Why Gear Is the Least Exciting Part of Photography

Why Gear Is the Least Exciting Part of Photography

Since I began taking photos 10 years ago, one constant has been that I have never been excited by gear. Granted, I like to have a nice camera and lens setup to shoot with, but it’s so rarely the focus of my attention. I’m happy to stick with the same gear until it falls apart, and I couldn’t even tell you what the latest model on the market is.

I remember when the day came to decide on my very first camera body. I knew I wanted to begin shooting, but I had no idea where to begin. How do you choose? Is the gear even important? After all, it’s the photographer that makes the image, right? In the end, my decision was made purely because the friend who promised to help me learn the basics was a Nikon user.

Since then, I’ve had various models. I began with the D60, later upgraded to the D90, before the D7200, and I now use a D500. Often, I’d upgrade because I felt it was what’s expected and that having an “old” model made me look amateur. In regards to lenses, for years, I used absolutely nothing outside of the 50mm. I’m a portrait photographer, and this lens is suited to almost every type of shot I wanted to take perfectly. With this lens, I never wanted for anything. And even though I have since broadened my horizons, adding two different lenses to my collection, the 50mm is still my go-to.

I find there are two types of photographer. First, there are those who love gear, enjoy spending money to have the latest models, and stay up to date with new releases. These photographers are usually the ones who come from a background of photography education. The other kind are those who fell into it somewhat: they picked up a camera and learned everything they know by making mistakes and trying again and will happily use whatever camera is at hand to take their images. The latter tend to be the more experimental, creative folk.

There’s an undeniable degree of snobbery in the photo industry, as if those who can’t afford the latest gear (or simply don’t care for it) are somehow inferior. Instead, we get lumped into the category of “Instagram photographer,” our successes being written off as a fluke.

The fact remains, my efforts are instead focused on two things: creative photoshoot ideas and learning how to maximize the potential of my camera. It’s of little interest to me if the various models released since mine have revolutionized the camera world, for I’ve spent many hours getting acquainted with the one I actually own. I know how it works, I know how to utilize it, and I know how to fix it if something goes wrong on set.

The rebirth of film photography in recent years only further reinforces that super-high quality, latest spec gear isn’t always the right answer. It’s as if we’ve gone so digital, we’ve exhausted it, and analog photography of years past is suddenly desirable again.

To those who suffer imposter syndrome, stop discrediting yourself. Being self-taught, being creative, and having zero investment in the technological side of photography are not crimes. The gear you use is largely irrelevant; it’s the ideas you bring to fruition with it that count.

Lead image: "Rolling on 50's" by Andrei.P, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 .

All other images my own.

Log in or register to post comments

61 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

Gear is the least exciting part of photography for you because you shoot Nikon. 🤷‍♂️

Yeah. Wondering if your gear will work or not is probably VERY exciting! :-p

On a serious note, how can your comment be 16 hours ago when the article is only from 8 minutes ago?

Jack Alexander's picture

He’s an editor, and commented when he proofed the article. And he thinks he’s funny too!

Well, he IS funny … sometimes. :-)

Alex Yakimov's picture

Alex, please don't tell this to Lee. He seems​ to like his d850.

Tim Cray's picture

@Alex...What does the brand of camera he shoots with matter to his article? It was a well-written article. But you had to come along and make an idiotic, ignorant comment. If you've nothing constructive to contribute in the comments section, then do us all a favor and refrain from making such immature comments by keeping your mouth COMPLETELY shut.

Alex Cooke's picture

I think the humorous intention of my comment may have gone a bit over your head... Jack is one of my best friends and it was a bit of friendly banter.

Tim Cray's picture

I seriously doubt anything you say could or would ever be "...over my head," Dude.

Alex Cooke's picture

Welp, I only know enough to know how much I don't know! Hope you wake up in a better mood tomorrow, dude. :)

Tim Cray's picture

I wasn't in a bad mood when I posted my comment.

Tim Cray's picture

Just so you know...I own Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, and Sony cameras. And I like all of them equally well and use them for different scenarios and situations. I'm definitely not a "fan boy" of one brand over another. They all take great photos, too.

Logan Cressler's picture

Can confirm. Completely over your head. As a Nikon shooter even I got it. Perhaps because your head is so far up your.........

P.S. that was another joke, that you prolly didnt get. Dont worry man, they are jokes, not dicks. Dont take them so hard.

PPS thats another joke.

^^Tee-hee.... he said pee pee.

Tim Cray's picture

Yea, yea, yea! You guys are real comedians. Now, learn to spell and construct a grammatically correct sentence before you attempt to criticize another person. And the word is, "probably" not "prolly." If that's the way you speak, it's more than indicative of your level of intelligence.

Logan Cressler's picture

Three things:

1. It is OK to break the rules when you intentionally break the rules. You PROLLY didnt know that.

2. Scientists have recently found that most grammar nazis are jerks and likely less intelligent than they think.

Logan Cressler's picture

PS. It is incorrect to start a sentence with "But"

BUT you had to come along and make an idiotic, ignorant comment. You PROLLY knew that, but did it anyway. BUT then again, in all likelihood, you just care far more about what other people do than what you do, as the rules don't apply to you right?

Furthermore, look up prolly in the dictionary:

prol·ly
/ˈprälē/

adverb-INFORMAL

probably.

"you prolly know this already"

Tim Cray's picture

The only idiotic comments here are yours. Only children and people such as yourself that didn't pay attention in English class would use "prolly" instead of the proper word and pronunciation of the word "probably." No one I know speaks like you. And for your information genius, it's perfectly correct to begin a sentence with the word "but." Had you been paying attention instead of sleeping in English class, you would know that. But, of course, you knew that, didn't you? You must be one of those ignorant liberals with your attempt to shout another person down with your useless comments. Now, do me a favor and sit over there in the corner and be real still when intelligent people are posting comments.

Logan Cressler's picture

Well are you a delicate little edge lord.

Tim Cray's picture

No, not at all. I just don't appreciate a "know-it-all" that thinks he knows more than everyone else. Especially, a person that attempts to correct a person's grammar when it was written correctly in the first place. Let's take your retort to my comment: "Well are you a delicate little edge lord." You neither used punctuation nor was it a properly constructed sentence. I think that proves my point.

Keith Meinhold's picture

I don't get excited by gear, but I certainly do by what gear can do. A drone can provide images (and video) once unattainable to many photographers without a helicopter. An action cam like a go pro also can capture so much more than what once was thought possible. Even high frame rates, color depth, low light abilities - are worth getting excited about. You can easily create home movies - of near broadcast quality with software and equipment that is out of this world considered what I grew up with as a kid and an 8mm film camera.

Michael Comeau's picture

"There’s an undeniable degree of snobbery in the photo industry, as if those who can’t afford the latest gear (or simply don’t care for it) are somehow inferior. "

This sounds like a straw man argument.

Who actually does this aside from a few random idiots?

I've found that most photographers are actually very encouraging towards those that are starting with simple, inexpensive stuff.

Go take a stroll over at the dpreview gear forums for a large helping of that attitude on display.

Logan Cressler's picture

So you go specifically to a GEAR REVIEW forum, and are shocked that people are mostly concerned with gear? For realz? Like, I mean, common sense ever occur to you?

It's not digital GEAR review Einstein. It's digital photography review. Try reading for comprehension. They host both gear and non-gear forums.

Logan Cressler's picture

"Go take a stroll over at the dpreview GEAR forums for a large helping of that attitude on display."

Sorry, but put the attitude down for a second and try reading comprehension. He specifically states to go to the gear forums for a large helping of that on display.

Try to not be so agro, you are seriously just looking for reasons to be upset.

Logan Cressler's picture

Oh wow, I didnt realize that you were the creator of the original comment. Try reading your own comment I guess, you specifically stated the "dpreview gear forums"

This kind of snobbery exits in MANY fields (especially those with a significant hobbyist component) and not just photography.

But I've found (speaking from personal experience, at 70 I've seen a lot) that a good number of the snobs are NOT the pros, but are the pretentious amateurs. The pros (and skilled amateurs) are out there doing stuff and to these people, equipment is simply a tool and not a status symbol. But the posers try to up their reputation by buying and displaying the 'right' equipment.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

So you believe that people who use "modern" camera has less knowledge of how it works?

The snobbery by the artsy-fartsy crowd is also undeniable, the crowd that only see their genre and think photographers who work with a lot of gear and have the knowledge are gear heads and not "artists" like them self.

Steven Magner's picture

I’ve met just as many snobs in the artsy fartsy world at photo exhibits than I have on, or thru Instagram. It’s just those on social tend to think that broadcasting their love for spending money on the newest and greatest think that exposure is also a form of currency.

There’s people that like to talk equipment and theirs people that like to talk technique. Then there are people that could not care less about either and let their work speak on its own, and its those people I learn the most from.

More comments