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Insights & Thoughts

Crop vs Full Frame: A Valid Rant

By Anthony Thurston on September 3rd 2013

I wanted to share my opinion regarding a “rant” that was recently posted over on DIY Photography titled “Crop vs. Full Frame: Excuse me while I rant”. You should head over to DIY Photography and check out the original post, but for the sake of making this TL;DR friendly here is a brief summary.

[REWIND: Crop Frame vs Full Frame Sensors | Everything you need to know]


In the post Jeff Guyer, an Atlanta GA based photographer, details his recent troubles with uneducated clients deciding not to work with him based on him using a crop body and not a full frame body. After venting his frustrations on the subject Jeff makes the great point that while it may be tempting to get a full frame camera (before you can really afford it) in order to “qualify” for all jobs, in the end it really is the quality of your work that will get you jobs not the gear that you use.

I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because I too like Jeff get really frustrated with possible clients that have the nerve to ask what camera I am using for the project. I just want to through it out there, but why the heck is that any of their business. They would not be contacting me if they did not like my work, so it is obvious that my work passes inspection so why does it matter what I use to make those images if they are images that they like?

Sure, there are some cases where there may be a valid reason for a client asking about your gear. Maybe they need the image to be used in some super huge billboard, or something like that. Still, why not offer me the job with the stipulation that I use a full frame DSLR for the shoot? I could easily run out and rent a full frame camera just for your job if it is really that important.

I am curious about your thoughts on this matter. What do you think about clients asking about the gear that you use? Do you think they have a right to know or do you think it is over stepping? How do you feel about being disqualified for a job based ont eh gear that you use? Let us know in a comment below. 

[via DIY Photography]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  4. plevyadophy

    Impertinence, mechanics, plumbers and photographers

    My view is that it is the height of damn impertinence for a client to ask what gear you will be using, with that tone (you know the one) that THEY know best as to what gear you should be using and if you are not using what they expect you should be then you are not up to standard.

    The problem is that every Muppet has a camera so now everyone thinks they are a photographer. Well, I got news for some people: I change my light bulbs but it doesn’t make me an electrician, nor does changing my tyres make me a mechanic!!

    These people who dare to ask a photographer what gear he’s gonna use wouldn’t dare to ask a plumber, mechanic or decorator a similar question.

    The client should simply tell the plumber, mechanic, decorator, or photographer what the end result is that they want and leave it up to the professional to achieve the end result using any tools they see fit.

    If a client asked me what tools I was gonna use, my response would (politely) be “any tools I see fit to get the result required, just as your mechanic and plumber uses any tools they like to fix your car or pipes” or I might say “just like a plumber or mechanic, I can’t know what tools I am gonna use until I know what the job entails”

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  5. David Burckhard

    I’ve never had a client ask what equipment I use. I work with super savvy art directors who are exactingly critical. I shoot everything from apparel to hardware for local and national exposure. I’ve used both full frame and crop sensor cams. I’ve even used certain kit lenses when I can shoot in their sweet spots. As the saying goes: The gear doesn’t define the pro, the pro defines the gear. Typically, I tend to grab the full frame with the holy trinity of lenses but not always. To those who say full-frame will always beat a crop sensor, I have an anecdote…

    A client wanted a shot of the latest “super moon” but called me at the last minute, literally the afternoon before the rise of the moon. Instead of using my full frame SLR, I grabbed my crop sensor camera with the longest lens I had on hand, a 300mm f/4. The pixel density allowed me to show all kinds of detail despite the enlargement of the final image and the crop sensor meant I had the equivalent of a 450mm tele. As the moon just poked above the oak studded hillside to the east, I was able to grab a series of shots that worked perfectly. Client = happy. Me = paid.

    Horses for courses


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  6. Tyler Brown

    I shoot full frame now, but I recently won a job based on a photo I took last summer using a Nikon D70s (then 5 years old) I bought “for parts only” for less than $100. I could take photos from my D70s, D90, and now D700 and put them in front of a potential client and bet they could not tell which image was taken with which camera. Why did I go full frame? I was tired of struggling with the consumer AF system of my Nikon D90, and I got a killer deal on a used D700.

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  7. Devap

    I could only imagine:

    “Wait you’re shooting with a cropped sensor??”

    “Yea but its a C100/C300/C500 and it’s just a Super35 sensor…”

    “I don’t know. I haven’t heard of those…only the 5D. and a cropped sensor sounds kinda amateurish.”

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  8. Tom

    I don’t really understand the rant. I have been on many jobs in which I did not own the equipment I needed to get the job done. So what did I do? I rented it. This is a pretty standard practice if you are a professional. So next time a client asks you about your equipment, have an open an honest conversation about their needs and then let them know that you have access to everything they require. Simple.

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  9. Alain I

    I would think that since a photographer would know better than a client he/she would be open with regards to discussing whatever the client asks. I feel as if from the comments from above photogs feels offended with this question. I guess if your shooting crop sensor this might be a sensitive subject because they are questioning your gear but if a person will be shooting FF then its as simple as saying yes and would not make a big deal out of it.

    Also another reason is they might have a DSLR and might have some lenses if they find that a photographer is using the same crop camera then one might ask i am just paying for the creative side. Which might be the scenario why the person said no with crop body.

    Sometimes we need to sit on the other side or the table and see it from their end instead of thinking why is he/she asking me this question.

    Just my opinion…

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  10. Dan

    I got asked which camera I was using from a friend when I was taking picture for her as her birthday gift. I used my 40D instead of my 5D mark II. Anyway, as long as she thought I was shooting on a 5D. … hahahah

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  11. James Fry

    As someone coming from more of the client side than the PhotoG side, I would like a photographer to be OK with telling me what gear they have. Personally, I am a tech geek and only ask the question on a purely curiosity basis. What camera/gear/etc you use has little to nothing to do with whether I select you as my photographer or not. I fully agree that it is the work itself which would be judged, and what guides a customer to choosing one photographer over another, not something that is arguably arbitrary, like what gear they use. That being said I do typically ask about camera and lenses, and would appreciate a photographer not get offended by the question, because as I said, it is just a nerdy techy curiosity, that’s all. I am well aware that you can produce beautiful pictures on even an older crop sensor DSLR, heck even some P&S cams these days are getting pretty good, but hopefully there aren’t many photographers out there rocking a P&S for their business. On the other-hand, I do know there are less informed customers out there who may use that information to make a (bad) decision about what photographer they choose. Getting to know your clientele a bit can help weed those people out. I mean, you aren’t buying/selling the camera, it is the end product, so that should be what is used to form someone’s decision.

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  12. Rich DiBona

    As an avid, non-professional photographer I find this highly annoying. Your client is buying your product, the picture / portfolio created by you with your time, vision & equipment. I don’t think any client could tell the difference between the same subject & equipment similarly featured. These are the sort of clowns that make no distinction between value, cost & price. The client doesn’t or hasn’t perceived a difference – the photographer needs to make that case more clearly & directly.

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  13. ROBERT

    The word “full” tends to make some people think that they will see all but believe me they will have their ways on cutting some parts of the pictures on the go (that’s what we call CROP).
    So, just like Alan said “People like that will always exist” and it is true.

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  14. Alan Hughes

    I agree it doesn’t matter as long as the final images are professional, but having recently upgraded to a full frame I’ve quickly discovered it is much easier to produce professional images using a full frame.

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  15. Matt

    Interesting and encouraging. I am just getting into photography and felt that to take it to a serious level I would almost be forced to buy a full frame camera. However, the price point is quite a bit higher. It’s nice to know that the biggest problem is the client and not the ability to take good pics.

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  16. Verttech4

    I currently use a cropped camera. I am still learning but its not very long that I realize that its not all about the gear but the person behind the camera. The way I see it, a camera is like a car. Just because you have a fancier car, doesn’t mean you can drive better. And just because you have a decent car, doesn’t limit you on your creativity, it embraces it so when/if you go full frame, then it may make your craft even better. But nowadays, cropped are very close to full frames to an extent.

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  17. Brenda

    I am astounded that a client would ask this in the first place. If they have seen your work and like what they see and they have met you and feel comfortable with you what should your equipment matter in most cases. Would these same clients feel the need to ask a chef what type of stove he uses or a Doctor what what surgical equipment he intends to use. Just adding my two cents to the pot.

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  18. Clark Linehan

    While I’ve never been asked about cropped vs. full frame sensor (I only use cropped) I have been asked brand and on rare occasion resolution. Usually brand for equipment geek reasons like mentioned previously and on one occasion asked about resolution for what turned out to be a good reason. Final end use was never properly explained to me and it needed something more like a 100+ mpix back on a 4×5 to accomplish what the end result (ability to zoom into very small details in a painting on a large iPad-like flat screen).

    That said I’ve been around for 30 years and can remember a photographer who shot just 4×5 whose bellows was probably more black tape than it was original bellows. How many times have you seen great work and then seen the old beat to crap equipment that was used to create it?

    My favorite story, which I have no idea is true or not… Photographer does a food shoot and the big name celebrity chef comments about how great the photographs are and then asks what kind of camera was used. Brand name mentioned and the chef goes wow, I need to get one of those they take great snaps. At a subsequent event the photographer is given the opportunity to try the food made by the same chef. The chef recognizes him and asks him what he thinks… photographer replies food is great, what kind of stove did you use to cook it because it cooks great food.

    I think in most cases, short of being taken to an absurd extreme, the quality of the delivered image isn’t the issue, it’s the quality of reproduction the images will ultimately be reproduced with. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen images that I sweated over destroyed by a crappy printer or a web designer who didn’t know how to properly size and save images for web display.

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  19. Alan

    With sensor technology advancing at a steady clip and relatively affordable lenses that are tack sharp wide open, the technical and aesthetic reasons for going full frame are fewer and more subtle than they were five years ago. There is absolutely nothing standing in the way of making great images with an APS-C sensor in all but the most extreme circumstances. That said, marketing and irrelevant tech specs matter more to some clients than artistic ability, good lighting, and more consequential elements of a good picture. People like that will always exist, and you should have a strategy for dealing with them if you want their business.

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  20. John D.

    I shoot with a micro 4:3rds camera and funny how people equate the size of camera to quality. Other photogs are taking more interest in what I shoot with as my quality is equal to their more expensive camera set-ups. To bad people are hiring the camera and not the photographer.

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    I’m not really in the same ball park as you guys but I do have something to add which is kinda on the same level. I’m just on the verge of winning the South West of England Field Target championships (that’s shooting pre charged super accurate air my point is I haven’t got a clue to how my regulator works or how to get the cylinder off but I’m the best target shooter from Bristol to Landsend. If your well known and experience does it really matter what you use,at the end of the day if the job is good,isnt that the main thing.. :-)

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    • Spongebob Nopants

      But you don’t use an airsoft rifle or bb gun. You use a gun that is capable of accuracy that can match your skill and achieve your goal of winning competitions.

      There is better analogy in what you said though. You use an air rifle, not an Accuracy International AW50, because you only need an air rifle to win the competition. The Air rifle is appropriate for the situation.

      (Conversly a Sniper would never have your attitude about the details of his weapon. They would need to know how to adjust and fix things in the field – or the objective would be in danger of not being met.)

      For many pro jobs a high quality crop sensor is 100 percent appropriate where a full frame would be overkill. It would provide image information that wouldn’t be used, needed or appreciated by the client.

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  22. Jiri Ruzek

    It has never happened to me, but I think people dont know what they talk about when they ask … they just heard something and because they pay, they have these questions. Anyway, I cant imagine I would go back to APS-C, the difference is too big for me

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    • Jiri Ruzek

      ok … funny situation :)
      just a few months after my comment I must say that I have converted to Fuji X system, which is APS-C … :)

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  23. Syl

    I’ve been asked same question too but i think it is something that the client would as to pose that they know something about the craft.
    In taking this topic further, how about primary shooters asking about this for their second shooter, would it be a different case? Hmmm…

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  24. Kenny G

    I have never been asked about the equipment I use to qualify for a job. I have been asked when someone just wanted to talk about cameras… I shoot cropped Nikon D300 & Nikon D7000 and depending on the job if I need to rent a lens, lights, studio or full frame I will do it based on budget and needs of the client.

    As far as events, portraits and most things a cropped frame with the right lens is more than enough…

    Just my two cents.

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  25. Lindsey Epps-Tucker

    Wow, I’ve never been asked this from a client (or potential client). I often use a full frame but have been using my crop sensor more often as it’s lighter and it can handle the majority of print/on location jobs. I think if a client ever asked me I would first ask them do they know the difference and take the conversation from there once I get their answer.

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  26. Jimmy

    Every now and then I get a client who asks what kind of gear I shoot with, namely what kind of camera I use, but it’s never affected their decision to hire me. Most of the time, the person who asks is a guy and just wants to get into a nerd discussion over technology, which I am happy to oblige. I never encountered a situation where someone didn’t want to hire me because of the gear I shoot

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  27. Joe

    @Chillywilson haha love that last sentence! Couldn’t have said it better. Total agree its the results that matter either they like your work or they don’t.

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  28. chillywilson

    I shoot on crop a lot and love using it. Whenever a client asks me what I shoot I tell them this: ” Anything you would like me to shoot on, if the budget and scale are justified.”

    A simple pixel to pixel and focal length explanation can go a long way.

    This means if I shooting a simple liquor event for a paper or website and the budget is low, I will bring crop cameras. If a client is paying for something extra, a commercial composite or billboard, rental costs are include into the shoot, like a H4d and lenses. That cost is labeled as equipment fee if local, or rental cost if it’s at distant location.

    If a client then asks you, why wouldn’t you always shoot or get a loan out for 10K+ camera. Simply tell them that the justification and use for such equipment requires more of commercial licensing budget then their cheap and ugly face requires… Say that in a nice way!

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    • theo

      I say the same thing when people ask me to build applications…I can do anything as long as you have the funds to pay for it. Lets face it most people are cheap as hell lol.

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    • Luke

      I like your reply. I should remember that when my next client asks me that question.

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    • Gochome

      I was recently asked what I was shooting before an event recently, I simply said ”a 24 -70 and a 70-200 should do the trick I think”. No further questions were asked.

      I shoot a 5D2 and 60D spare.

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