The Great Debate: Why Gear Does Make You a Better Photographer

In the world of photography, the debate over whether gear truly impacts the quality of a photographer's work has been going for years. Some argue that it is the photographer's skill and vision that matter most, while others firmly believe that having the right gear can significantly elevate one's abilities. This article aims to shed light on the argument that gear does make you a better photographer, by exploring how advanced equipment empowers photographers, enhances creative possibilities, and enables the pursuit of excellence.

1. Technical Advantages

High-quality gear offers technical advantages that cannot be denied. State-of-the-art cameras boast superior sensor technology, higher resolutions, and improved dynamic range, allowing photographers to capture images with exceptional detail and clarity. Advanced autofocus systems enable swift and precise focusing, especially in challenging shooting conditions, ensuring critical moments are not missed. Additionally, better low-light performance reduces noise and allows for high-quality images even in dimly lit environments.

  • Sensor Technology: Advanced cameras feature cutting-edge sensor technology with higher megapixel counts and improved sensitivity to light. Higher megapixels allow photographers to capture images with exceptional detail and resolution, enabling larger prints and greater cropping flexibility without sacrificing quality. Improved low-light performance reduces noise and allows for cleaner images in challenging lighting conditions.
  • Dynamic Range: Superior dynamic range in modern camera sensors means a broader range of tones can be captured in a single exposure. This increased dynamic range enables photographers to retain more details in both shadows and highlights, reducing the risk of overexposure or underexposure in high-contrast scenes.
  • Autofocus System: High-end cameras come equipped with advanced autofocus systems that provide fast and precise focusing. These systems use sophisticated algorithms and multiple focus points to track subjects accurately, making them ideal for fast-paced action photography or capturing fleeting moments in wildlife and sports photography.
  • Image Stabilization: In-body or lens-based image stabilization technology helps reduce camera shake, resulting in sharper handheld shots, especially in low-light conditions or when using telephoto lenses. Image stabilization is particularly valuable for landscape photographers who shoot in dim light or during long exposures.
  • Burst Mode and Buffer Capacity: Modern cameras offer high-speed continuous shooting in burst mode, enabling photographers to capture a series of rapid-fire images in quick succession. Coupled with large buffer capacities, which can hold multiple shots before slowing down, this feature is advantageous for photographing fast-moving subjects or sequences in sports and wildlife photography.
  • Weather-Sealing: High-quality camera bodies often come with weather-sealing, protecting the camera's internal components from dust, moisture, and adverse weather conditions. Weather-sealed cameras allow photographers to work confidently in challenging outdoor environments without worrying about potential damage to their gear.
  • Expanded ISO Range: Advanced cameras provide an extended ISO range, allowing photographers to shoot at higher ISO settings without significant loss of image quality. This capability is valuable for low-light photography, where higher ISO sensitivity is required to maintain faster shutter speeds and avoid camera shake.
  • Advanced Metering Systems: Modern cameras feature sophisticated metering systems that analyze the scene's lighting conditions and determine optimal exposure settings. Evaluative metering, matrix metering, or multi-zone metering modes help ensure accurate exposures even in complex lighting situations.
  • High-Speed Connectivity: Advanced cameras often come with built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, or Bluetooth connectivity, enabling photographers to transfer images wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, or computers. This feature streamlines the process of sharing images on social media or transferring files for immediate editing and delivery.

2. Creative Flexibility

Having a wide array of lenses, filters, and accessories at your disposal provides creative flexibility that can significantly enhance your photographic expression. Specialized lenses, such as ultra-wide-angle or telephoto lenses, open up new perspectives and enable photographers to experiment with unique compositions. Filters like polarizers and neutral density filters allow for greater control over light and exposure, resulting in visually stunning and creatively compelling images.

  • Versatile Lenses: High-end camera systems often offer a diverse selection of lenses, from wide-angle to telephoto, macro to fish-eye. These lenses provide photographers with various perspectives and focal lengths, enabling them to capture a wide range of subjects and scenes. Wide-angle lenses can emphasize expansive landscapes, while telephoto lenses bring distant subjects closer, making them versatile tools for landscape, wildlife, and portrait photography.
  • Specialized Lenses: Advanced gear often includes specialized lenses, such as tilt-shift lenses or ultra-fast primes. Tilt-shift lenses allow photographers to manipulate perspective and control depth of field creatively, resulting in unique and eye-catching images. Ultra-fast primes with wide apertures enable creative depth of field control, producing beautiful bokeh and isolating subjects from their backgrounds.
  • Filters and Accessories: Creative filters, such as polarizers and neutral density filters, add another layer of flexibility to the photographer's toolkit. Polarizers enhance colors and reduce glare, while neutral density filters allow for longer exposures even in bright conditions. Graduated ND filters help balance exposure in high-contrast scenes, giving photographers more control over the final image.
  • Artistic Effects: Advanced cameras often include in-camera creative features, such as multiple exposure modes, creative picture styles, and built-in filters. These features allow photographers to experiment with various artistic effects directly in-camera, making the creative process more accessible and enabling instant results.
  • Panoramic and Stitching: Some advanced cameras have built-in panorama modes or in-camera stitching capabilities. These features enable photographers to capture sweeping vistas and expansive landscapes in a single frame, saving time and effort in post-processing.
  • High-Speed Photography: Advanced cameras with fast continuous shooting capabilities are essential for capturing fast-paced action and fleeting moments. They empower photographers to freeze fast-moving subjects, such as athletes in sports events or wildlife in action, providing ample creative opportunities.
  • Focus Stacking and Bracketing: Focus stacking allows photographers to combine multiple images taken at different focus points to achieve greater depth of field. Bracketing, on the other hand, enables capturing a series of shots at different exposures to later combine them for enhanced dynamic range or creative HDR (High Dynamic Range) images.
  • High-Resolution Sensors: Cameras with high-resolution sensors offer photographers the ability to capture intricate details and fine textures. These images are well-suited for large prints or extensive post-processing, allowing for more creative latitude in editing.

3. Pursuit of Specialization

Photographers who specialize in specific genres, such as wildlife, sports, or macro photography, often require specialized gear to excel in their field. Fast telephoto lenses enable wildlife photographers to capture elusive creatures in their natural habitat, while macro lenses bring out the intricate details of tiny subjects. Specialized gear allows photographers to push the boundaries of their craft and achieve outstanding results in their chosen niche.

  • Specialized Lenses: Different genres of photography often require specific types of lenses to capture subjects effectively. For example, wildlife photographers often require long telephoto lenses to capture distant animals without disturbing them. Portrait photographers may prefer fast prime lenses with wide apertures for beautiful bokeh and subject isolation. Advanced camera systems provide access to a wide range of specialized lenses, allowing photographers to choose the best tools for their chosen genre.
  • Fast and Accurate Autofocus: Specialized photography often involves capturing fast-moving subjects or fleeting moments. In wildlife photography, for instance, a quick and accurate autofocus system is essential to track and focus on animals in motion. Advanced autofocus capabilities in modern cameras ensure that photographers can achieve sharp and well-focused images in challenging shooting conditions.
  • Low-Light Performance: Some genres of photography, like astrophotography or night photography, demand exceptional low-light performance. Cameras with high ISO capabilities and low noise at high ISO settings enable photographers to capture clear and detailed images in dimly lit environments.
  • High-Speed Continuous Shooting: Sports and action photographers need to capture fast-paced moments with precision. High-speed continuous shooting allows photographers to capture a rapid sequence of images, increasing the chances of capturing the perfect shot during dynamic events.
  • Weather-Sealing and Durability: Specialization often takes photographers into various environments and conditions, such as wildlife reserves, rugged landscapes, or extreme weather. Weather-sealed and durable camera bodies ensure that the gear can withstand harsh conditions, providing reliability and peace of mind during challenging assignments.
  • Image Stabilization: Specialized photography often involves using long lenses or shooting in low light, where camera shake can be a concern. In-body or lens-based image stabilization helps minimize camera shake, resulting in sharper images when shooting handheld.
  • High Resolution and Image Quality: Some genres, like landscape or architectural photography, require high-resolution sensors and excellent image quality to capture intricate details and textures. Advanced camera systems with higher megapixels offer photographers the resolution they need to produce large prints or create stunning and highly-detailed images.
  • Customization and Functionality: Specialized photographers benefit from customizable camera controls and functionality tailored to their unique needs. Many advanced cameras offer programmable buttons and customizable menus, allowing photographers to set up their gear according to their shooting preferences and requirements.

4. Faster Workflow

High-end gear can significantly improve a photographer's workflow, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. Fast camera processors, larger buffer capacities, and high-speed memory cards enable photographers to shoot continuously without interruption, essential in fast-paced events or wildlife photography. Advanced editing software, coupled with powerful computers, streamlines the post-processing phase, allowing photographers to fine-tune images with ease.

  • Speed and Performance: High-end cameras are equipped with powerful processors and advanced technologies that ensure swift performance. Faster startup times, rapid autofocus, minimal shutter lag, and shorter buffering times all contribute to a seamless shooting experience, especially in fast-paced situations where decisive moments need to be captured quickly.
  • Burst Mode and High-Speed Continuous Shooting: Advanced cameras offer burst mode or high-speed continuous shooting, allowing photographers to capture a rapid sequence of images in quick succession. This is particularly useful in sports, wildlife, and action photography, where capturing a series of frames ensures that the perfect moment is not missed.
  • Autofocus Performance: Advanced autofocus systems with sophisticated algorithms and numerous focus points enable photographers to achieve precise and swift focusing even in challenging shooting conditions. This ensures that critical shots are captured accurately, reducing the need for time-consuming manual adjustments.
  • High-Speed Memory Cards: High-quality and high-capacity memory cards with fast read/write speeds ensure that images can be saved quickly and efficiently. This is especially beneficial when shooting in continuous mode or when capturing large raw files that require fast data transfer.
  • Wireless Connectivity: Many advanced cameras come with built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, or Bluetooth connectivity, allowing photographers to transfer images wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, or computers. This eliminates the need for physical connections and expedites the process of sharing images, editing on the go, or delivering files to clients promptly.
  • Customizable Controls: Advanced cameras often feature customizable buttons and menus, allowing photographers to set up their gear according to their shooting preferences. This customization streamlines access to frequently used settings, reducing the time spent navigating through menus and enabling quicker adjustments.
  • High-Speed Post-Processing: A faster workflow is not limited to the shooting phase alone; it extends to post-processing as well. High-performance computers, coupled with efficient image editing software, enable photographers to handle large files and complex edits swiftly. This ensures that the post-processing phase is productive and minimizes delays in delivering the final images.
  • Enhanced Organization and File Management: Advanced cameras often offer features for custom file naming, folder organization, and image sorting. This helps photographers maintain a structured and efficient file management system, making it easier to find and work with specific images during the post-processing phase.

5. Confidence and Trust

Investing in quality gear instills confidence in photographers, allowing them to focus on their creative vision without being hindered by technical limitations. Knowing that their equipment is up to the task empowers photographers to take risks, experiment with different techniques, and push the boundaries of their creativity. This sense of trust in their gear can lead to more inspired and daring photographic endeavors.

  • Reliability in Performance: High-quality gear offers consistent and reliable performance, even in challenging conditions. Photographers can trust that their cameras and lenses will work seamlessly, allowing them to focus on the creative process without worrying about technical malfunctions or limitations. This reliability instills confidence in the photographer's equipment and encourages them to push their boundaries.
  • Meeting High Standards: Advanced gear is often associated with higher standards of quality and craftsmanship. By using professional-grade equipment, photographers align themselves with the tools that many successful professionals in the industry rely on. This association reinforces their belief in their abilities and cultivates a sense of trust in their gear's capabilities.
  • Handling Diverse Situations: Specialized gear, such as fast telephoto lenses for sports or high-resolution sensors for landscape photography, allows photographers to tackle diverse shooting scenarios with ease. Knowing that they have the right tools for the job, photographers gain the confidence to approach different situations and subjects, adapting their skills to each unique setting.
  • Pursuing Artistic Vision: Advanced gear empowers photographers to pursue their artistic vision without feeling restricted by technical limitations. This creative freedom fosters confidence in their ability to capture their unique perspective and transforms their gear into an extension of their artistic expression.
  • Adapting to Challenges: In dynamic situations where speed and precision are crucial, advanced gear, such as high-speed autofocus systems, empowers photographers to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. The ability to respond swiftly to fleeting moments builds trust in their gear's responsiveness and their own instincts as photographers.
  • Creative Exploration: High-quality gear opens up new possibilities for creative exploration. With access to specialized lenses, filters, and in-camera features, photographers can experiment with different techniques and styles, nurturing their creativity and expanding their artistic horizons.
  • Resilience in the Face of Adversity: Trust in one's gear can be especially valuable in challenging conditions, such as adverse weather or unpredictable environments. The confidence that their gear can withstand these conditions fosters a sense of resilience in photographers, encouraging them to venture into unique and extraordinary situations.
  • Delivering Consistent Results: Consistency in image quality is crucial for professional photographers. With advanced gear, photographers can produce high-quality images consistently, building trust among clients and peers in their ability to deliver exceptional work.

6. Encouraging Growth

While gear alone cannot make someone a better photographer, it can undoubtedly encourage growth and skill development. As photographers become familiar with advanced gear, they gain a deeper understanding of its capabilities and nuances. This knowledge empowers them to make informed decisions, use their equipment to its fullest potential, and explore new possibilities in their photography.

  • Technical Proficiency: Advanced gear often comes with sophisticated features and settings that may be initially unfamiliar to photographers. As they explore these functionalities, photographers become more technically proficient, gaining a deeper understanding of their equipment and how to use it effectively. This enhanced technical knowledge empowers them to make better-informed decisions in their shooting and post-processing, leading to improved image quality.
  • Expanding Creative Vision: High-quality equipment opens up a world of creative possibilities. Access to specialized lenses, filters, and in-camera features allows photographers to experiment with different styles and genres. This exposure to new techniques encourages them to think outside the box, explore unique perspectives, and develop their artistic voice, ultimately expanding their creative vision.
  • Pursuing New Challenges: With advanced gear, photographers can confidently tackle more demanding and challenging projects. Whether it's capturing fast-paced sports events, challenging lighting conditions, or intricate macro subjects, the capabilities of their equipment inspire photographers to pursue new challenges and push the boundaries of their craft.
  • Embracing Creativity: Knowing they have the tools to realize their creative ideas, photographers feel encouraged to embrace their creativity fully. They can experiment with various compositions, lighting setups, and post-processing techniques without the fear of technical limitations. This freedom fosters a sense of playfulness and curiosity, essential for fostering growth in artistic expression.
  • Adapting to Diverse Scenarios: High-quality gear enables photographers to adapt to diverse shooting scenarios effectively. Whether it's capturing wildlife in the wild or shooting landscapes in challenging weather, advanced equipment provides the versatility required to excel in different situations. As photographers adapt to varied scenarios, they gain valuable experience and grow as versatile and adaptable artists.
  • Feedback and Learning: Using advanced gear often exposes photographers to a community of fellow enthusiasts or professionals who share their passion. Engaging with this community through workshops, forums, or social media platforms can provide valuable feedback and opportunities for learning and growth. Constructive criticism and exposure to other photographers' work can inspire photographers to continuously improve and refine their skills.
  • Measuring Progress: High-quality equipment contributes to improved image quality and overall results. As photographers observe their progress and witness the tangible improvement in their work, they gain confidence in their abilities and feel encouraged to continue their pursuit of excellence.
  • Motivation for Investment: Investing in advanced gear signifies a commitment to the craft of photography. The financial investment motivates photographers to make the most of their equipment, continually seeking growth and improvement to justify the investment.

7. Rising to the Occasion

In some situations, exceptional gear can be the differentiating factor between capturing an outstanding shot and missing the opportunity altogether. Fast-action sports photography, wildlife in low light, or challenging environmental conditions are scenarios where having superior gear can be a game-changer. In these instances, advanced equipment enables photographers to rise to the occasion and produce exceptional images that might have been otherwise unattainable.

  • Fast Action Photography: Sports events, wildlife encounters, or fast-moving subjects demand quick reflexes and swift shooting. Advanced gear with high-speed continuous shooting and rapid autofocus enables photographers to capture fleeting moments with precision and accuracy. This capability is crucial in fast-action photography, allowing photographers to freeze action and capture the decisive moment.
  • Low Light Situations: Shooting in low-light conditions requires gear with excellent high-ISO performance and low noise. Advanced cameras with superior low-light capabilities allow photographers to capture compelling images even in dimly lit environments, such as night photography or indoor events.
  • Dynamic Lighting: Outdoor photography often involves dynamic lighting conditions, such as sunrise and sunset or rapidly changing weather. Advanced gear helps photographers adjust to shifting light, allowing them to make quick exposure adjustments and capture the best possible shots in challenging lighting situations.
  • Wildlife Photography: In wildlife photography, subjects may be elusive and unpredictable, necessitating quick reactions and a long reach. Advanced telephoto lenses and fast autofocus systems enable photographers to capture wildlife in their natural habitat without disturbing the animals or missing critical moments.
  • Photojournalism and Documentary Photography: Photojournalists and documentary photographers often encounter fast-paced, unpredictable situations. Advanced gear equips them with the tools they need to document events as they unfold, ensuring they can capture authentic and impactful images in real-time.
  • Portrait Photography: Portraits often involve capturing fleeting expressions and genuine emotions. Advanced gear with fast and accurate autofocus ensures that portrait photographers can focus precisely on their subjects' eyes, resulting in compelling and emotionally evocative portraits.
  • Landscape Photography: While landscapes may appear still, the lighting and weather conditions can change rapidly. Advanced gear allows landscape photographers to adapt quickly to shifting light and weather, enabling them to capture the most captivating and dramatic scenes.
  • Travel Photography: Travel photographers encounter diverse shooting scenarios and may have limited time to capture iconic landmarks or fleeting moments. Advanced gear with versatile lenses and fast performance empowers travel photographers to maximize their shooting opportunities and create impactful travel images.


While it is true that a skilled photographer can create beautiful images with any camera, it is essential to acknowledge the undeniable advantages that advanced gear brings to the table. High-quality equipment empowers photographers with technical capabilities, creative flexibility, and confidence to pursue their vision and master their craft. It is the combination of a photographer's skill, vision, and the right gear that unlocks their full potential, leading to outstanding results and continued growth as an artist. In the end, gear may not be the sole determinant of a photographer's success, but it is undoubtedly a valuable tool that plays a crucial role in helping them become a better photographer.

Has having the latest and best gear helped you in your own photography journey, or do you think that gear doesn't even matter? Let me know in the comments below and let's chat. And don't forget to check out the companion article.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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Computational photography will make it necessary to have the latest equipment as it opens doors that older equipment can't match.

Very true! Remember back when the hard drives of computers were the size of a single raw file from now :-) it might get even more interesting when processor speeds become so fast and efficient that we need to ensure we are at least challenging them ! Additionally sports and news photographers had such a difficult task in getting their images to editors fast now they can have them on an editors desk in less than a minute !

I suppose it’s your opinion. In reality it’s never gear that makes the photographer. Why? The lessons of history clearly show that it’s never been about gear. Each generation has had different gear, possibly this generation has access to the best gear ever, so what! Not having the gear of today did not stop all the great photographers of the past producing great work. If you truly believe it’s all about gear then you don’t really understand what photography is all about. Dipping your hand in you pocket and splashing the cash has never been the way to great photography and never will be.

I do photography on my phone only, like most people. I feel that walking around in public carrying a camera bag or with a camera around your neck puts a great big X on your back.

Funny...I used to do a lot of street photography in New Orleans, not considered a saintly place, and was never accosted. Maybe it's because every third person is taking pictures, but I walked through the French Quarter with a 5DIII and a 70-200 L on it and the only person to even approach me asked about the lens. I had the 70-200 on because I was just at the river front shooting river traffic.

I’ve just read through for a second time and to be perfectly honest the article is total drivel from start to finish that does nothing to address what it takes to produce great images. Do you honestly think faster lenses produces better images?

I could have picked a number of meaningless quotes but this one is pretty representative:-

“Portraits often involve capturing fleeting expressions and genuine emotions. Advanced gear with fast and accurate autofocus ensures that portrait photographers can focus precisely on their subjects' eyes, resulting in compelling and emotionally evocative portraits.”

While it’s true that having a camera that focuses well is an advantage, but good photographers have always been able to produce sharp images that are in focus. No one is denying technological advances are helpful, but these things do not make a good photographer. Capturing those fleeting moments can only be done if the photographer knows how to produce them in the first place.

The debate is silly, but I land on side of upgrading skills before gear.

I've been a professional event photographer for 20+ years. I've worked with everything from a 4MP Canon EOS 1D DSLR to a 12MP Panasonic LX100 advanced compact, a full Micro Four Thirds kit, and a 42MP Sony a7RIII (actually, three of them). I've just bought a 61MP Sony a7RV. I could still do my work today with the 1D. But, it would be more work, would involve more lighting equipment, and would not include some of the ambient-only shots I enjoy so much these days. It also couldn't be printed as big.

I can work with old, technically obsolescent gear because I have the skills. But, the new gear gets the job done better and more efficiently, and it opens up photo opportunities I simply didn't have before.

Gear cannot necessarily make anyone a "better" photographer.
Gear can, however, aid a skilled photographer in the ability to produce higher quality images.

Having decent tools for the job at hand makes all the difference in the world. This is true not only of photography, but also of any endeavor requiring tools.

Perhaps it's the word choice for the phrase "Why gear makes you a better photographer". As written, it's a wildly ludicrous statement

Gear can make your captures easier, it can increase your success rate, but to believe that equipment can substitute for ability and vision, which the title implies, is sheer and utter nonsense. In no craft, profession, or service does any external make you 'better'. It can make your best easier to accomplish, period

Absolutely all valid points ! I think you’ll like the counter argument article also too! You can give someone a state of the art hammer and mail but knowing where to put them is key

You provided a thorough crash course in approach. Gear may limit what one can capture or it can provide a higher quality result, but a snapshooter with a D850 will still be making banal snapshots at a high technical quality. 'Pixel Queens'.

For sports and wildlife, obviously without super telephoto lenses, professional capture can't happen but among these photographers are those with the skilled timing and judgement to make use of such equipment, and then there are the 'machine gunners' who edit out an acceptable frame. Their equipment doesn't by any means 'make them better photographers', it allows them to produce acceptable images