For many people, including many photographers, photography is about the stuff- the cameras, the flashes, the lenses, the lights, the meters, tripods… you name it and it’s about the stuff. And with the maturing of the digital market we now have even more stuff… laptops, tablets, big storage, little storage, camera phones, software, off-line stuff… on-line stuff… you name it. Stuff.

The new model of the camera or the lens or the software is “awesome” while the model the new one replaced is now junk. With the new model you will make the greatest photos ever and the model that it replaced will inhibit your creativity. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration but not much.

It is easy to get lost in all of the stuff.

Getting lost in the stuff can take your focus off the subject and the story.

Getting lost in the stuff can stifle the communication.

So here is the challenge — pare your entire camera kit down to one the will fit in a shirt pocket or a case that is the size of a shirt pocket. This could be a stand-alone (dedicated) camera or a smartphone camera.

For the dedicated camera this kit would include the camera, the media card and an extra battery or two. And that would be about all you can get in your pocket. If you are using a case, it would be about 5” tall by about 3” wide and about 1-1/2 inches deep.

The dedicated camera for this challenge would obviously be a compact of some type. With this type of camera, you lose all of the accessories – the accessory lenses, the outboard flash units, remote shutter releases, etc. All you have to do is concentrate on the photograph and its relationship to the story you want to tell.

Some photographers may have a difficult time giving up all the control they think they have over the photographic process and that fear is certainly understandable. But the modern compact camera is an exceptional piece of photographic equipment capable of excellent to outstanding image quality.

The other way to do the shirt-pocket challenge is with your phone.

The modern smartphone camera can exceed the image quality of the vast majority of compact cameras and is approaching DSLR quality. In some cases they have exceeded even that quality. Focus control is amazing. Exposure control is precise. Color balance is exceptional. For those so inclined smartphone cameras offer a “pro” mode that allows the same level of adjustment found in even high-end stand-alone cameras.

While there is certainly a significant amount of resistance, the continuing development of the smartphone camera has led an increasing number of photographers to forego their 25 pound camera bags for an imaging device that can literally fit in your pocket.

And while the smartphone camera offers a combination of great image quality and convenience, it can also offer a certain level of anonymity.

Here comes the but…

The temptation is to just carry the phone but all of that imaging power can drain a battery in a hurry so you might want to carry an external battery that can power your phone when the internal battery is getting low. In addition you might want to consider a cable long enough to allow you to keep the battery in your pocket while it is in use.

You might want to make a lens cleaning cloth part of your shirt-pocket kit as well.

After having gone through all of this, remember that whatever your camera of choice, the best camera is always the one that you have with you.

Software for the challenge

In the beginning of digital photography ‘image editing applications’ were primarily design to work with photographs. The applications had some general graphics functionality but they were primarily geared to working with photographs. Over time, they have become multi-filter, multi-function powerhouses that can create an image out of thin air.

The goal here is to focus on the photograph and its relation to the story so the idea is to keep the software as simple and streamlined as possible as well. This is not a fix-in-the-post challenge. An image viewer like XnviewMP (multi-platform Windows, Mac, Linux), FastStone Image Viewer or Irfanview (both Windows native) offer more than enough in image adjustment resources. The object is to concentrate on the story. (Note - Mac users can run any Windows program in Boot Camp with Windows 10 or Windows 7.)

(revised 04/22/2019)