At some point, as a photographer, someone has come up to us and said “Wow, that is a really nice camera, you must take really good pictures!” We then think to ourselves, it has nothing to do with the gear we use, but how we manipulate and use that gear, that creates the image. I agree with this sentiment. I know photographers who could out shoot majority of people, with only a point & shoot, even while up against the biggest, most well armed Uncle Bob’s of the world. However, gear plays a key and pivotal role in the outcome of the overall image. Do you really believe that very highly paid and accomplished photographers use very expensive gear, because they have nothing better to spend their money on? No, top end gear allows them to produce images at the very best level possible.
I have always made a couple of comparisons to relate this to photography. In race car driving, they always say the race has a direct correlation between the skill of the driver and his outcome at the end of the race. While this is in a general sense is true, that statement relies on the fact that all the cars are equal (which in racing they are for the most part. They usually have maximums on power, suspension, weight and overall design of the vehicle). However, if you put the best driver in a Toyota Corolla (nothing against Corollas…this is merely a placeholder, you could replace it with any car that is sold to the public) and pit him against his fellow drivers in their purpose built race cars, he/she doesn’t stand a chance.
In the vice-versa scenario, you could take the purpose built race car and put an everyday driver in it and they would not stand a chance either. A pro driver, needs a professional purpose built race car to be competitive…they are complementary. I also relate it to a top end hair stylist, using professional tools and not the common variety house scissors and store bought hair color. While common scissors and store bought hair color, can “kind of” do the job, they don’t do it well. Could the stylist do a decent job with those tools? Sure, but they could do a much, much better job with true $300.00 hair shears and professional grade color. Again, vice-versa, if you give someone that does not know how to cut hair, with the best tools money can buy, they still won’t be able to cut hair well.
Why do I even bring this up? I bring it up, because I think so many photographers hear the statement of gear doesn’t matter and thusly, can’t distinguish and make the correlation that professional gear is the perfect complement to the process of creating top quality images. They just assume, that using an entry level body and kit lens is sufficient on their road to producing top quality images. Having expensive photography gear has the potential to elevate an image to the next level.
Nice glass allows numerous benefits: faster shooting, better low light ability, less distortion, etc. A professional body offers so many benefits: better picture quality, dual card slots, RAW, low light performance, etc. This can go on for every piece of gear a photographer can buy. If we as photographers want to be producing the best images we can, we should be using professional tools to do so.
[REWIND: OUR FAVORITE PORTRAIT LENSES | GEAR TALK EPISODE 4]
There is another facet of having professional gear that I think almost everyone overlooks (this is more for the photographers who accept money in return for their services), is the impression and confidence it instills in our clients. I have yet to meet a photographer who doesn’t want to earn thousands of dollars per job. Like it or not, we as a society equate price to quality (and let’s be honest, most of the time it is true). Our clients do the same thing.
If we showed up to a very well funded job, with a kit set up from Costco or Best Buy (which probably our clients have themselves, at home), it leaves something to be desired, which may cause doubt of why you are charging so much. Now, if you show up to that same job, with a big or gripped up pro body, a half dozen lenses, (some that as big a grown man’s arm), it gives the client reassurance that you take your job very seriously and employ the best tools to produce the best possible images. Our goal as paid photographers is to not only produce great images, but give our clients the confidence that we are doing everything we can to make sure the images are the best we can deliver. I feel having professional grade gear is a very important component to giving our clients that confidence.
I am not suggesting that buying thousands and thousands dollars in gear, merely to have it be a false sense of reality, allowing the facilitation of mediocre photography is the proper mindset. I am also not saying that stellar images cannot be made from middle of the road gear.
What I am saying that as professionals, we should employ the best possible tools in order to be producing the best possible results. Skill and professional gear are complimentary, sure one can do without the other, but when you have both….it is what sets you apart from others and allows your work to be at the pinnacle of its level. If you want to be a professional, then you have responsibility, for both your work and your clients, to employ professional tools. So, I hope you don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of adhering to the philosophy of gear having no effect on your images…because in reality, it does.
So I ask you, why wouldn’t you employ the best possible tools (with in your means) to make sure your images are the very best they can be?