I recently wrote an article about a question that amateurs believe to be so important, but, in fact, turns out to be relatively useless; “What camera settings did you use?” That got me thinking about other incorrect assumptions which hold back progression. This article will address the thing that many of us hold, ashamedly, close to our hearts. Gear.
One of the photography adages we hear all too often is, “It’s the photographer, not the gear.” That is not what I want to address here but you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s where this article is headed. No, this is about a mentality; a mentality which holds photographers back and stops them from progressing.
Stalling Your Progression
Formal education is expensive and with so much available online these days, it is often seen as pointless. I understand that viewpoint, however, I do not totally agree. Yes, if I were advising someone whether to go and get a photography degree, I would probably tell them to do something else. Have a fallback plan. There are, however, some significant advantages to formal education. One of which being the logical manner in which the courses are taught. A step-by-step structure which gives you a more rounded perspective and thus avoids these kinds of pitfalls; advice which is rarely touched upon in online education.
As you develop as a photographer, you come to realize what goes into making a photo; be that a million pound advertising campaign, headshot, candid portrait, whatever. You begin to understand the different elements necessary: crew members, lighting, cameras, lenses, editing techniques, locations, and so on. This knowledge, or understanding, is taught at photography schools but rarely touched upon online. The result of which, for online educated individuals, is a skewed perception of what is important to creating a photo.
The Incorrect Assumption
It’s quite logical when you think about it. You buy a camera and begin the lengthy process of learning its menu system and all the settings contained within. That process makes you settings obsessed. You then realize you need a new lens or two for whatever type of photography you want to do. Research begins and you obsess over acquiring some new gear. That process makes you gear obsessed.
This leads me to my all-important photography tip: Stop believing that gear is what “makes” the shot. In just the same way that settings do not create beautiful photos, neither does gear. It is NOT the basis of a good photo.
I Know What You’re Going To Say
I know, some of you will no doubt be thinking, “What is he talking about?” Of course gear makes the shot! You need “x” lens to create “x” effect and incorporating such and such light with “x”, not to mention that “x” photo is not achievable without blah, blah, blah. Yeah, you’d be right.
But let me ask you this: if I gave you the best camera, best lens, and best lights money could buy does that mean you can create the best images? Obviously not. If that is the case, then the only logical conclusion is that gear does not “make” the shot. You do. Without a doubt, certain pieces of equipment will be necessary for certain jobs, but it is not the equipment alone that creates stunning imagery. The mere fact that you possess whatever it is your heart desires does not mean you will be a better photographer.
So, What Is Important?
I don’t want you to read this and assume gear is not important. It is. I could not do my photography without the gear I have. As such, I am not a photographer who will tell you gear does not matter. Hand me an Android phone (who still uses iPhone anyway?), ask me to go and take some wildlife photographs, and I will probably come back with utter rubbish. Gear IS important. But it is NOT the be all and end all.
The single most important thing that any photographer needs is education. I think that deep down we all know this, but it’s the long road; the harder route to mentally travel. It’s so much easier to say to ourselves, “I could definitely make a photo that good if only I had…” rather than “I’m not that good,” or “I have no idea how they created that photo, I’m not good enough.” It’s self-preservation. We never want to admit that other people are better than us. So we attribute their success, their abilities as a photographer to these trivial things that we don’t have. Change that mentality and you will become a better photographer and your photography will improve drastically.
[REWIND: PHOTIGY PRO CLUB MEMBERSHIP REVIEW PART 2 | STILL THE BEST WAY TO LEARN PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY?]
It’s this that I want you to take from this article. Not that gear is unimportant or that it’s the photographer, not the gear. We’ve all heard that chestnut a billion times. No. I want you to realize that the only reason your photos are not as good as your peers or as the very best professional is you.
Where Do I Go Now?
I don’t just like to preach this stuff and then leave you in tears wallowing in self-pity. No, that would be mean. I like to show you the light and guide you through it. So where do you go next? I regularly watch online photography courses to advance my knowledge, pass on what I learn on to you all, and so I can advise you on where your money is best placed. Here’s a couple of articles I wrote a little while back which have some fantastic courses for you to check out:
- PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES: 5 ESSENTIAL COURSES FOR EVERY BEGINNER
- PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES: 5 ESSENTIAL COURSES FOR PROFESSIONALS
I will be devoting as much time as I can spare to watching newly released tutorials and telling you all about them. Currently, I’m working my way through Fstoppers’ newly released course covering cityscape photography (see the first course in the series on Landscape Photography) and will hopefully have that review ready for mid-January. I can’t watch everything that gets released, though. If you need some advice, turn to the SLR Lounge Facebook community group. There are thousands of photographers there who will happily help you out.
If in doubt, be sure to check out the SLR Lounge tutorials. I have genuinely never found education that I believe to be of a better quality. That benefit of formal education (giving you a more rounded logical progression) is something that the SLR Lounge tutorials do amazingly well; a step-by-step gradual progression. You can find everything in the SLR Lounge Store here. For the rest of this week, everything in the store is 30% off with the code: happyholidays30
Finally, for those of you suffering from severe gear obsession, make sure you read this great article by our very own Chad Diblasio all about tackling that mentality: THE CURE FOR GEAR ACQUISITION SYNDROME (G.A.S.).