The holiday season is upon us and dreams of new camera gear are dancing in our heads. Our email boxes are full of offers for deals on lenses, flashes, tripods and of course those new mirrorless cameras. If only we could have it all, our photographs would be so much better.
Will they? Will our photographs be that much better if only that $3,000 lens was used on our last shoot? Will the same subject that you photographed this summer with a 2-year-old camera body be that much better if you shot it again with that new mirrorless camera body? Most likely not. The subject is still going to be the same subject it was six months ago. How’s that old saying go? If you want a more interesting photo, put a more interesting subject in front of the camera. I’ve never heard anyone say if you want a more interesting photograph, use a different camera.
Of course, camera gear is essential. Without it, no photograph could be created. But is changing from a Nikon D500 to a Nikon Z7 going to make your subject that much more interesting? Probably not. Actually, I am going to stick my neck out and say, no it isn’t. Oh, it might make the image a bit sharper or the colors a little richer. Perhaps it will permit you to capture one more frame in that 1-second burst. But I have yet to see any camera equipment manufacture produce a product that provides more interesting subjects for the photographer or their viewers. Yet we keep on buying that new piece of equipment hoping for different results.
For the price of that new piece of photography gear, I can guarantee you, you can create different and more exciting photographs. It's actually straightforward to do and can be done anywhere at any time. Just use that money on a more interesting subject or on getting to a location with a more exciting subject.
I’ve been using this concept for numerous years now. It might not be as easy as giving out your credit card number and delivery address, but it really isn’t hard at all. For the most part, it only requires a little thought and planning. Let me give you an example of how I applied this concept a couple of years ago.
I was contracted to do a commercial photo shoot in southern California. It involved photographing a professional motocross team so they could use the images in their marketing during the next year’s race season. The shoot was scheduled for 2 days of shooting just outside of Los Angeles. I also photograph east coast surfing as I live on the east coast of the United States. Of course when thinking of surfing people turn their thoughts to California, and so did I. I thought to myself “If I was going to fly all the way to California why not spend a few of my own dollars and spend an extra day shooting west coast surfing?” All of my travel expenses were already covered by the commercial shoot, all I would have to do is foot the cost of another night in a hotel, some food and $20 more for the rental car. I estimate the extra day cost me no more than $200. For that $200 I got a full day of shooting west coast surfing that I was able to use on my website, social media and as stock images. I came home with probably 2000 or so OK images and probably close to 100 of what I would consider good photos. It provided my surf portfolio a different feel from my usual east coast surf images. The next year when I was in Los Angeles again, I again stayed an extra day and headed to Venice Beach. This time I double dipped and shot not only surfing but also some great skateboard images. Venice Beach is a prime spot for skating.
Before you start writing comments saying that’s great for me, but you don’t have jobs that let you tack on additional days in cities across the country, let me tell you can do it right in your backyard. Or perhaps a location just a couple of hours away.
Two years ago I wanted to photograph downhill mountain biking. For those of you not familiar with Connecticut, there aren’t many mountains nearby. But 3 hours north in New Hampshire there are plenty of mountains, and they attract riders from all over New England. So for the cost of a tank of gas and some food, I was able to add some different subject matter to my website.
Here’s a list of ideas off of the top of my head that perhaps might encourage you to think of spending your hard earned money differently.
Interested in portraits or fashion, then why not hire a professional model for a half day shoot instead of photographing your friends for the thousandth time? Cost is perhaps $400.
Or spend the money and hire a make-up artist or a stylist for the shoot. Why not rent a studio for a couple of hours? For Father's Day one year, I told my family that I would rather have some studio time as a gift and for them to let me photograph them.
Interested in car photography, how about renting an exotic car for a few hours? A vintage Porsche 550 Spyder can be rented in New York City for about $900 or a 911 goes for about $600.
Every state in the U.S. has some sort of impressive landscape. Live too far away to get that early morning shot? Spend a little money and get a hotel room for the night before near the subject landscape.
For a $1,000 or less you can fly almost anywhere in the U.S., get a room for a night and have two days to shoot in that location.
These are just some ideas I had as I was writing this article. I’m sure if I thought about it for a day, I could come up with a dozen more that would range in cost from a few dollars to several thousand dollars. Remember a new Nikon Z7 is about $3,400 so what ideas can you think of for less than $3,400? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. My next idea involves a boat in Newport RI next summer.