The Photographer's Paradox

Sometimes, as photographers, we get a little tied up in having everything about a shoot be as professional and as perfect as we possibly can. But, as Daniel DeArco points out in this great video, it doesn't always have to be that way.

It's time for a confession. It's something I'm getting better about, but it's still a problem for me. When I go to do a photoshoot — any shoot, really — I start going over what equipment I "need" to bring. Usually I end up bringing way too many things; lights I don't end up using, lenses that overlap in focal length and that I also don't end up using, and other doodads and gizmos that I think will help perfect my shots. After all, I bought them, so why shouldn't I bring them?

As DeArco points out in this video in which he talks about "the photographer's paradox," all of that stuff is rarely necessary. Unless you're doing a big commercial shoot where you know you'll have specific needs and need a larger variety of equipment, oftentimes you'll have the same outcome, or maybe even better, with a more limited gear setup. In this story, DeArco talks about a time when he geared up for a shoot, only to have a friend tell him he should take a step back, downsize his kit, and go for something more simple. It turned out that he had the same, if not better, results when he started marketing the images. 

In his definition, the "the photographer's paradox" is "when you're so concerned with peer judgments, perfectionism, and industry standards that you hold yourself back from creating anything right now." And I think he's spot on.

I'd bet that most professional photographers have been guilty of this at some point, and I know I have. Recently, I've started taking more minimal kits on certain low-pressure shoots — just bringing a 35mm and 85mm lens instead of the "holy trinity" plus a macro, etc. — and I've been pleased with the results when I do that. It simplifies things, makes me work with what I have, and I get a little more creative because of it. 

Thanks, DeArco, for this story, and I hope it's a lesson many of us will learn. Sometimes, less is more.

Stephen Ironside's picture

Stephen Ironside is a commercial photographer with an outdoor twist based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While attempting to specialize in adventure and travel photography, you can usually find him in the woods, in another country, or oftentimes stuffing his face at an Indian buffet.

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Having shot professionally with M4/3's I can tell you that none of my clients ever asked or cared about how I got the images. Though I did surprise a client ounce when I put my GM1 (worlds smallest ILC) on my Nocticron during a shoot, just to see what he would say. He said, he assumed my GH4 was a Nikon. The point is, even with 5 creatives, 3 of which flew thousands of miles for the shoot, hovering over me and reviewing shots on the computer as I took them, all were very happy with the images. We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to overkill. Of course there are times when you have to pull out all the stops and knowing when you need to, and when you don't can save you a lot of extra effort. Know your audience. :)

Just curious, have you ever wished full frame or at least APS-C image quality compared to M4/3 for your works?

At times, but not enough to lug it all around. I have never been a fan of razor thin DOF, and I don't shoot much that requires crazy high ISO's. Life is full of compromises and I've never had a client question the IQ of the work I gave them. They all called me back and recommended me, so bigger just seems like overkill. I look at some of the comparisons on photography sites that people say are vastly different, and I find most of the differences subtle at best unless pixel peeping, which clients rarely do. I have considered an XD1 for studio work, but see no point in going with an intermediate (FF) sized sensor.

Damn grate video brother...