Does Gear Matter?
Does Gear Matter?
In the middle of the night, the house is silent except for the sounds of a sleeping family and the occasional click of a mouse. The red eyed face of the figure hunched over the blue glow of a computer monitor holds an oddly mixed expression of excitement and agony. As the images and the words slip across the screen. The long awaited and highly anticipated camera has just been released. Every review fans the fevered flames and the consuming need for the camera as the key to unlock the door to the magical world of prize winning photography.
It is sad to say that this is a scene repeated over and over again. Each piece of gear, lighting, lenses, modifiers, and filters magically fill countless bags and boxes. Seemingly there is always a next critical piece of gear to be scrimped and saved for that is the “difference maker.” Then one day you are looking back at some old pictures taken with the shunned old gear and you realize that those are amongst the very best shots you have ever captured.
When asked for advice on great photography and improving the quality of the shots captured. So many are quick to spout the “It’s not about the gear.” mantra. Speaking of artistic vision and harnessing great light and capturing the moments and composition and, and, and… The discussion is convincing and gleefully some leap up and go out to capture the next award winning photo. Sadly that experiment often leads to a disheartening failure as well.
So what is the truth here? Does the gear matter? Is the person shooting the difference maker? Is the quality of the picture in the size of the camera, the digital sensor, the aperture, the lens, the light… What is the answer to this question? I will answer it in a short quote that I have heard and salted away, ruminated on, and concluded it is the most accurate answer to the most disturbing question. For a photographer or a Mom wanting to capture her children growing up… Wait for it… Here it is.. The deepest and most illuminating nugget ever shared…
It’s not about the gear, until it is all about the gear.
The most critical part of the equation is the natural ability and developed skill of the the eye behind the lens. Experience is the best teacher of what makes a great photograph. It is a pursuit that will inspire a consuming passion of those that will become its greats and an addicting drug for the scrapbooking Mom alike.
One conclusion is quickly made, there is no right or wrong way, no matter what the rules or the books say. There is only learning to see what you want before you squeeze the trigger and figuring a way to make it happen. The advice is myriad and bewilderingly confusing from a thousand different voices all seeming to tell you the opposite… So do you turn the subject to face the setting sun our do you put the setting sun behind them? Both is the maddeningly correct answer…
There are the times though that one has to learn the limitations of the gear they are shooting with and learn to work around it. Figuring ways to get those pesky and rebellious subjects to turn into a light source in low light conditions, creatively convincing them to pose so you can get the light just right in their face… All in a valiant effort to hide that you don’t have the newest camera that captures those amazing low light shots with ease.
In the end there are times when you simply have to say, “I can’t capture the Sports Illustrated looking shot of my son running in for a touchdown in the championship Middle School night game. I just don’t have the gear to accomplish it.” Instead look for the opportunities to make the most of the gear you have until you have better in the future or gasp, you might consider hiring a professional if it matters deeply to you. Wink… Keep shooting because: “It’s not about the gear, until it is all about the gear.”
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