be sure, these snapshots sit alongside photos from professional studios, but the emotional draw is often toward these homemade photos.

I’ll spare you the technical details regarding why I tote my pro camera around to events like this other than to say that I think photography is a very intimate medium, capable of capturing the immediacy and raw-ness of life.

Whether reporting in a foreign country, during a portrait session, or at a soccer game – being able to effectively and consistently make great images that convey these qualities is my goal.

It may be intimidating to grandparents and soccer moms, but to guarantee these results, you can be sure I’ll be swinging my big camera around at school functions for years to come.