The Cult of the "Oooh Shiny!"

Wow, it's been 2 months since the last blog update!  I apologize, I just didn't have anything I wanted to talk about, and I've been super busy making new work. Today though, I have something to say!


I started photography in 2001 with a Canon G2.  You couldn't change lenses, you couldn't shoot long exposures over 30 seconds, and the F/stop range was 5.6-16.  I used the HELL out of that camera.  I taught myself composition and the fundamentals of aperture, shutter speed  and depth of field. After a year, there were pictures I wanted to take that the G2 simply couldn't do - 5 minute exposures of night skies and fast shots in dark environments. I bought myself a Canon 10D and a cheap 70-200mm zoom lens.  I used that lens for about 6 months, took some great pictures, and then upgraded it when its softness and relative slowness became limiting to me.  I upgraded the 10D body to a 1D in 2005 when I needed more "oomph" to do fashion photography.

I'm guessing you are seeing the trend.  I started with the cheapest and simplest tools I could find, and then upgraded when I reached the limitations of what they could do.  I didn't race to the biggest and newest thing, and I didn't stay with my limited tools out of a sense of pride or masochism.

I see both of these tendencies in concept art as well. A student asked me how to make "professional" looking images a couple of weeks ago, and when I looked at his stuff, he was doing line drawings with pencil and what looked like Crayola markers.  I told him to get Photoshop when he wanted to make finished images. Sure, traditional is legitimate, and I could have told him to learn acrylics or oils, but concept I went with the obvious.

I see other people who think having the coolest brush set, or latest render engine, or biggest Cintiq will make them automatically "professional."  Worse, they tend to jump from one "latest and greatest" to the next, sometimes almost weekly! Master your tool until you find it confining, and then, and only then, go look for a tool that eases those restrictions. If you do that, you'll know what kind of tool you should be looking for, instead of just taking other people's advice, or buying the "best" thing out there.

Sure, this process means you will be potentially spending more time and resources learning things you may not use forever - but you'll LEARN them. You will be moving forward in a thoughtful and organized way, instead of just trying to buy your way out of whatever limitations you have.

I'm going through this right now, incidentally. I've been using Unreal Engine for my 3D rendering needs, and I'm starting to wonder if some of the frustrations I've had with it might be fixed if I moved to Marmoset, or Keyshot.  Two months ago, I was frustrated with my ability to make smooth curves in Sketchup, so I went and picked up 3D-Coat. The point is, you should only move to a new tool when you can articulate what problems you are having will be solved by that new tool, AND HOW IT WILL SOLVE THEM.

Don't join the cult of the "Oooh!  Shiny!"  Grow in the tools you have until you need to shed them, and then you won't waste time with things you can't handle, or don't need.

Thanks for reading!