Does Better Gear Make You a Better Photographer?

Do you need professional photography equipment to be a professional photographer? Does the look you portray mean as much as the images you create? Where do the explanations that it’s the photographer not the camera end and the equipment really begins to matter?

There’s a group of photographers that make the case that the equipment matters and without that huge white lens or 14 frames per second camera, you’ll never make the images you desire. Without thousands of dollars in lighting and modifiers, the final image will suffer and you will never make it as a photographer. Without starting with the best equipment you are just a hobbyist and will make it when you have the kit you “need”.

Then there is another segment of photographers that repeat, "It’s the artist, not the camera that creates the image." The knowledge of where to be or how to pose, and when to click the shutter is where the professionalism begins. The maker of the image determines all things in the photograph and whether taken with a smart phone or a $48,000 Hassleblad they are creating the imagery at a professional level. 

In this video from Benjamin Jaworskyj, he details several views that range on both sides of the debate. Jaworskyj explains how that position changes depending on who or what you are creating imagery of. When it comes down to eliciting a response from a subject or a client, I believe the look you portray directly impacts the perceived value you offer. This doesn’t matter for landscape work normally, but when interacting with subjects on the street or creating work with a brand; your kit will matter to a degree. 

How do you feel about the debate over gear and technical understanding regarding photography? Do either matter more than the other or is it something else like the way you treat your subject or client that truly communicates your professionalism? 

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19 Comments

Jeremy Lusk's picture

Instead of yet another post about the debate between gear vs talent, I’d love to see one written by a psychologist about why photographers can’t seem to quit writing articles about the debate between gear vs talent.

Rob Mitchell's picture

This.

I often wonder of bakers have similar forum where they go bonkers over Brand X or brand Y of mixer, baking sheet or the type of ovens they use.

'Lovely oven! It must bake some mighty fine bread.'

David Pavlich's picture

All I can say is, "here we go again!"

Rob Mitchell's picture

No, but wearing a hat backwards indoors does.

Michael Holst's picture

Actually... This is true.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Can we have an article on hat choices too please?

Michael Holst's picture

Working on one. Spellcheck is crashing from being overwhelmed by my errors so sit tight. This might take a minute.

Jokes aside I do find that wearing a billed had helps keep my view finder shaded in bright sunlight. I have a big nose so it's uncomfortable to press my eye up to it tighter. Also why I like range finder style cameras.

Rob Mitchell's picture

But that's a hat, worn as a hat. peak to the front, as designed. Outdoors. I totally get that.
Backwards, indoors. Keeps the tungsten light off the back of your neck, not the viewfinder. ;)

Michael Holst's picture

It's an aerodynamics thing. Backwards improves your drag coefficient so moving from spot to spot takes less energy allowing the photographer to invest more energy into getting the shot. Also keeps the hat in Stand-By mode so that if the shoot moves outdoors, they're ready to shade their view finder.

Just yesterday I walked into B&H to move up in the photography world, so I asked for a PhaseOne system and as soon as I picked it up InStyle called asking me to shoot their summer spreads. I was excited, so I asked about their most expensive monolights, and as soon as I had my hands on a set of Broncolor Ls Glamour called begging me to shoot [insert name of really important person here] for their next issue. So I really piled it on and threw in full set of modifiers, three new lenses and out of nowhere Anna Wintour, Glenda Bailey and Nina Garcia appeared loudly arguing over who would get to work with me next, it was like a WWE women's wrestling match that moved into the printer area, and just as Anna picked up a SureColor P6000 and headed towards Glenda who had tied up Nina with some neoprene camera straps, I asked to see a light meter, and just as soon as it started my phone stopped ringing, Anna, Glenda and Nina disappeared and I decided that I wasn't ready for the big time. But when I am, I'll be back to purchase the equipment that will get me there...

Mark Holtze's picture

I have an easy answer to this: http://100photos.time.com

Pretty sure all those photo's that are world famous were taken with cameras that are "obsolete" now.

There is such a push for GEAR GEAR GEAR these days by influencers I honestly believe that's why we see so much of this "does gear matter". It's a SUPER trendy and SEO optimized topic.

On one hand you have super popular photographer you tubers telling you "why you need a $3000 70-200 Canon F/2.8 III tele" or a "why you NEED a Sony 135 Gmaster 135 1.8" that to offset that there's plenty of "does gear matter" threads.

I feel like I commented on the exact same theme like last week, or I'm having major DeJa VU hehe.

Happy Tuesday everyone.

Jan Kruize's picture

Mario Testino hits you with his iphone pictures where you use the sony A7R3. Next......

Marius Pettersen's picture

Are these articles gonna be a weekly thing?

Jarrett Porst's picture

Yes equipment matters, it does. I know this through exaggeration. If I had a 4mp camera these days, I couldn't conduct any commercial work. There is a big difference between Ziess glass and Tamaron glass. I catch a little heat for using Affinity instead of Adobe. Annie can out shoot me with a P&S every calendar day of the year. Here's where skill matters; what does the scene look like? Will we capture that expression at the right time or direct the right expression from the subject? Did we position for the background, frame the subject in the most engaging way? And do this with our 1972 Kodak 110? It's a marriage of tech and ability. Always seems to be the case.

user-206807's picture

Better equipment doesn't make you a better photographer, but it helps you to make better photos

Articles like these are shameless attempts to get you to click on links; if you buy anything the author gets a commission. And as Rob Mitchell points out, how can you take anyone seriously wearing a baseball cap backwards, indoors? Even at night. Professional - I don’t think so. And don’t get me started on tattoos!

David Pavlich's picture

A good photographer can take good pictures with just about any equipment and terrific equipment won't make a person a better photographer...we understand that completely.

However, a good photographer at LeMans or Monza will get better shots with more keepers if he/she is using a 1DxII with L glass as opposed to a T6i with EF-S glass. Equipment does matter.

Don Risi's picture

Gear does matter -- to a degree. I shot for a number of years with a 4mp Nikon D2h (thanks for reminding my, Jarrett Porst). As in James' case, that camera would not longer cut it. Likewise, I can (and have) shot wildlife with a 24-70mm zoom, but the shot would have been so much better had I had a 400mm lens with me at the time.

My point is the **right** gear for the purpose at hand will indeed produce superior results. But does that make the gear "better," or just "correct." Does having the proper gear make the photographer better? In either case, it's a judgement call.

Better gear doesn't make me a better photographer. But better gear allows me to shoot better photos.

My lens is half broken, doesn't auto focus any more and jams when I try to zoom in and out..but I'll make it work. Except, who wants to shoot with someone who has broken gear..