Stop Focusing on Camera Gear

With news of Nikon and Canon finally entering the full-frame mirrorless market, there have been endless discussions regarding stats and expectations. Don't let yourself get lost in all the gear talk, and remember that you don't need something new to make incredible photos.

I've been a "gearhead" for most of my life, and until the last few years, I struggled with putting too much emphasis on the gear in my bag rather than the photos in my portfolio. Anytime new cameras get released, people tend to get lost in spec sheets and pixel-peeping sample images. For years, I did this myself, especially when I was first starting out in photography. When I wasn't taking bad photos or fumbling around in an editor, I was watching reviews on a lot of equipment I couldn't afford. I did this to fill my time in-between shooting, filming, learning, or editing.

This is where I started to get too caught up in caring about things that really didn't matter. Instead of going out and shooting more to practice, I would waste my time reading about why one camera was better than the other. It's taken years for me to really learn that what I'm shooting with isn't that important for my work. Here's proof:

What Was It Shot With?

Can you guess what these two photos were taken with? I'll give you a hint and tell you that one was shot on an iPhone 7 and the other was a Canon 5D Mark IV. I will even admit this is a slightly loaded test considering the conditions were not pushing the limits of either camera. The real question is: does it actually matter what camera took these photos? Asking this question is what ultimately changed my perspective on gear. When I look at someone's portfolio, I don't see Sony, Canon, or Nikon. I don't see how expensive their tripod was or the lens they used to get the shot. I see a lot of hard work and years of experience to create incredibly beautiful images. 

The reality is that new gear can be fun, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying something you work hard to obtain. Just don't let yourself get lost in feeling the need to upgrade or being distraught when a new camera isn't what you were hoping. At the end of the day, what you're shooting with doesn't matter. You can find successful photographers that shoot with everything from an iPhone to a film camera. 

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shabirali patel's picture

correct said..... now a days every one is with GAS...... a older model of camera also capture great images.. we must learn lighting... processing ... thats more important..... the camera is the best camera what we have currently........

vik .'s picture

Thank you! I just cancelled my nikon z order it has only one card slot :)

Danny V's picture

It really depends on what you're shooting. It matters when you're blowing up images for clients and quality really shows.

g coll's picture

Your 20 odd megapixel camera will do fine for 99.9% of what your client's are requesting from you. From business card to billboard.

Danny V's picture

lol I see where you’re coming from.

Klaus X's picture

complete approval. always when asked for camera / lens, my answer: brain / glass.

Alex Armitage's picture

Fun fact: I took the lead image of this article that was published in a magazine with a GoPro!

David Pavlich's picture

Gear is important in the sense that if you have a certain "mission" that requires certain aspects such as a pro sports shooter or wedding photographer, good gear makes those jobs easier, very important. The pictures produced may not be better, but with proper gear, there may be shots that you would have missed had you not had good gear.

I rarely shoot any sort of sporting event, but now and then, I like to shoot tennis matches in an attempt to get those perfect "ball on racquet" shots. My 5DIV shoots 7 fps, not bad, but if I had a 1DxII, I'm quite certain that I'd get more of that perfect shot. Some say to "time the shot", but I'm just not that good. It seems that so many times, the two shot sequence is the ball in front of the racquet by about 4 feet and the next shot is the ball leaving the racquet about 8 feet away. At 14 fps, I would have probably gotten that ball on racquet shot.

But, it would be silly for me to go out and get a 1DxII to shoot an occasional tennis match. I shoot more landscape, street stuff, portraits which fits my 5DIV just right.

Alex Armitage's picture

I think having the right gear for a specific job is quite important, always. I just don't want people to spend so much time on gear that they don't step back and ask themselves if what they are getting is really going to change or improve their photos. I can spend hours, days, or weeks researching the next thing I should buy but is it really going to change the quality of my photos? Maybe in some cases but I could have used all that time to go out and shoot! Finding the balance is the struggle.

michaeljin's picture

But then what would you guys write endless articles about?

Tim Keagy's picture

It always drives me crazy when I would hear another photographer say to me, and I shot this with my $10,000.00 camera with my $5000.00 lens on my $3000.00 tripod. Ego much? I know someone that walks around during a shoot with two cameras around his neck and one in his bag. I no longer tell them that their talent is their eye. While they fumble for the right camera or an extensive set up, I take my photo and move along. Keeping it simple. I've done just fine that way. Thanks for the article.

Lou Bragg's picture

Corporations spend millions promoting their new toys in hundreds of media outlets, this one included. They try to create a culture of “newer” is better. Most people fall for that hype believing they will be ahead of the curve.

User M4's picture

I like the one on the right.

Deleted Account's picture

It's hard to stop when 2/3rd of Fstoppers article are just about that. You guys should keep your editorial line straight.

Alex Armitage's picture

At the end of the day new gear is exciting and while there may be quite a few articles on new equipment, that was my entire point of writing this. Don't lose sight of your work!

Jerome Brill's picture

With enough light and not needing anything but a fix aperture and length, you could make a phone work. You would still need to shoot with something that allows you to get raw. Although once light falls off you will find the limits to most cell camera sensors quick. Default camera apps also stack many photos to get their results. It's a little deceiving what the actual sensor capabilities are. Although that's been the trick with DSLR's also, just more manual.

Alex Armitage's picture

I hope it didn't come across like I was trying to convince people to walk into a photoshoot with just their phone. Gear is still a tool and you should still try to have the right tool for the job but it shouldn't be why you're shooting. Personally I'd rather be able to be handed any camera and learn to work with it with no matter the brand name on it.

Deleted Account's picture

"Gear is still a tool and you should still try to have the right tool for the job but it shouldn't be why you're shooting. Personally I'd rather be able to be handed any camera and learn to work with it with no matter the brand name on it."

Very well put.

Cosimo Vitali's picture

Honestly: I don't think this is even an article.. It's a good thought, of course, but maybe elaborate it a bit? :)

Alex Armitage's picture

What would you like to see more of? I purposely kept it short because I felt like my point was made.

Cosimo Vitali's picture

Don't get me wrong, it's a thought well explained. I'd probably like to read more about how you came to this conclusion: everyone has his own story. ;)

Alex Armitage's picture

I think I summed up the story nicely when I said that I don't see what brand of camera took a photo when I see someones portfolio. All the people who have inspired me or influenced me, not once did I look and say "This would be better if they had this specific camera."

Przemek Lodej's picture

Haha love it. Don't get lost in the new toys game and right below it an article bitching about the sucky new mirror less Canon and Nikon...can't make this stuff up. :)

Alex Armitage's picture

I was trying to bring balance to the force! :)

John Ellingson's picture

Photographs are made between your ears -- the camera is just a tool to help you put it in a form others can see.