In photography, I believe that gear does not matter just as much as I believe that it does matter. What I mean by that is, I believe what is most important is knowing how to use the gear you do have to get the results you want. And if you are running a business, knowing how to use the gear you have to produce the results your clients want.
Lets take a trip back down memory lane. Let’s go back 25, 30, or 40 years ago… We had film cameras that shot 1, 2, and 3 frames per second. We had cameras that did not offer 12,000 ISO. We did not have cameras or lenses that offered optical image stabilization. Anyone who remembers photography from back in these days, or anyone who has two brain cells for that matter, knows that there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of great photographs made of wildlife photography, sports photography, portrait and documentary photography. These professionals, and even great amateurs alike, knew how to use the gear they had and use it well. (The image below was taken with a 30+ year old all manual film camera)
The digital cameras that have been released over the last 5 or so years, and especially recent releases, are so much more advanced than they were 20, 15, and even 10 years ago. There are cameras offering higher frames per second. There are cameras that offer auto tracking. There are cameras that offer super high ISO performance, and the list goes on.
There are many things to ask yourself, look for, and consider, when purchasing a camera. Do you need full frame or can you get by with a less expensive camera that has a crop sensor? Are you going to be shooting sports, action, and wildlife? If so, you may need something that offers faster auto tracking and more frames per second. Are you going to be mainly shooting portraits? If so, you may be able to get by without needing a camera that offers 10 or 12 frames per second. If you are going to be shooting concerts or in scenes where there is not as much light you may need a camera that offers better high ISO performance. These are all things to consider when purchasing a camera. However, I would argue that the majority of the cameras that have come out in the last 5 or so years can get the job done in most situations.
I would also like to add that one should also not go broke trying to buy the most expensive gear. Do you really need that 1.4 or 1.2 lens when maybe a 1.8 lens can get the job done? I was recently scrolling through a photography group on Facebook and I was seeing all of these portraits that were shot at f1.4 and f1.2 where the eyes were sharp and the ears and hair were out of focus because of such shallow depth of field. While that can be nice, there are many other aspects of a portrait to consider. How will you compose it? What kind of lighting will you use? Do you want to use ambient light or some sort of flash? Do you want the image to be high key or low key? Will the portrait evoke any emotion with the viewers? Just because someone has a lens that opens up to f1.4 or f1.2 and they can keep the eyes in focus and blur the ears and hair does not necessarily mean they area better photographer than you. It merely means they spent the money necessary to purchase a lens that opens up to f1.4 or f1.2. Don’t get me wrong. Some situations may call for an f1.2 or f1.4 setting but if that’s not an option lowering you shutter speed 1 stop or raising your ISO may be just fine as well.
I believe that it’s on the photographer to study the type of photography they want to do, and practice, practice, practice. There are endless quality resources online to help photographers learn the craft. There are many social media groups where people are involved who love to help. Learning the craft is absolutely, without a doubt, more important than having the newest camera. Don’t get me wrong having new gear is fun and exciting. I’ll end with these two statements the first by photographer and “youtuber” David DuChemin and the last by myself.
“Gear is good, vision is better.” – David DuChemin
I’ve never once in the 20+ years of doing photography had an unhappy client because of the gear I used. I’ve never once lost a gig because I was using a 5+ year old camera and not the newest one out. Not one person can tell what images in this blog post where shot with what camera. And for the record, I’ve even recently done gigs where I used my fathers medium format Bronica ETRS film camera from the 1980s that offers no auto functions what-so-ever.
If you are new to photography or you’ve been at it for a while and it feels like you’ve hit a wall, don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Yes, gear will matter to a degree at some point, but your ability to learn photography and your vision are more important.
Here are some helpful references to check out:
David DuChemin on Youtube
Amar Talwar on youtube
Ted Forbes “The Art Of Photography” on youtube