When Does Gear Matter in Photography?

We often hear the refrain that gear does not matter and a talented photographer should be able to create good images no matter what they are using. And while the advice is well intentioned, it is incomplete at best, and it is important to consider the situations in which gear actually does matter and how carefully thinking about your needs and budget can lead to better images. This excellent video examines that exact issue.

Coming to you from Simon Baxter, this video discusses a personal situation in which gear mattered to Baxter and the more general philosophy around the subject. The common adage that gear does not matter is generally meant to dissuade beginners from thinking more equipment will improve their work more effectively than practice and education, but it is also an overgeneralization. The simple fact is that there are cases where you simply will not be able to get a certain shot without specific specialist gear, but there is also the middle case: gear that enhances the convenience of your workflow to the point of invigorating your creativity or enabling you to pursue difficult shots with far greater ease, increasing your chances of success. Check out the video above for Baxter's full thoughts. 

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10 Comments

Daniel Medley's picture

"We often hear the refrain that gear does not matter and a talented photographer should be able to create good images no matter what they are using" is an oft repeated yet largely incorrect statement to exemplify the notion that gear doesn't matter.

Gear absolutely can matter. Do you need/want to take good photos, say for an ad campaign no matter the lighting conditions? You're going to need gear. Do you do paid shoots in which the client may want the option of being able to crop full length shots to a head and shoulders? A camera with a 60 MP sensor is going to work much better than a 24 MP one. I could go on.

Lack of gear shouldn't prevent you from taking good photos, but it may prevent you from taking the photos you need/want to take.

Alex Cooke's picture

Love the way you said it in your last sentence.

Photo gear just like any other tool for any profession does matter. No pro carpenter will use cheap Chinese hammer, no pro photographer will use pinhole camera. If you don't have much money you buy tools from Harbor freight, if do have money or if you are pro you buy Snap-on. Photography is no exception. If new advanced camera makes your life easier and you have money to buy it, you don't need any justification "is it worth it". For example Sony A7R IV is better than A7R III. It doesn't matter how much better or is it worth it to buy it. If you are successful pro or if $3500 is not much money for you this upgrade is definitely worth it. Can it make you better photographer? Most likely not. Can it make your job easier or will it be more fun - definitely.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

we hit horse already dead here

Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1 world champion) will be able drive our Honda mini van MUCH faster than I could. But, he needs a Mercedes F1 car to win a Grand Prix. Same applies to photo gear.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Beautiful location and photos / video. And it was about a tripod and head and not a camera. :-)
Other commenters are talking about cost and what he is using isn't cheap, but I think the point is, sometimes you just need something to let you get what you couldn't without it. Be it a camera, tripod, lighting.... ect regardless of cost.

Complaining about the phrase "Gear Doesn't Matter" is always click bait because everyone reading blogs like this aren't in the group that comment is targeting. On youtube it is always entry level video saying the phrase and they are right because most likely the person learning about composition on youtube is missing shot because they stay inside due to G.A.S not because of lack of gear. Most phrase like this and "get closer" are only really targeted at beginners, and more experience people should knows this.

Zack Schindler's picture

Gear can make the job easier but if your photography sucks gear will not help.

Well-worded. Gear can matter sometimes. I think "stop stressing about gear" is probably good advice and applicable to about 98% of new photographers who have a tendency to think they need a more expensive camera. But certainly there are times (particularly when you're getting paid) where you kinda need a minimum threshold of equipment to get the job done right.