First Byte: It's just a fun experiment. First Bytes are 1-2 minute summaries and suggestions that tie directly to a specific blog post. I'm hoping they're helpful in expanding the topic of the post itself.
Sadly, so many of you think the gear makes the photographer, when it's just the opposite. Jose Villa, one of the finest wedding photographers in the industry, has been known to capture some of his wedding images with a $30 Holga. (The light leaks on every Holga are different, adding even more to the mystique of the results you get with this camera.) At the legendary extreme, I had the privilege of spending the day with Richard Avedon years ago and he pulled one of the original Polaroid SX-70 cameras out of his pocket to capture pictures of his exhibit in Tucson. Photographers create the images NOT the gear!
If you've got the bug for new equipment, let's come up with some key points BEFORE you screw up your cash flow and at least qualify your purchase.
- Do you absolutely need new gear? I don't care if you're honest with me, but be honest with yourself. Years ago I heard Vincent LaForet speak about some of his early work and the never-ending challenge of the lenses he owned. If it wasn't long enough he just moved in closer!
- Buying vs renting or leasing? If you buy, you permanently tie up cash, but if you rent it you've got a chance to confirm the gear is really going to do what you hope it will before depleting your cash. And, if you lease it, you're utilizing somebody elses cash without depleting yours.
- Have you checked your network? Whatever you're about to add to your camera bag, check with a few people in your network and get a little feedback on what you're thinking about buying.
- Checked with your local camera store? I know everybody loves to shop on line these days, but when it comes to really understanding your gear - nothing beats the knowledge of the person behind the counter. Get to know your local photographic retailer and I'm betting you'll actually save money in the long run. Remember, your retailer knows all the local reps and often has the ability to get you a level of support you'd never anticipate.
- How about a partnership? If there's an exotic lens for example and it's out of your price range, consider buying it together with another photographer who you're friendly with. Exotic lenses have limited applications and in turn often have a very low usage rate, allowing you to share gear without a timing crisis.
- When is the best time to buy? My advice is right now, if you've been honest and considered all the points above. Why? Because this is a Photokina year and the largest photographic show in the world just took place in Germany two weeks ago. That means there's new gear being introduced now and the retailers and mfgs are going to be working to make room for new products just starting to ship.
Most important of all new gear isn't going to replace hard work to build a solid skill set. Stay focused on your education and practice, practice, practice. But remember, as good buddy Roberto Valenzuela has said,
"Practice doesn't make perfect. What if you're practicing it wrong? Only perfect practice make perfect!"