I used to believe that professional cameras were little more than a light-tight box. Unless someone needed a super speedy motor drive, it always seemed like it was the quality of the lenses that mattered more than anything. I was mistaken. I now believe that the camera itself can contribute as much to the technical quality of a photograph as the best lenses—and more.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I switched to Nikon late last year because of the D810 camera and it’s remarkable quality. But I’ve fallen in love with the D810 over the last six months because of the results I’m getting—both in the efficiency of using the camera and what I see in the images later on the screen.
“The camera adapts to me rather than the other way around.”
My relationship with Nikon gear is not new, but it is fresh. I was a Nikon shooter going back to the Nikon FM and all the way through the FG, FE, Nikonos V, FM2, FE2, F3, F4, D1, and D100. But, the D810 feels more at home in my hands than any camera I’ve ever held. The reason is partially due to ergonomics, but it’s also because the camera adapts to me rather than the other way around. For example, I always seem to naturally go one direction to set f/stops and shutter speed and the camera was configured to go the other way. To make it more to my liking, I simply changed the rotational direction of the dials in the menu system. I also find it more intuitive to see under-exposure displayed on the left side of the viewfinder, so I set the preferences to display it there. Little things like that remove friction from the shooting process and help me capture more moments. That kind of granularity over detail isn’t only in the menu system, I’ve discovered. It’s actually in the company culture as well.
I found that out earlier this year when I was invited to speak on behalf of Nikon at WPPI—the convention of more than 10,000 wedding and portrait photographers held in Las Vegas each year. It is an enormous gathering of shooters who belong to a photographic specialty that’s probably larger than any other single group. And from the looks of the work displayed there, they are an insanely talented and diverse bunch.
For my presentations at WPPI, the always wonderful Mike Corrado from Nikon asked me to photograph models in front of a live audience on the floor of the MGM Grand Hotel. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to show how quickly and easily portraits could be made using the Nikon Speedlight system. It also seemed like it was going to be a fun experience. That was until he told me that the great Joe McNally was going be on stage right before me.
“As soon as I heard the words, ‘Joe McNally will be speaking before you,’ I had visions of a sea of empty seats accompanied by the echo of crickets as a mass of humanity followed Joe away.”
Now, I adore Joe. He is a world-class photographer, a terrific teacher, and one of the most humble people you will ever meet. He is also, in my opinion, the greatest ambassador this generation of photographers could possibly have. He speaks with such an authentic and resonant voice and there are so many who are indebted to Joe for all that he has done—and continues to do—for photography. But that authority is exactly what scared the hell out of me. In my minds eye, as soon as I heard the words, “Joe McNally will be speaking before you,” I had visions of a sea of empty seats accompanied by the echo of crickets as a mass of humanity followed Joe away just as I was taking the stage.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, a very full audience and I discussed how to use and control Speedlights, modifiers, and wireless commanders to quickly and efficiently shape portrait subjects with beautiful light. In fact, the entire experience at WPPI came together very smoothly because of the family culture that Nikon promotes and lives by internally and externally.
Through workshops, seminars, trade shows and other industry connections, the Nikon folks bend over backward to help you—whether you are on the stage or in the audience. And they have always been that way—even when I wasn’t holding a Nikon. Which, when you think about it, really says something about what matters to a company above all else: the photographers. All I can say is if you want support from a camera company, they do it right.
So the next time you’re at a show or event, stop by and say hello. Tell them about the work you do and ask for what you need. And don’t be surprised if you walk away feeling like part of the family.
Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull, and Sports Illustrated. He teaches workshops and speaks at seminars including the Summit Series Workshops, WPPI, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, UPAA Symposium, World in Focus, and Nikon School.