One of the most common debates among photographers is whether or not your gear matters. There’s a famous phrase that gets passed around nowadays, something to the effect of “all smartphones have the same picture-taking ability as any Ansel Adams‘ equipment”… or something like that.
For those photographers amid the “does gear matter?” debate, this article provides some insight into whether you should spend or save your money.
Camera Gear Evolution
Camera gear has evolved to the point where the technology has nearly plateaued. The price for the finest equipment quality is dropping, which means you can purchase a high-quality brand at a more affordable price and avoid off-brand items. And yes, the phone in your pocket has impressive quality, probably better than most people realize.
Adams would be stirring if he found out that we are all walking around with a camera that matches what he used.
Why do people overlook this?
Part of it is how it looks. If you are trying to land photography gigs, you probably want to show your clients that you have all the necessary bits and pieces that are needed for their desired shots.
To make an analogy, let’s say you have a leaky faucet; you’d instead hire a plumber with a belt full of tools and an even more extensive toolbox than a guy with just a single wrench.
A narrative has been created over time that says you must know what you’re doing given the size of your equipment collection. If that first plumber hasn’t finished his apprenticeship, all of his bells and whistles become irrelevant.
If the single-wrench guy is secretly a master, we assume he can address the problem and get the job done. Working photography back into this analogy, equipment such as lenses, lights, tripods, and filters all mean nothing without the proper knowledge and experience.
Primary Factors For Your Photos
If you are trying to sell your work as a professional or simply enjoy amateur photography, you need to accept that your gear will not make or break you. In the long run, what is more, important is that secret sauce that only you bring to the table. You achieve this through experimentation.
Make arrangements with your model(s), go to your favorite location, and start shooting. One of the most important things to do before you press down on that shutter is to close your eyes and visualize what you want that perfect shot to look like.
Next, execute. Find your perfect angles, and then try ones that you may not have thought of. Pose your model, but also let them choose their pose. In doing this, you will stumble upon educational bits of knowledge.
That one angle didn’t turn out the way you wanted, but the other one did. The light during that one pose was all off, but you are definitely going to try that new one again. Take notes after your experimental shoots and continue to improve.
Over time, you’ll come to notice patterns. Some common tendencies you’ll begin to see are how specific settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure, etc.) bring out the best in some angles but not others.
You should become a master of these settings that can be manipulated within your camera before you reach for external equipment such as lenses and lights.
Eventually, you’ll realize where a new lens is actually needed. For instance, higher focal lengths are better for portraits, and broader focal lengths are better for landscapes.
Remember when you closed your eyes earlier to visualize your perfect photo? Did it turn out differently than you expected? By repeating this process of experimentation, the inner visualization of your dream shot will become more detailed because you know what to manipulate to achieve your desired outcome. You’ll get to the point where you say, “wait a minute, I need a better lens to get that shot”.
Simply put, you should look at your gear as a necessity towards desired photographs, not as a bunch of accessories to maintain your (pun intended) image as a photographer.
The first step is to max out the possibility of your camera’s built-in settings. If you believe you can’t possibly get that shot without the aid of a new lens, then that’s the point at which it might simply be time to upgrade.
The most important thing is your level of experience and that you continue to educate yourself on what is best for your pictures and your wallet.