Here’s Why Your Photography Gear Matters and Why It Doesn’t

Wide shot NY skyline night

Does Your Gear Matter?

This age old question pops up all the time and I have heard many “definitive” opinions on both sides. I decided to give my own definitive answer gear does and does not matter. Yes, you can have it both ways. Let me explain.

Gear Doesn’t Matter

This is very true to a point. I have heard a lot of photographers say, “It isn’t the gear, it’s the photographer that matters.” I have also seen more than a few (most?) of those same photographers walking around with very expensive gear.

Check out our gear guide here.

Ansel Adams once stated, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!” and he was absolutely right. If you don’t understand composition and exposure, you have to count on luck to get a good image. If you give a five year-old a Canon 5D Mark IV and an experienced professional a disposable camera, I would put my money on the professional making a better image.

You have to learn the craft how does shutter speed affect the image? Aperture? ISO? Photo stacking?What is the “Rule of Thirds”? Is it okay to have a centered horizon?

The answer to the last question is maybe. The important thing is to learn when it is ok and when it isn’t. Part of photography is learn the rules, but learning when to break the rules.

“Play” with your camera and learn what everything does. This doesn’t take a $3,000 camera, you can learn with even a basic point-and-shoot if it allows you to control exposure. At this point you are learning about light and composition.

Gear Does Matter

Here is what I mean by “gear matters” the quality of the image is, in large part, a function of the gear. All things being equal, you will get sharper images from a Canon “L”-series lens than you will with a “kit” lens. You will get better image quality from a camera capable of a 50 megapixel image than you will 8 megapixel.

The dynamic range of the high-end camera is much better than the low-end, you typically get better/faster focusing, better low-light capability, less noise at high ISO, etc….

I was recently watching a podcast on YouTube when they were discussing this issue – one of the photographers said something I thought was interesting. He said that when you are shooting a wedding, the gear says a lot about you as a professional.

Now, I paraphrased but that is the meaning of what he said. I believe that to be true; if you are hired to shoot a wedding and show up with a Nikon Coolpix you won’t be taken seriously, even though you may produce spectacular images. When dealing with the public, perception matters.

So, What’s The Answer?

The answer is, as I stated earlier gear matters AND gear doesn’t matter. I quoted Ansel Adams earlier and I will do so again: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”

That is why gear doesn’t matter until it does. When you are consistently producing good work it might be time to think about upgrading. I said “think” about upgrading because you don’t have to.

I am currently shooting a Canon EOS Rebel T3i that I bought in August 2011. It’s a great, crop sensor, camera. It has served me well and many professional photographers carry crop sensor cameras, particularly wildlife photographers.

Upgrading isn’t an automatic thing either. If you are happy with your results, save the money and take a vacation. If you find that your gear is limiting you artistically, by all means, upgrade to something that will help you achieve your goals.

The header image is one reason I wrote this article and one of the reasons I think it is time for me to upgrade. I was happy with the composition but noticed a lot of noise (even at ISO 100) and there was camera shake even though the camera was mounted on a tripod set as low to the ground as it would go. I also protected it from the wind as best I could.

So, what do you think? Does it matter gear you have? What are your experiences? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me what I got right, what I got wrong, what I may have left out.

This post was originally published on Exploring Photography with Joe Valencia.

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