Does Gear Really Matter? 30 Mind-Blowing Images Taken With Entry-Level Gear

Does Gear Really Matter? 30 Mind-Blowing Images Taken With Entry-Level Gear

When someone tells a photographer that “their camera must be really good,” chances are the photographer will respond with an eye roll. The debate surrounding gear verses skill in the photography world is a tired albeit consistent discussion. Let’s not kid ourselves, gear does in fact matter. However, does a photographer need top of the line equipment to produce mind-blowing images? Take a look at this collection and decide for yourself.

Last week while I was in Puerto Rico, I met a couple who was familiar with my work. They asked if I would take pictures of their adorable ten year old daughter. I would have loved to take her pictures but to my luck, I decided to leave my gear at home in hopes of taking a real vacation from photography. They mentioned that they had a Canon t4i and an 18-55mm lens that I could use. At first, I dismissed the idea because I’ve been spoiled with my Nikon D800 & prime glass. But truth be told, the idea of the challenge was very appealing to me and let’s be real, I was having separation anxiety from photography. I agreed to take a few photos. Here's a few:


While shooting, I found that using lower-end gear can prove to be difficult to work with. Mainly, I had a hard time with the fact that I was using an 18-55 lens and the lowest F-stop was a 5.6 at 55mm. Additionally, there weren’t enough focus points for me to use. That being said, it did not stop me from using everything else I’ve learned outside of the gear department. After the shoot, I realized that skill is a crucial part of photography. I incorporated everything I knew about expressions, posing, composition and even post-processing to produce quality images.

The primary goal of this article is to give encouragement to go out and shoot without worrying about what gear is in the bag. As is with all art, photography is subjective. It’s important to remember that there is a huge range of gear between what is considered beginner and advanced. There is no way to draw the line between what is considered beginner and professional gear.

500pxcom3Joko d90 75mm

500pxcom3Joko 550D 55mm c

500pxcom3Joko 550D 55mm b

Tri Joko  Canon 550D - 18-55mm & Nikon D90 - 70-300mm ^

500px.com89205537525 d3100 50mm

Светлана Беляева Nikon D3100 & 50mm 1.8

500px.comAnnaTheodora t1i 18-55

Anna Theodora Canon T1i 18-55mm

Epic Sunrise at Nubble Lighthouse

Benjamin Williamson T2i 18-55mm

500px.comDaniloFaria t1i asigma 10-20

Danilo Faria T1i 10-20mm Sigma

500px.comhien1234 d5000 50 1.8

Hien Luong D5000 50mm 1.8

Moraine Lake Sunrise

James Wheeler D5000

500px.comLarsKorb d3200

Lars Korb D3200 18-55mm

500px.comLauraMar D3000 55mm

Laura Mar D3000 18-55mm

500px.comNico54 D3200 18mm

Nicodemo Quaglia D3200 18-55mm

500px.comPaulyP t2i 85mm 1.8

Pauly Pholwises T2i 85mm 1.8

500px.comRobertoInetti t3i 18-55

Roberto Inetti T3i 18-55mm

500px.comTimPalmanPhoto d3200 35mmm 1.8

Tim Palman D3200 35mm 1.8

500px.comvinduPhoto d5000 18-55

Vit Vitali vindu D5000 18-55

 500pxcomAzKarno D90 50 1.8d

Aaron Karnovski D90 50mm 1.8

500pxcomdiogopg t4i 10mm

Diogo Glovatski Canon T4i 10-20mm Sigma

500pxcomFlieg-e D3100 18-55

Marianna Roussou Nikon D3100 18-55

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 b

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 c

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250 d

500pxcomharaldferber t4i 55-250

^Harald Ferber Canon T4i 55-250^

500pxcommandarmdeshpande t4i 18-55

Mandar Deshpande  Canon T4i 18-55mm

500pxcommankevichph d3100 50mm b

Ivan Mankevich D3100 50mm

500px.comgdphoto d3200 85mm 1.8

George Dikhamindjia Nikon D3200 85 1.8

500pxcomwxvelocity D90 35mm

Robert Edmonds Nikon D90 35mm

d70 28-80

Noam Galai Nikon D70 28-80

I'm sure there are many more amazing images out there taken with entrey-level gear, feel free to share a link to them below!

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Dani Diamond is a fashion and commercial photographer based out of NYC. He is known for his naturally lit portraits and unique retouching techniques.

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a good chunk of these have more to do with whats done in post then the anything...

and so welcome to photography. Skill level of the average person who owns a camera ( smartphone or otherwise) has risen.
Taking 1, 2 or 5 light portraits like McNally can be done by anyone who reads a single book or spend 30 minutes with flashes. (OMFG no he didn't just dish McNally did he? Outrage!)

It's the creative minds that put the excellent postprocessing to good use to make the Wow factor in an image, these are the amazing photographers of today.

I'm not sure the skill level has risen so much as the number of monkey hours (see the "Infinite Monkey Theorem"). Since so many folks are taking photos, some of them, whether intentionally or not, will be very good. The real question is: can many of these monke.. er, I mean photographers consistently get good results.
Aside from that, obviously gear is secondary to the photographer.
As for your Joe McNally comment... you're out of your mind.

Bring on the ANTI photoshop comments!!!!

i don't think its a case of anti Photoshop. I'm all in for Photoshop! But in an article talking about mind blowing images taken with entry level cameras then the images should be mostly done in camera to prove that point. i know it can be done! There are tons of great images with less then stellar gear! just a lot of the images posted above don't fit that bill.

Couldn't help thinking that a few of those were taking by processing pros who only had a cheaper body around. When you mess with the colours and skin textures to that extent, it doesn't really matter how good your lens is. I'm always in awe of how some people are able to create some pretty crazy imagery like that indian lady on the bridge, that must have taken some time...

You can get those tonemapping effects using LuminanceHDR using the Mantiuk'06 operator with a moderately low contrast-factor. I'm not saying they were - could equally well have been Photomatix - but either way, money requirement=0 (open-source) and skill level requirement=monkey.

What matters more is whether it's part of a vision for the shot.

The goal of any photo should be to tell a story. This article isn't a review for the equipment used. It was intended to remove the self inflicted roadblocks that creatives create. The point Dani is trying to make is regardless of the equipment, you can create and tell the story you want. If photoshop is part of that process then so be it.

Then so be it, but let's not call it "photography".

Then let's not call...I dont know...Transformers a movie...

Let me get this straight... you don't pp any of your images? Because if you do, your argument becomes not whether this is photography, but rather HOW MUCH pp in photography you are able to tolerate. For some, doing some basic tweaking with WB and sharpness sliders is sufficient. For others (our author Danny D, including) creating a photo goes way beyond what you do right before you hit that shutter button with layers upon layers of pp. With every conceivable method and tutorial and "trick" how to pp out in your face every day, I can't understand why is this even a topic of conversation? It's the digital world right? You do whatever the hell you want to your exposures. And if you can achieve it with the D90 and the same kind of pp that you'd be using with a D1 then more power to you.

That's right, I do postprocess my images, but there is a significant difference in postprocessing a RAW file and adding exterior elements to the take. It is not the same to tweak WB, lights and shadows, contrast, saturation, etc. than improving an image by sitting long hours before the computer to get the result of something that does not ressemble that what was in front of the camera.

I'm not against photoshopping a photograph, but I, that's me, would not consider it a photograph; it would be rather an infograph, an illustration, a manipulation. It may convey a "message" or not, but that's not the point.

It's not about digital photography, chemical one and some tutorials or "tricks" for everyday use. If that's the case, under your arguments I must be hating painting, which is not the case.

Photography now is just a starting point to creating something like painting in front of a PC. I guess it is a lot easier to do that than go out and manipulate material elements to achieve a desired result. That is my point. Either case I am not a hater, it's just a matter of consideration.

Oh get over yourself. I'm so glad you have a workflow that works for you; now stop with the inane criticism born of envy.


It's not envy; it's just a consideration that involves perception, technique, workflow and impact. Don't project yourself.

But... it is photography. In fact, the vast majority of the images you'll take that are SOOC only are probably unpolished turds that would be laughed out of a photo competition. Because post-processing is part of photography. It was that way before Photoshop, and it remains that way today. Anyone that says otherwise is an ignorant moron.

But I'm sure you're very proud of your SOOC pictures of birds sitting on flowers and long exposures of waterfalls. Oh. Wow. So creative. Because that's photography. Taking pictures of hobos and cats @ f/1.8.


C'mon, leave those mental wanks. You don't even know what I'm committed to.


So no modifications to pictures were ever done in a dark room? I remember doing it a lot so I must not have been a photographer then either....rolls eyes

Post processing is as much a part of photography as film development.

Great article Dani!

check out my images here :

All of them are taken using my Canon T3

Great pictures! thanks for sharing Dani.

Make sure to check out my images here :

They're all taken using my Canon t3

Great article, this photo was taken with a mirrorless sony nex 5n 18-55mm kit lens

Think of photography and gear like having to make a hole in the wall to hang a cupboard.
No one will ever be able to tell the price and make of the power drill you used to make that hole. If it's good and the cupboard's up and secure, actually no will even care.
If you are a handyman, in fact that drill might be a home depot special and it might have taken you half a day to get it right. But nobody cares.
If you are a professional holemaker (carpenter, contractor) and you are scheduled to make all the holes in the house right after the brick layer but before the painter guys roll in, you'd damn well better show up with pro gear drills to handle all the unforseables and emergencies in hole making.
So that's how I see gear - of course, it's nice to feed the Tim Taylor in all of us, a professional has to a) deliver and b) on schedule. That's what makes him a pro.

Absolutely! Having pro' gear allows us to get where we need to be (camera settings) a whole lot faster. Nowadays, for me, having to go into a menu just to change, something like ISO is frustrating. Additionally, displaying photos online isn't a big deal, but once I'm printing, especially large format, there's a whole lot more 'wiggle room' with my digital medium format and full frame than my micro 4:3.

I don't think gear is the end-all in what defines a great photographer. The only area I tend to find gear does matter, is in producing consistent results, again and again, to either maintain consistency in your portfolio, or consistency for a client's brand & aesthetic.

Good point.

Still photos in great light with loads of Photoshop. I'd be sad if the cameras didn't.

Additionally, there weren’t enough focus points for me to use.
I wonder what photographers did when they didn't have autofocus! That must have been the dark ages!

I'm pretty sure photography didn't exist before autofocus, right? How could it...?

Yea, I think that photography existed before autofocus. I have three manual focus cameras: Canon A-1 (34 years old, bought new) that I still use; Canon F-1N that I bought used last year; Canon T-50 that was given to me from a friend. The cameras use that archaic media called film.
But I see so many photographers say that they are reliant on autofocus.
Yes, I'm surprised at how blazing fast autofocus is with my new DSLR, a Canon 5D, with the kit lens of 24-105 f4L. But I don't have any basis point to compare autofocus with.

Am I the only one who felt 100 years old when I read that? I love my manual cameras. I even have a Kodak Tourist that - brace yourself - takes 620 film and is not a SLR so everything is guesswork. You should see the looks on faces when I go to a camera store and ask for film, much less 620 LOL.

You are not the only one. 99% of the time I shoot completely manual using only one focal point (if I use auto focus at all). It's the way I was taught. And if I were to be honest, I view high end auto focus systems as a bit of crutch for most photography.

I agree. I prefer to shoot manual and use one focal point as well. It's second nature to me, so much that when I get caught up in the capabilities of the camera the image suffers. Of course, it depends entirely on the subject as well.

I don't know anything else BUT manual. Someone told me about aperture priority and I was like.. ummm.. what? The only setting my camera needs is that 'M' on the wheel :)

I use priority modes sometimes. For example, if I'm going to do some long exposures, it eliminates the old school bracketing with film. Or if I'm shooting something that is moving around a lot and all I want to set is shutter speed. I use it a lot more when I have my son with me (we hike a lot) because my focus is not entirely on shooting. And admittedly, I have not broken the habit of trying to adjust my aperture on my lens haha!

I am with you Jennifer - My camera was built in 1957 - as was my light meter. Neither even take a battery, never mind autofocus or even multi-focus points. ;) I hear you on getting film - people look at you like your asking for pink unicorns. Luckily there's one shop in town that keeps a fresh stock for me in their fridge.

Before autofocus there were many focusing screens you could use to assist. I can rarely get my focus right using manual focus on digital unless I am using live view zoomed in.

They walked.

so, your point is "you can do bad photoshop composites even if you don't have pro gear?"

i'll try to remember that before my next camera/lens purchase

+1 million. Crap post.

Yeah, some are bad composites. Some are over-processed. But there are quite a few good, solid, simplified images in there.

Oh your opinion is gospel!
Long may your limited creativity hold you back and make you think that you're great at photography because you know how to point 3 flashes at your subject and compose to a rule of thirds. Masterful!

Another example (one I'm quite proud of) taken with my rebel xti and a 50mm 1.8.

Is that an homage to Les Miserables?

I work at Flat Rock Playhouse, and we produced the show last year. So, sorta. That was the girl who played our Cosette.

You know what they say ... the best camera is the one you have in your hand ... :)

Great gear isn't about whethor or not you can make "a" great photo, it is more about having the versatility and the reliability to make specific photos in unpredictable conditions.

I agree with sentiment - many of the best photos I've seen have been taken with cheap old film cameras (which don't appear to have gotten a look in on your list).

I also think you might have undermined your argument with some of the examples. Some of the portraits are very nice, though.

Yeah, gear is not essential, software skill is.
The hassle and pain you avoid shooting with a 50L compared with the one you suffer with the 1.8 is well worth the more than $1,000 dollars difference.

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