Since creating the Michigan Photography Network in 2017 and starting to dabble in teaching photography in 2018, I have started to get more questions from amature photographers. A common thing I see with new photographers is they are obsessed with gear and acquiring it. This is especially true for those who come from a technical or engineering background. This seems to be less of an issue for those coming into photography from more of an artistic background. Those in the local art communities seem to care less about camera specs, new lenses, and other novelty gear. This obsession with acquiring the latest and greatest gear can become a huge financial burden and won’t lead to you getting better photos.
An amature photographer friend of mine told me recently about a trip he went on. He has a newer and higher end camera and lens combination than I do, but he wasn’t able to get the shot he wanted on the trip. Despite his huge investment in gear he wasn’t able to figure out how to get an image in the high contrast scene he wanted to photograph. If he had spent the time learning about basic photography instead of simply buying more gear he could have gotten the image and saved a lot of money.
The photography industry doesn’t do much to help with this either. A photographer I spoke with last year went on about how “real photographers” (sic) have to use Profoto flashes. I used Profoto flashes in college and they are amazing flashes. They also start out at well over $1000. I can create nearly the exact same photo as those I did in college with my current lighting kit consisting of $400 Alienbees and $15 Yongnuo flashes. The Profotos will last longer and recycle quicker than the Alienbees or Yongnuos but amature and professional photographers don’t need to use the highest end lights available. Quit trying to meet of the approval of the industry snobs and start taking better photos for yourself and your clients.
When it comes to purchasing gear you should focus on buying what you need and not what you want. A lot of photographers especially amateurs waste a lot of money on novel equipment like Lensbabies, fisheye lenses, and other weird novelty gear that will seldom get used. Over my career I’ve acquired a great deal of these novel odds and ends but have ended up selling, giving away, or throwing out most of them in 2018 after reading about minimalism.
My recent gear purchases weren’t impulse buys based off of what my favorite photo industry celebrity endorsed but instead where based on practical factors based on what my clients want. Two lenses I bought in 2018 were a 60mm macro and an 85mm f1.8. Why these two lenses? My wedding clients want macro shots of their wedding rings so I bought a macro lens. I also have many clients who get married in small dimly lit churches. During the ceremony I like to remain as inconspicuous as possible so I don’t use flash. Hence why I bought an 85mm f/1.8.
I also bought several cheap used Yongnuo flashes from eBay. Why? Because now I can give clients a lot more variety of lighting options.
Some of my best purchases for my business in the last few years weren’t even technically photography equipment. Examples? A red wagon I can pull my gear around in. A leatherman multipurpose tool which I’ve used for a wide variety of applications both on shoots and in daily life. Even pieces of foam core to use as reflectors and flags.
Don’t fall for it when people try to convince you that you need the latest, greatest, or most novel gear to get a good photo. Ansel Adams, Gregory Heisler, Arnold Newman, Platon, Joe McNally, Dan Winters, Irving Penn, and the other greats of photography have taken far better photos than I ever have with far inferior gear. Instead focus on learning the craft. It takes time and won’t be solved by buying the latest full frame mirrorless camera and Profoto two head kit.