As enthusiast photographers, we should be looking to ways in which we can create more interesting images. The cameras, lenses and other tools we use are simply a means of recording and reproducing what we see. And so while its nice to have all the toys, are they really the key to making good images? I really doubt it.
I believe that photography is a pastime that has a technical element but is mostly about the aesthetic. I’ve seen enough images to know that you can’t predict what people will really like so there’s no magic formula to define a captivating image. And certainly having expensive gear, while great if you can afford it, also won’t necessarily produce better images either. Lenses are different story, you can read my thoughts on that topic here.
It is true that you should understand the basics of composition (aesthetic) aspects and there is no escaping this. Most consumer grade DSLR cameras have the “green auto” fully automatic function. Using this alone will ensure your image is properly exposed and in focus more often than not. Of course for better control of aspects of the image such as depth of field or controlling tricky lighting situations, understanding and using the semi auto (Av/Tv) functions or full manual operation of the camera does offer more control. But I doubt you really need to go there all the time. I certainly don’t anyway. On group shoots it has been my experience that I have made my shots and am ready to move on while others are still fiddling with their equipment and camera settings. I understand that’s part of the fun for some. But is it necessary? I don’t think so.
More important are components like the light, composition, finding an angle, element or aspect that makes the image interesting rather than another boring rendition of something familiar. To explore this notion further I have posted a link to the website of Ken Rockwell, a somewhat controversial figure in photography circles. His views often cause people to scratch their head but on this occasion, I mostly agree with him. Have a read and see if you understand what he is saying.