Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer Takes on the Resurrected Cheap Camera Challenge

The ever-popular DigitalRev TV Pro Photographer Cheap Camera Challenge is back with a new host and a new victim. This time, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Oded Balilty, who usually shoots all over the world for the Associated Press, is challenged with shooting around Tel Aviv without his trusty DSLR, and instead, he is given a brand new toy camera.

I'm always inspired by challenges like these; with our gear-focused world, it's nice to step back and see what someone can capture when given the absolute wrong tool for the job. The images that Balilty ends up capturing with this toy camera are honestly quite breathtaking, which just goes to show how important experience and capturing the right moment can be. A professional photographer's images will almost always stand out among the general populace: the trained eye for light, emotion, and timing is something that must be learned through practice and not read about in a textbook. There is something refreshing about taking photos where you have to work around the shortcomings and stretch your creative skills to still create something beautiful. There is a train of thought in art where limiting yourself allows you to be more creative, and challenges like this really showcase just how true that can be. 

What do you think of the rebooted Cheap Camera Challenge? Have you ever done something like this on your own?

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I'd love to spend the 23:36 looking at some of the images on a page. But yes, I have an IG account simply of cell phone photos to try to make the point the it's the operator, not the camera. But even there I "cheat" by using stacking apps, Moment wide and tele lenses, etc.

Adriano Brigante's picture

"Have you ever done something like this on your own?"

I kinda do it all the time, because I shoot only on film using mostly vintage cameras (like my beloved 1932' Rolleiflex). And sometimes, I like to push it a bit further by picking an even older or simpler camera from my collection to use: a plastic toy camera (like the Holga or the TIME camera), an old box camera (like the Zeiss Ikon Tengor or the Kodak Brownie), an old folding camera (like the Agfa Billy Record or the Kodak No.2 Folding Brownie) or a pinhole camera (like the ZeroImage 6x9).
My goal is to be able to be creative and get images I like with literally any camera I can get my hands on. I think it helps me develop my own personal style, because those cameras and the resulting images all feel and look different, but I try to keep a consistent style across all of my work regardless of the gear I use. Basically, I take the gear variable out of the equation and I try to find what really defines me as a photographer. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.
Plus, shooting with those old cameras is a lot of fun! :)

Tim Ericsson's picture

There’s something magical about old Rolleiflexs (and film and using old film cameras in general). As much as I love digital, I can replicate the experience and look I get with film.

Good photographers can get a compelling image out of anything.

This show is quite insightful, I would never even think about comparing photography to fishing, but it is so true! The more time you spend on your assignment, the better your pictures normally are, and you need to learn to wait for this perfect shot. I was actually watching Magnum photographers interviews on BBC Culture, and Oded’s way is pretty similar to the approach of Ian Berry whose pictures helped to stop apartheid in South Africa. They both talk about the anticipation of the photograph before it even happens. Waiting for it in the right spot with a fishing rod so to speak.

I think this is great for beginners to think about...is it the equipment or the photographer? Is it the stove or the chef that produces a great meal?