That New Camera Won’t Make You a Better Photographer

That New Camera Won’t Make You a Better Photographer

Let's face it, we photographers like shiny objects. Especially when first starting out, it’s always tempting to find some new camera, lens, or other tool we can put in our tool belt that is going to help us be a better photographer. Sadly, that cool new piece of gear is not really going to make you a better photographer, but here are a few things that might.

Learn the Fundamentals

Learn the fundamentals of photography: exposure, depth of field, lens choices, etc. Start with the gear you have and learn about the things that stay the same no matter what camera you are using. Along with this, learn what makes a good composition. Effective composition is really about taking the three-dimensional world and crafting an effective two-dimensional image. If you are new to photography, getting a solid handle on the fundamentals will make the most difference in your photographs.

Mount Moran in Grand Tetons National Park, taken early in the morning

Learn About Light

If you are a landscape photographer, being able to see and use the best light of the day is critical. Study how different types of light can affect the scene. Observe and photograph in the early mornings and the late evenings. Try backlighting subjects. Try photographing side-lit objects. In essence, learn to observe light. The more sense you have of what makes good light, along with the more command you have of your camera to capture it, the better your work will be.

Summer sunset in the mountains of Colorado

Get Comfortable With Your Gear

You know, that gear you already have. Learn how you can make the most of it. You may be surprised what you can produce with the camera that you already own. In the end, you may not need that cool new gadget or camera. Or if you do get it, you will be able to do more with it.

Get Feedback

Find people who can critique your work honestly and give you pointers. These might be instructors in photography workshops and classes or other photographers in photography groups. It might even be fans, but make sure they are willing to be honest and even blunt if necessary (hint, probably not your mom).

Learn How to Be a Good Editor

Sift through your images to find your best work, and don't be afraid to delete things. It's all part of the process of learning. Try to select a group of your best dozen or so shots. This can help you see what your strengths are and what are some things that you can still work on. It can also help you see what you like to shoot beyond the obvious subject matter.

Infrared image from a botanical garden in Arizona

Try New Things

If you have been at it longer, be willing to experiment. Shoot something that you haven't shot before or experiment with a new location, a different filter, a different time of day, or a new subject matter entirely. Try your hand at night photography. Try a neutral density filter. Just doing something new can often spur new ideas and help us get out of a creative rut. And ultimately, it can help us be better photographers, learning what we like most and what our strengths are.

Study Art

Look at photography that you like. And look beyond just photography and at art in general. Find artists who have developed a style and have something interesting to say with their art. Getting inspiration and insight from other artists' work can help you become a better one yourself.

So, while new gear can be great, it's not really the key to being a better photographer. Fortunately, what can make the most difference is something that you have with you all the time regardless of the camera or software that you now own.

Casey Chinn's picture

Casey Chinn is a landscape photographer based in Colorado Springs, CO. He leads workshops geared at helping beginning photographers understand the medium, and helping more experienced photographers develop their potential. He also teaches various photography classes at Pikes Peak Community College.

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I just read a passage from a photography book, “Principles of Pictorial Photography,” published in 1923. The passage talks about “those in photography who have a house full of cameras and lenses and buy everything which comes out for the sheer pleasure of having new toys to play with.” It goes on to warn “not to become confused with mechanisms and to keep equipment and processes as simple as possible as one of the greatest steps toward doing good work.” Photography has fundamentally changed in the last 100 years but the desire to buy gear/mechanisms remains unchanged.

Coming next: "That new camera will make you a better photographer"

When it comes to equipment, photography is like tennis. Until you can hit the ball without swinging and missing it really doesn’t matter how the racquet is strung

That New Camera Won’t Make You a Better Photographer

Yes it will.

No it won't.

Rinse and repeat.

There are cameras that do things that other cameras don't do.

Yes, for the 1000th time, I think, by now, most of us get it: it's not about the gear. It's really about the convenience the new tech brings. I had two fun shoots over the weekend. The one thing my NEW camera gave me over the old one was the convenience of face and eye detection, exposure simulation and an articulating screen. As I or the subject moved, I was able to track them effortlessly while being able to engage more with them, be more mindful of composition, light direction and all the other fundamentals. Will all this translate into being a better photographer? Well, a much more efficient one. Better? Yes.

HOWEVER, all things being equal, a new camera CAN give you better photos. Even one generation removed, my 5DIV can have shots at ISO 12,800 and still be okay. But, my 5DIII pretty much never made shots at 12,800 that were keepers.

Everything I agree with! The most import for the past 16 years I have been doing digital with a telephoto Point n' Shoot to the best Sony camera and lenses is "SOFTWARE" and learning processing. I have images from the film days to current times and during this virus I have gone back to all images to see if improvements can be made. To remember PS/Lr were $800+ and for each new version not good for a hobbyist. For the 2010 Canon T2i you had to use Canon's software for years till some $100 or less HDR software came about. And when Sony came out with the A7 sires 2013 they married with Capture ONE for just $30, WOW WOW!!! Now you have AI and sky replacement etc.
One thing you learn is what you see is not what the camera captures, drives one crazy!! Then came HDR dynamic range after 2010 and not good SW but for some off the wall new stuff that really made things pop and extremism started. But got closer to what you saw.
Today Lr is the only SW that has the most lens corrections and PS/Lr at $10 month, Lr is very fast once you learn and play and can do HDR and Panos very well, but I have all the great from Aurora to C1 to ON1 and Topaz everything is like a kid in a candy store. When you go back to the old images the ones you bracketed you will see results like the newest sensors, I still bracket sunrise/sets and using Topaz it reduces noise that is turned off during and can get a 400MP image with a 12mp camera, still WOW today.
You can buy that $6K camera or just goto a Salvation Army Family Store and get an old camera and use the lowest price SW today and still do miracles with light! Have fun with some jingle in your pocket!!

A bunch of generic pieces of advice that might be useful for beginners and useless for working photographers. Maybe, in the first paragraph, you should have clearly stated who this article is for. Getting a new camera is not about hoping that it will make you a better photographer. It is about improving the quality of your work / images, and having a gear which would let you work more productively or provide better convenience / less weight, etc.

My current camera is a Nikon D2Hs. I'm not always able to control my light. Knowing well its limits, i'm not excited to shoot with it. I'm looking to splurge a bit into a Fuji GFX 100S. Will this purchase, in and of itself, magically make me a better photographer? Of course not.

I do, however, imagine that I'll be getting better photographs from the conditions I shoot. This might lead to more excitement about shooting more. The increased dynamic range may make post less of a chore. These might all add up to more shooting, which would mean more experience, which might well lead to becoming a better photographer.

Education trumps new gear all the time. New gear just makes our life easier as a professional with new features such as autofocus etc.