“My old camera was a Canon 20D (or another less-expensive, consumer-level camera), but I’m really unhappy with my photos. I recently purchased the new Canon 5D Mk II! Now I should be able to get much better pictures! I can’t wait to try it out!” – How many of you have heard someone say something like this – or even said it yourself? It’s a sentiment that we hear over and over again. But, does your equipment really matter?
This shot from Paria Canyon in Utah was taken with a relatively inexpensive, consumer-level camera – the Canon 20D. The image was published in Popular Photography Magazine a few years ago, and has won more accolades and sold more prints than any other image in Varina’s portfolio. And yet – not a single publisher has asked about the equipment used to take the photo before asking about publication. No judge has asked which camera was used to get these results. And no buyer has requested information about equipment before making a purchasing decision.
Magazine and calendar companies are not interested in the equipment that was used to get the shot. They want high-resolution images for printing – they want to know the size of the image, and they want images that are sharp and free of noise. In many cases, an image will require up or down-sizing… but beyond a few technical specs, nobody (except other photographers) really cares what equipment you are using. It’s the photograph that matters. This shot from Death Valley National Park is Jay’s highest selling image – it was taken with a Canon 10D.
As outdoor photographers, our equipment is very visible… and common perception is that fancy equipment equals skill. Varina brought her Canon 7D to the soccer fields last Saturday – with the impressive-looking 70-200mm lens attached. A photographer friend of ours introduced her to another parent, and added that “her photos are incredible” (Thanks, Joe!). To her surprise, the response from this man she had never met was, “I know!” She thanked him for his kind words, and tried to figure out where he’d seen her work before… but it soon became apparent that he hadn’t seen it. His certainty that her photography was good was based solely on the fact that she was holding some beautiful equipment. Does fancy equipment make a good photographer? The fact is, most of the photos Varina has taken with that fancy lens are snapshots of the kids playing soccer – shots that certainly wouldn’t be considered fine art by anyone outside the immediate family! Her primary lens is the Canon 10-22mm wide-angle lens. It’s a much smaller and less conspicuous lens… which can’t even boast the “luxury-series” designation from Canon. Have any of you had similar experiences? We’d be very surprised if you hadn’t.
Of course, more expensive equipment comes with advanced functionality… that’s not in question, here. However, if you are struggling with photography, you need to consider whether you are limited by the capability of your camera system – or by our own lack of knowledge about photography. If you are struggling with the fundamentals of photography – out-of-focus images, poor highlight control, uninteresting compositions, lack of knowledge of histograms and exposure adjustment, or poor image processing – then purchasing new equipment will not improve your work. Your money would be better spent on a good photography class. Look for classes taught through local camera clubs and look online for articles, tutorials, or discussion forums. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we offer tutorials, workshops, and webinars as well.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions… and submit your work for critique as often as you can. When you are secure in the basics – when you know how to use your camera and can get the results you want with the equipment you have – THEN think about the limitations of your equipment.
New equipment will not make you a better photographer. Only knowledge and experience can do that.
I know others have had similar experiences. What happens when you go out with your fancy equipment? Have publishers refused your work because it was shot with an “inferior” camera? Are you a better photographer because you own L-series glass and expensive camera equipment? As always – we’d love to hear from you!