Photography Gear - How much do you need? / by Christian Webb

Airport-Security-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-6-Christian Webb Photo

There have been tons of debate regarding real photographers vs “fauxtographers.”  The iphone and assorted other camera phone using people usually getting lumped into the latter category.   I’m not going to get into that debate.  All I’ll say is this:  I think an image is an image, regardless of how it’s made.  You either like it or you don’t.  An image either provokes an emotion and has an effect on you or, it doesn’t. i dont' necessarily think that what type of camera or what brand or how expensive it is matters.    Period.  With that out of the way,  I want to get into a gear discussion here.  A quick blog regarding what it is you’re using and how much importance is placed on that gear.

John Lennon said “Give me a tuba and get ya’ something out of it!” ( Not sure about the accuracy of that quote, but Jack Nicholson in the Departed quoted it and I figure hey,  it’ll work here too.)  Point being that you don’t need a $3,000 camera body with a $3,000 piece of glass attached to it to make great images.   A simple point and shoot will do the trick if you’ve got the desire to take pictures of any kind.    That said though,  if your goal is to be a photographer, a serious photographer and you take the craft series,  there comes a point where you need to invest in that craft and purchase the right gear.   What is “the right” gear?   It’s really relative yeah?  What’s right for one may not be right for someone else.   In essence,  you want the gear that’s going to serve YOUR purposes as a photographer and your needs.   Example:  If you’re setting out to do wedding photography, you may want a macro lens to get really close shots of the rings.    You might also need a super-fast lens to use in low light situations such as  inside the church where most often,  flash is not allowed.   Add to that,  if you plan to do a lot of low light photography in general,  you may want to invest in a camera body that’s capable of producing usable images at high isos. (Nikon d800, Canon 5dMkIII etc.)

Regarding lighting,  maybe you want to shoot mostly in studio.  Some strobes and a variety of light modifiers would be part of your set up.  You could start with just one lighting set up but, over time,  perhaps you’ll want to expand your creativity and allow for more options by having a 2, 3, 4 light setup and a good amount of modifiers.  Speaking of which,  how do you plan to trigger those strobes?  Going to need a set of Pocket Wizards or other system for triggering flash.  What about location stuff?  Going to need a decent speedlight to start using flash off camera and a bit more creatively.    Do you want to shoot landscape?  A good wide lens might help.  Some ND filters maybe.  How about a really solid tripod?

I can go on and on here but I think you get the gist.    It’s not about thinking that having some piece of gear or expensive equipment is going to make you a better photographer.  It’s about recognizing the limitations of not having the right gear for what YOU want to do.  Overall,   I think if any photographer wants to take themselves serious, be it for pleasure or profit,  they’ve got to invest in themselves and their gear over time.   Funny thing is,  most photographers with passion find themselves spending all their dough on gear anyway.  It’s like crack!  Taking yourself serious and wanting to get better at what you do sort of naturally leads you to wanting more gear anyway.  There's nothing wrong with that and it's part of the process.   If you're not investing in yourself, your equipment and business,  then you're truly not looking to be serious.

So long as you’re buying gear for the right reasons, it’s all good.  Just never feel the need to buy the latest, greatest new gadget, light, lens or camera simply because you think you have to have it to improve your photography.   Understand your work, your goals and evaluate what you have and what you need, then, invest accordingly and make your gear count!