A guy I know named Rob Hoffman wrote a little piece on his response to people asking him for a camera recommendation. It's a pretty good read (find it here) and inspired me to post a quick note myself. I get the camera question ALL THE TIME, especially this time of year. It bugs me sometimes, but it's one of those things where I know more about it so I might as well fill people in. What really bugs me is when people say something like "How'd you get so lucky to do what you do?" or "Your work is amazing, how come my stuff doesn't look like yours?" Those two questions annoy me because people assume that photo and video are things that people can just do. When you see a really great painting someone did, you don't go up to the artist and say "your painting is great, why do my people only look like stick figures?" People assume that just because they own a camera, they should be able to replicate what others have spent years crafting. Just because you bought a DSLR doesn't mean you have any idea what to do with it. You need to put it in manual mode, tape that dial down and never switch it. You need to learn composition and lighting. And you need shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. Don't stop shooting until you've used up the shutter on your camera (they don't work forever) and then shoot some more. Stop asking and start doing.
The thing that bugs me even more than "how do I make my pictures look like yours" is the question of "how did you get so lucky?" I didn't get lucky. I got motivated. It's not luck. If you're not willing to get in there and start working you're not going to make it. The skill almost comes secondary to the willingness to work. It's almost 1am and I'm taking a break from a project right now to write this and then I'm going back at it. I work long hours all day, I eat dinner and talk to my wife and then I go back to work and work all night. It's not because I need extra money (although that's nice), it's because I don't say no. The first real boss I ever had taught me a long time ago that you don't say no. You say yes and you figure out how to deliver the work faster than they want it and deliver something that's twice their expectations. You don't sleep, you don't eat, you don't think about what you might be missing. You go out and you work at it until you blow everyone out of the water. Then you ignore what they say about it and go do it again. You can't be a photographer, you can be a video editor, you can't really be good at anything unless you work at it. If you say no, you don't deserve the success and there will be someone else out there who works at it harder who's more than happy to get the extra work and build their skills even more. Instead of asking others how they got to where they are, pick up a project and get there yourself.