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Scott Alan Photography

Creating portraits and documenting life!

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camera gear

Ye shall know thy camera

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How well do you know your camera? I am not talking about how the shutter speeds, aperture, and ISO work. I am not talking about whether you’ve looked into the user manual to figure out some features it offers. I am talking about using your camera in the field. Back around 2000 I met photographer Zack Arias. He had become a mentor of mine for a little while before he moved. One of the things he said that was required of him during photography school was that they had to know their camera. One of their tests in school required them to be blind folded. The teacher would call out shutter speeds and f stops and they would have to remember where they were currently at and then adjust the camera to the settings the teacher called out. Now that is knowing your camera. This is beneficial because in the field professionals are expected to be professional. Part of being professional is knowing ones gear. If as professionals we can change settings on the fly that is just one more notch in the belt towards mastering our art and craft. This might be a great technique to practice with a fellow photographer who is also wanting to master their gear.

Technique > Gear and consumerism at it’s finest!

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As I write this, about one week ago I produced a short video clip of my bike in which I also made some still photographs of and incorporated it in the video. This video was created for a few different reasons. The main reason is that I just wanted to document my bike in which I had just got back into bike riding after many years of being away from it. At the time I was itching to do something creative and figured I would combine the two reasons. The third reason is so that I could practice my video skillset as I have become more and more interested in video lately.

After the video was shot and during the post processing process, I noticed that some of the panning from left to right and right to left was not smooth. It was rather quite “jerky.” I ended up posting in a few social media groups on how I could improve so that my movements, or panning rather, were not so jerky. I got several comments of various kinds and out of all of the comments only one was most relevant to the intent of the post, yet was still not what I was looking for. All of the comments were gear related. Every one of them stated that I needed to get some sort of new gear.  The one that was closest to the question at hand was that the comment stated that I needed a tripod with a fluid head. At the time, I was not quite sure what that was but after some quick research I found out what a fluid head was. I also found out that a fluid head is what I actually have and used for the video. All of the other comments suggested me buying completely different gear.

It seems as though over the last 5 to 10 years new gear recommendations have really skyrocketed. It seems as though it’s so much more so than it was 15 to 20 years ago, even during the early days of digital photography. I am not sure why this is. I don’t know if it’s a lack of education. I don’t know if it is because of all of the photographic companies such as Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Fuji and they was they are advertising. I don’t know if its because how frequent these companies are coming out with newer and “better” cameras. And it may be a combination of all of the above.

Recently a young photographer posted in a group and stated that they were unhappy with the results they were getting with their camera. That photographer was using an entry level DSLR with a crop sensor and some relatively good glass. Glass that was better than entry level glass. As soon as that photographer posted people started bombarding here with answers that were all about getting new gear. 90% of the comments were about getting new gear. “Get a full frame” they said. “Get a D series” they said. “Get a different brand…” altogether they said. Not one person asked any questions. Not one person asked what their goal was in photography. Not one person asked what type of photography they shoot. Not one person asked what their budget was. Do you know how frustrating this could be for a relatively new photographer? I think this mentality has gotten contagious and has taken over most of the photography community, or at least it seems that way. New photographers feel that they are not good enough unless they have this or that piece of kit. They think how good their photography is or is not is directly related to how good, new, or expensive their gear is. While I believe it’s great for professionals to ‘sport professional gear, this is a lie sold to us by the photography retailers and manufacturers. PERIOD!

After my comments on their post, this photographer started messaging me. I told this photographer that they did not need a new camera or any new lenses. I explained to this photographer what they could do technically to improve their images. Within a few days this photographer was messaging me with new images. This photographer was excited. This photographer was happy with their new work. All this photographer did was stop down a stop or two from the widest aperture and incorporate off camera flash. This photographer had a fresh new excitement about photography!

I started doing my own research and came across some very helpful videos that really inspired me. While I don’t have a gimbal or any of that other gear I came across a video of a young man showing how he hand holds his camera a certain way and post processes a certain way in order to achieve smooth movement throughout his video. I came across another video that explained different techniques to use on the exact type of tripod and tripod head I have in order to achieve the results I was looking for.

While I don’t have much experience in video, I have twenty plus years of experience in photography. I have enough experience to know that new gear was not the answer. I had enough experience to know there was an answer out there that would get me to were I wanted to go with my video without having to spend a dime. I found my answers. But not everyone, especially young photographers will find the right, better, or most wise answer on their own. And we have plenty of people out there preaching “SPEND MORE MONEY!” in an indirect way and they might not even know any different themselves. It’s sad.

All of this to say, that I encourage you, before listen to someone who’s telling you to buy more gear, search for yourselves. Seek the answers you want without making excuses to buy gear you don’t NEED. Always put value in technique over new gear.

Gear is good. Gear is important. None of that gear matters without the right technique. Without the right technique the best gear in the world does not meant squat!

There’s an old saying that goes “Amateurs talk about gear. Professionals talk about technique.”

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