Fstoppers Answers - "Does Not Having The Latest Gear Make You Feel Less Adequate?"

Fstoppers Answers - "Does Not Having The Latest Gear Make You Feel Less Adequate?"

Each week, we ask our staff of photographers and videographers a question pertaining to the industry, from our readers. Last week, we asked "How Do You Balance Your Personal Creativity In Your Paid Work?". This week, we as "Does Not Having The Latest Gear Make You Feel Less Adequate?"


Pratik NaikStaff Writer | High End Retoucher The gear does not make feel inadequate as long as it is able to do what is required of me. As long as you are confident that the gear you possess is able to execute your every demand, it shouldn't matter what everyone else thinks about it. Case in point, my computer is 6 years old and still performs well, my Wacom tablet is still 2 generations old, and my main camera is still the Canon 5D with 3rd party lenses. They all perform exceedingly well. New toys are great, but I think some people are more in love with the gear than photography or art. That is exactly where this concern can stem from.


Peter HouseStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer Constantly. You see, I'm a big fan of minimalism in my life and that follows through to my kit. I can be pretty ruthless in eliminating gear that doesn't get much use or just makes my life more complicated than it needs to be. I like a streamlined process with predictable and reliable results. This approach however means that my personal kit is actually quite small compared to what many others possess and it's filled with a lot of older gear that has been tried and true. For example, I actually prefer manual focus, so I am not opposed to using older glass that doesn't have the AF feature with my camera's. Even though I have total faith in my kit, and my clients love the results, I can't help but feel that some new gadget or gizmo is going to add that extra level of depth to what I can achieve and offer. I feel the pressure to expand my kit and move away from the minimalist approach because, just maybe, I don't have enough tricks up my sleeve. The marketplace is very competitive and the "tried and true" approach doesn't always cut it.


Matthew DutileStaff Writer | The New Guy I think when you're starting out and unsure of yourself and your images, when you see someone else toting around the latest and greatest gear and you're still shooting with a basic kit (maybe a crop sensor or a 1.8 lens instead of a fancier 1.4 or 1.2) it's another point of insecurity in your work. This seems especially prevalent among wedding/family shooters where one of your clients may be a well-off banker, engineer, etc and have the extra cash flow to pick up a top-end camera system as a hobbyist. I think in a situation like that you can feel pressured to explain why you're only shooting with a 5d and the client is rocking a 1ds. So yes, you're going to feel some gear insecurity.
I remember when I started booking some of my earlier commercial clients I was still shooting on a crop sensor camera. I was sort of paranoid waiting for someone on set to call me on it and ask why they were paying me thousands of dollars without the latest gear. But the shoots just flowed as planned and all that mattered at the end of the day to the clients were the images.
The trick is to remember the tool is just a small part of the equation in your worth as a photographer. The images reign supreme. If a client has hired you then they obviously value those images - however or with whatever you capture them.


Dave GeffinStaff Writer | Fashion/Music Photographer & Videographer Honestly, before i had my "pro" gear (5D and some L lenses), sometimes it did, yes. Now that i have them, i realize they are just tools and love what they can do but i've reached a happy medium between investing in camera gear and the results that i see being output. I'm not really taking better photographs now that i have my pro gear if i'm honest. I'm at a point where improvements from my work will come from me, not new L lenses or new camera bodies. I also don't like the fact that the latest gear - for instance, the 24-70mm Mk2, is way more expensive than what the Mk1 was going for before it was discontinued. Sure there is a small improvement but do i feel inadequate for not having the Mk2? No way. I spend enough time shooting and in the industry to know that any feeling of inadequacy - like most new product updates - comes from clever marketing, with usually pretty minor actual product innovation.


Mike KelleyAssociate Editor | Architecture Photographer No. It might annoy me or make my job harder, but I'm pretty sure I could make an awesome photo with a ten year old DSLR, patience, and a little photoshop magic. Gear doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things - it might make it easier, but there's usually a way to make a great photo with minimal gear.
That being said, if the client expects a certain thing, I will need the right gear to make it happen if necessary, but I hardly feel 'inadequate' when compared to other photographers.


Gary MartinStaff Writer | Studio Manager To some degree yes but the hunt to have the latest and best gear is a fool's errand. The biggest challenge is finding the right gear that fits your style of work. Putting more time into your concepts, ideas, and composition rather than obsessing over the latest gear is far more valuable. But then again if you don't have the lights to achieve your look, then you are at a crossroads. Beg, borrow, and rent gear until you can really afford it.


Noam GalaiStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer People who tell you it's not important what equipment you own are lying. Of course equipment is not the only factor* in creating great work (*you need vision, knowledge, creativity and talent), but equipment can make a huge difference in results. With what camera do you think you can get better results in a dark bar - Nikon D70, or Nikon D4? We all know the answer. Having the latest gear gives you the ability to expand your options, give you the chance to shoot things you couldn't shoot with your older equipment. Unfortunately, money doesn't grow on trees, so it's not always possible to upgrade every time a new product comes out to the market. But if the right piece of equipment comes out, and it fills a certain need and will help me grow as a photographer - i won't hesitate to spend my money on it.


Ben SassoStaff Writer | Wedding Photographer It definitely used to. I think it happens to all of us in the beginning. We get caught up in the latest gear and always using what is the "best" instead of taking the time to make the best images with the gear we have. Nowadays, I find myself sticking with what I love and only updating if I absolutely need to. It is a freeing feeling to be happy with what I have and to have the confidence to create with it instead of lusting after the next big thing.


Zach SuttonAssociate Editor | Headshot Photographer I'm definitely a bit of a gear hog and have had the opportunity to own really nice equipment. That said, I still have photos in my portfolio that was photographed with a Canon 40D camera and random offbrand lens, and it absolutely holds up to some work shot with the best equipment available. I think we all have moments where we feel we need the latest in the greatest, but it's also our job to understand the difference between wants and needs. For me, I've always had the "L series bug", as to how to fix it...I'm not sure yet.

Special thanks to Yvel Clovis for submitting the question for this week. As always, if you have a question for us, feel free to post it in the comments below, and feel free to share your insight in the comments below.

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I always thought of utilizing the most on whatever gear you have...

And yes, seeing newer camera models does make me feel outdated. But what I have matters the most.

No. With the exception of my Fuji X100S, I try to stay a generation behind on every piece of camera equipment I own. I bought a 5DMk2 when Canon was closing out their stock in November 2012 for some ridiculous price like $1300. I'd love to own a Mark 3, but I don't think that the gains I'd see would, in any way, would offset the price tag. I'll beat my Mark 2 into the ground and upgrade to the Mark 3 when Canon remainders their stock in a couple years once the Mark 4 ships ;)

Yvel Clovis's picture

Thank you for the very thoughtful answers as I know some feel a bit self-conscious around the subject.

It actually makes me feel great not to have the latest gear. At weddings, there usually are Uncle Bobs with the latest Canikon full frames, with 500$ on-camera flash and a big lens, on full auto mode.
They first laugh at me when they see my gear, and start crying when they see my pictures :D

How presumptuous. Money does not equal better results.

lee arthur's picture

"Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, or do without." Sam Levenson. Back when I finally gave up my Commodore 128 computer, I was shooting and morphing digital images with it. I was running on some of the best IBM BBSes at the time. When people learned what machine I was using their reaction was,"You're doing this with a Commodore?"
It's not always about the machine, but what you are able to invision and accomplish with your imagination.

I adore my Nikon D3...I feel Godlike with it in my hands.

romain vernede's picture

I've never been so happy (in my business too) since I work with my 80+ years old camera for wet plate collodion...
It's not about latest gear...

Sure does. I am so glad I have the latest 1950 Deardorff 8x10!

Adam T's picture

Whenever I see a picture of a H5D, i do sometimes feel impotent in the shutter!

Kurt Langer's picture

I feel more proud to show off my D3000 than my D800. I am getting sick of updating my camera each year to have the latest sensor, spending a good few weeks getting to grips with its strengths and weaknesses.

I used to feel that way when my main camera (1dmkii) crapped out on me and because of how last second the wedding was, all I had was a T3.

This definitely forced myself to forget the equipment and do what I do best, capture beautiful moments.

It's all about the light, if I didn't shoot strobist, I'd feel less comfortable using my 500D and nifty fifty lens, do shoot panos a lot of the time to achieve higher quality images.


One thing that Joe McNally has said has always struck me as a fairly adequate depiction of the problem (and forgive the lack of a direct quote, I am paraphrasing from memory)

"While the latest and fanciest gear is by all means not necessary to create great images my contract with my clients states that I will do everything in my power to deliver the highest possible quality images. Having the most suitable and technologically advanced equipment to do a job is a big part of that."

The more I get into photography (about 7 years in) , the more I try to understand what makes good photographs, the less I'm obsessed with gear. The gear you use, in my opinion, makes about 5% or less of the 'quality' of the end picture. I feel that good images are the ones that can convey a feeling, a mood, or an emotion, images that can tell a story - it really doesn't matter what camera or lens did you use to create them. Of course there might be situations (such as dark bar) in which you'd prefer a better piece of equipment, but if you are not there yet as an artist, no amount of latest gear will help you. Again, that's only my opinion.

I have what I consider to be the perfect kit. Why buy anything else?

Chet Meyerson's picture

I just think about the iPhone fashion shoot when I read something like this! Lee did not seem to suffer from inadequacy in that video; just being disturbed when he got a call on his camera (well staged moment,btw).

If you are a beginner you MUST start with low-end gear and be happy with it.

Because, first, you simply do not have any clue what the more expensive, more professional one will do for you: You might know the specs by heart, but you need months of work and experience to tell the difference say between a Canon 5D MKIII and a 600D. Start with basic gear and appreciate what it can do for you. Explore within the 'borders' of your gear's capacities. There will come a day when you feel cramped out by those "borders". That's when you need an upgrade.
Second, unless you are really well-off, holding a camera worth thousands of dollars will stress you out. You are likely to bump, crash, drop, shower, paint, grease, ... your first set of gear.
Third, Even if you don't, you'll feel discouraged when the quality of your photos don't match the price tag on your huge camera/lens. I know many friends who are shy to practice photography because of the 'high expectations' others (and themselves) have from them.
Yes, i feel less adequate when I think of my DSLR compared to a medium format or when I need three light sources and I have two... :)

I once had the comment "I've got a better camera than that" directed at me.
I replied "And I've got better pencils than Picasso". I didn't need to add that I can't draw for the life of me!

As a relatively new kid on the block (Canon 7D, Tamron, Sigma and Canon non-L-lenses) it became better than when I just started (Canon 20D). Back then I tried to hide it. Nowadays I can proudly tell people that the gear I have makes finest pictures and my prices can stay modest. Of course, I know my perfect set would be the 3 obvious L-lenses I am a) reluctant on the investment at the moment and b) I was never the mainstream guy ...

Most gear is better than most photographers so once you get a decent kit, you should be ok. Some folks fetishize gear some don;t. In fact these days as a "hybrid" photographer doing still and motion I am using all sorts of cheap cameras for B roll and C roll and "crash cams" or goPros...