“I wish I had a better camera”. I hear this all the time from people who take poor quality photographs. It's easy to believe the expense or quality of the camera gear makes or breaks a photo. While higher end gear will improve a good photo, it will not fix a bad one. You can easily capture great photos with inexpensive camera gear.
Take a look at Instagram.com – these are (supposed to be) photos taken on mobile phones. While some are obviously taken with high-end DSLR cameras, the vast majority are shot using inexpensive camera gear or even cell phones. You will see some stunning photographs. That is, once you get past the goofy filters and effects people love to overuse.
The key to creating a good photograph is pretty simple: get back to the basics. If you learn and follow the fundamental principles of photography, you will achieve better and better photos as you practice, regardless of your camera gear.
Here are two photos that show this principle. The first, a simple shot of a sailboat at sunset, was taken with a little compact digital camera. I was on a floating bar in Subic Bay, Philippines, having a nice cold beer, and noticed the gorgeous sunset. I took about 10 shots in two minutes, as the boat was moving around quite a bit. I was lucky enough to get a good angle on the boat, with the sunset lined up well. People consistently remark positively on this photo.
I actually took my DSLR to the floating bar to try and get the same shot. This one always seemed much more pleasing.
This next shot was taken using an entry level DSLR, a small Canon T1i with an inexpensive Tamron 28-300mm telephoto/zoom lens. This was shot handheld while walking around the staging area at the Aliwan Festival in Manila, Philippines. The Aliwan Festival is a gathering of dance groups and bands from all over the Philippines, all dressed in the traditional clothing from their areas. These young ladies were waiting for the parade portion to form up, and had been waiting for quite a while. It was a very hot, humid day, and you can see the ladies are not terribly happy!
Would these photos have been better if taken with expensive camera gear? The answer is decidedly maybe. With better lenses, I may have been able to get sharper images. The dancer's eyes may have shown more sharp detail. Higher end cameras offer the RAW shooting mode. The RAW format simply saves the image without doing any in camera processing or compressing, and this allows for much finer tuning in post processing, as well as saving a lot more data in the saved image file. In the case of the Sunset, had I been shooting in RAW format, I may have been able to bring out more subtle tones in the final image.
Overall, I think these are great travel photos. People's reactions to these photos are very satisfying, and I don't think that would change much by using a camera and lens outfit that costs thousands of dollars more.
The real key is to get out and take photos using whatever camera you have available. Study the basic principles of photography, with a heavy emphasis on composition, followed by lighting and exposure, and you'll be taking quality photos in no time.