Should You Invest in Gear, Marketing, or Education?

Photography is certainly not a cheap endeavor, and it can be difficult to know where to invest your money to maximize your chances of success. Gear is undoubtedly fun, but there is more to success than just that new camera, and this great video explores where you should consider investing your money beyond just equipment.

Coming to you from Chase Turnbow, this thought-provoking video discusses where you should consider investing your money as a photographer or videographer. Give any photographer a wad of cash to spend, and they are most likely to think about spending it on gear. And that is totally understandable: new gear is fun, and it is a tangible thing; you can hold your investment and have a tactile sense of its value. Marketing and education do not have that same tactile advantage, but they are equally (if not more) important to your success than the latest piece of gear. A photographer with a previous generation camera but strong business skills will always be more successful than a photographer with the latest and greatest gear but no sense of how to run a business or market themselves. Check out the video above for Turnbow's full thoughts. 

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Given the number of people trying to sell marketing and education these days, I say all 3 are a waste of money if you don't know exactly WHY you need them and what tangible, direct benefits you're going to get each time you pull your credit card out. It's getting to the point that half of the "gear doesn't matter, education does" articles and videos are just thinly veiled advertisements for education.

To be clear, that's not a dig at FStoppers, as I consider their paid tutorials pretty in-depth for the topics being covered. But still, education is everywhere now, and it's just as easy to get sucked up in the idea that you "just need one more course" the same way you "just need one more lens".

At a certain point you just need to get out there and "do". There's no substitute for that.

I was thinking along these lines when he said he never regretted any of the education he spent money on. The problem with that advice is when you’re new, it’s impossible to understand what you’re buying. I think of educational materials that I purchased that really only benefitted me in that they only gave me (false) confidence to go out and fail so that my normal instincts of self preservation would kick in and I’d learn by doing.

I also think the don’t buy gear argument can be a bad suggestion when taken too literally. I wish I had spent more on gear earlier in my career. I didn’t really start to grow as a photographer until I bought my first serious camera and first serious lens.

I think better advice is to say you need all three, but the ratios differ for everyone and that you should just be wary of your own hubris if you religiously believe that gear is never the answer or if you believe that you can never have too much gear, etc.

Just me's picture

I know so many person that are very good at taking picture but have no idea how to promote themselves, they barely make a sustainable living. ( = Enough money to support family)
At the opposite; the one making much more money are average photographers with great communication/marketing skills.
(Of course, there are few with both skills, but this is not a majority).
The gear come later on the equation.
Most of the time, great skills photographers do not have the latest gear cause they prefer the one they are used to it. The marketing type are easy to detect with all brand new cameras and lenses, and all in Auto mode.
I think marketing is still one of the most important thing to work on, for most of the photographers I know.
Taking pictures is only a very small part of the job and making money is essential to keep other personal projects possible (And investing on gear)
Unfortunately, for most of us, these marketing skills can only be learn by going to a school.
Don't jump into photography as a job if you like to take pictures only. You will need much more than that to succeed in this industry.
Are you gonna open a restaurant cause you know how to cook? (What about hiring, promoting, cleaning, investing,...)
That would be my best comparison.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

take busnes class not else matter

Stuart Carver's picture

I think if you search hard enough you can educate yourself for relatively little money.


Gear does not really translate to quality.

The best example are tech channels. The big ones all use 8k60 Red dragons and their quality is Okish.

Most videography and photography channels still film in 1080p24, with a lot using 4/3 sensors, and they look much better than those 8k60 videos.

But also, I've spent way too much time on education videos that taught me nothing (nothing but that I need to value my time and money better).

At this point I don't need to invest in anything. I don't want to get much bigger jobs through marketing because I would probably not do them justice, I have paid for and watched tons of tutorials and training courses, and my current gear is modest but sufficient.

All need to do is keep shooting, keep working and let nature run its course.


As another point I have known people that have overshot their careers and had to start over.

They got the best gear and best marketing and had the best courses, but had no experience. Then they screw a job and their reputation takes a bit that may never recover.

They have to start over with new branding and be more humble.

Experience is a factor that is overlooked online. Specially when adverting.

Gear companies, schools and training and also marketing firms all say that if you invest in them you will get 100 weddings a year, book 20k events, get the big name brands. But even if you do that, without experience there is a high chance of a screw up.

You missed things like travel, set design, food/items, and models/fees. There is no use having watch every commercial or modeling or landscape tutorial if you aren't paying to use those skill, which cost money and seems to be a big thing people forget about since most youtuber videos are them doing street photography or local landscape if they aren't some kind of professional photographer already.

Tom Lew's picture

Never have I taken a workshop before where it wasn't full of amateurs and hobbyists geeking out over gear, being taught very lazy/basic things by an instructor. Often times being upsold on additional courses and discounts to services and other products. Obviously this is a general blanket statement that doesn't ring true for ALL instructors... but for anybody starting out or looking to learn, nothing beats finding a photographer who's work you like and offering to assist/intern for them.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Action - Reaction - Knowledge - Instrument - Promotion

Tony Clark's picture

I think these videos miss the basics, you've got to love photography. Back when I started, you assisted while working on your technical skills, assemble a basic kit, learn to run your business and then pursue small projects. Once you learn to solve problems onset, establish a rhythm onset, workflow and deliver images then it might be time to pursue larger clients. Everyone wants to sell you snake oil but you've got to make your own mistakes and learn from them.

Robbie Keene's picture

I think for me the best investment is travel. A trip to a new place with new things to photograph.

Investing in education is the right thing to do. I don't think anyone would disagree. Although a lot of people might say it's a waste of time, you can take courses. I can't say that studying is just a positive emotion. I used to use a website that helped me write my essays. The site where I could buy an essay online. In spite of all these drawbacks, I was happy to study. Though I wasn't so much glad to learn, but I was glad to make new acquaintances.

Of these, it is best to choose a study and invest in it. I can assure you that the best platform for investment is the easiest and most interesting platform for students. You need to write my essay it definitely needs to go here and get more for yourself. So this is the main thing.

I'd say that you should invest in education. It doesn't matter what you shoot with as long as you know how to do it. I studied photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and I must say that It was 100% worth it. Of course there were some dull classes like writing class where you had to write lots of essays. However, there are lots of essay writing services that can help you with that I've chosen to concentrate more on practical knowledge and leave most of the theory aside. So practice-wise, the Art Institute of Chicago has given me a lot of knowledge.