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Raising the bar on your craft

On Christmas day, I was on our traditional hiking with the family in Redwood Regional Park. I observed as my five-year-old took a picture of a false spider we found on the trail.

The picture is awesome for many reasons; she's very perceptive and sees things at her height that we adults tend to miss. Additionally, she's very alert and pretty effective at absorbing all the stimuli that's presented to her visually.

She certainly has an eye for spotting cool things to take photos of.

And she's really lucky to have top quality equipment. This particular photo was taken using portrait mode from an iPhone Pro 11.

Today, anyone who has access to a modern iPhone, Samsung or Pixel device has some really powerful hardware in their palms. I used to have a Nikon DSLR camera that I've completed stopped using because I can make perfectly good photographs with my iPhone, that automatically upload to the cloud, saving me hours of photo administration per month.

Let's look at some of the statistics. Only looking at high-end smartphone shipments, we're getting to over 257.5 million shipments in the last two years. Compare that to DSLRs, there's at a measly 8.66 million shipments across ALL brands. While major smartphone manufacturer shipments were down in 2020 due to supply chain issues, DSLRs were really hammered with a 54% decline.



2019 (MM)

2020 (MM)









Nikon DSLRs

All, non mirrorless


Canon DSLRs

All, non mirrorless


With so many devices out there, it isn't a surprise that companies like Apple, Samsung and Google have combined data, machine learning, and some of the best hardware engineers to create fantastic cameras, and they continue to iterate with the use of over-the-air software updates.

Ok, at this point I know many of you are going to have objections such as:

  • You can't compare smartphones and DSLRs, they're different products for different use cases...

  • The sensor size on a full-size DSLR is much bigger...

  • Interchangeable lenses, yo...

  • and so on...

Yes, I get all of that, but if I'm standing next to my daughter with my Nikon D-series, to submit to an online competition, will I take a better photo? Will I be able to submit it faster?

The result is that professional photographers have to work much harder. Not only in finding something really special to photograph, but they have to raise the bar on the craft, in the message they want to communicate to the viewer.

What does it mean to raise the bar on your craft?

During our time in Sri Lanka, the family visited Wilpattu National Park for an early morning safari. We wanted to catch the elusive leopard, and unfortunately couldn't but were able to see Sri Lanka's national bird, the junglefowl, several times.

Here's a photo that my daughter took of one of them up close when we were at the rest area.

They look beautiful, and the bright colors make for a pretty exceptional photograph, of a... chicken.

On Christmas eve, we went to the California Academy of Sciences where we came across the Big Picture 2021 Competition and were pleasantly surprised to find a Sri Lankan photographer as one of the winners for the "Winged Life" category.

The photographer is Ashane Marasinghe, and he's really taken a photograph of this junglefowl to the next level, capturing a batfly on the back of the junglefowl. How do you end up with a photograph like this? I can imagine not only taking hundreds, or thousands of photographs, but actually having the patience to weed through them to pick and post-process the right one. Your smartphone's AI can't do that for you.

How will you raise the bar on your product management craft?

As I look back at my product management career over the past 15 years, we got access to fantastic tools like JIRA, Confluence, Trello, Github, Productboard, Sheets/Excel, Slides/PowerPoint that help us better organize our thoughts, communicate our intent, and ship delightful products.

And that "product stack" is available to any product manager, whether you're an intern right out of university, or a seasoned chief product officer. I spend a good number of words in Gangsta Vision writing about "how you go Gangsta", specific tactics and tools to help you think differently, force multiply your effort and find new ways to wrangle the information assymetry.

Really looking forward to getting the author community into the fold over the next few weeks.

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