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Gear Matters, Right?

Photographers and aspiring photographers alike have and will always be interested in camera gear. After all, having a camera is paramount to being a photographer. Thus, it stands to reason that the specific gear one chooses would be critically important. And to an extent, that is true. Yet, time and time again these statements are conflated into “having a really good camera is paramount to being a really good photographer” or worse, “I need a better camera to become a better photographer”. However, the vast majority of the time, for the purposes of becoming a better photographer, one should be concerned with mastering their own gear and developing skill rather than upgrading their gear.

Let us first think about the elements of a great photo. Framing, lighting, contrast, sharpness, leading lines, captivating subject, depth, proper exposure, etc. These are by far the most important factors that make up a great photo. Yet these factors are all dependent upon the photographer.  Few to none of these factors are  influence by the gear being used. Taking the time to hone one’s own skills and develop their photographic understanding is what will make for a better photo.

Images from Old APS-C and New Full Frame. Can you tell a difference?

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That is not to say that gear is not important or interesting. On the contrary, the technicalities of photography gear and how it all works is fascinating. New camera bodies, new lenses, new features - bring them on! Learning how to take full advantage of the amazing new photographic technology we have is crucial to taking one’s photography to the next level. However, these new features and improved technologies are nothing if we do not have the basics of photography down. And that is the point I am making; gear can help, but it really comes down to the photographer and their unique talents and abilities that will make, or break, a given shot.

That being said, having gear one can both trust and enjoy using plays a significant role in the success and overall gratification derived from photography. Continually fighting ones equipment is a sure way to get burned out on photography. Thankfully, the 2010s was a decade where the digital SLR and interchangeable lens mirrorless camera technologies really matured. Today, even entry level APS-C DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are capable of some great shots. My first DSLR setup was a Canon Rebel T3i (entry level APS-C DSLR from 2011) with two kit lenses, the classic 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 and 55-250 f/4.5-5.6. It had an image sensor that struggled beyond ISO 800, no in body image stabilization, and a somewhat questionable 11 point autofocus system. Despite these handicaps, I had an amazing time with that camera and learned a huge amount with it! In fact, some of my all-time favorite shots were taken with my old Canon Rebel T3i.  

Being and becoming a great photographer, is just that, being and becoming. Not having and buying. You can buy as many pro bodies and fast lenses as you like, but without the skills and techniques necessary to leverage that equipment, your images will not look any better. However, taking what gear one has and really investing the time and energy into understanding and practicing with it will markedly improve ones images. Combine that technical knowledge and experience with the amazing creative potential of the human mind and one is sure to produce some incredible images.

Salient point? Photographer over gear. Every time. No exceptions.

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