"Your work is beautiful. What do you shoot with?"
It's always the same - an annoying and almost insulting request from a guest at a wedding who really doesn't care what you use, but wants to tell you what they have. It's the same if you're in an office and somebody on Monday morning asks, "So, how was your weekend?" Are they really interested in your answer or waiting to pounce on the opportunity to tell you how their weekend was?
But here's an interesting sidebar to the issue...As much as we're insulted by the public assuming great images are the result of great gear, photographers themselves are often the worst offenders. New and veteran shooters alike, latch on to the idea that a new lens, for example, is going to change the look of their work. Sadly, the real challenge is often in their skill set.
So, here we are in the first quarter of the year and with so many trade shows and conventions coming up you're going to get hit with NGF, New Gear Fever. Technology is changing all the time and I'm totally absorbed in my new LUMIX GH3 and the size, weight and quality of shooting mirrorless. This new technology is amazing and if I was a working pro, I'd be doing everything I could to add hybrid to my bag of tricks. Another example is Profoto's B1 off camera flash or as Bobbi Lane called it, "The game changer!"
I'm not suggesting you shouldn't buy new gear. I just want you to be sure you're buying gear you really need. So, let's build a short list of qualifiers, before you screw up your cash flow and invest in new gear...
- Do you really know how to use everything you already own?
- Do you understand all the bells and whistles of your current camera?
- Do you vary your exposures, taking full advantage of shooting wide open and playing around with a narrow depth of field?
- When you look at the last 100 images you captured do they all look the same?
- Is there gear that will help you expand the services you offer your client base?
- Are you looking to add new products to your mix of skills, like hybrid technology?
I know this sounds basic, but so often photographers convince themselves they need new gear when what they really need are a few workshops in creativity and inspiration to help them fine-tune and expand their skill set. Remember too, NOTHING changes without good marketing support.
Talk to any industry icon who's been around a few years and they'll each have a story to tell you about one piece of gear they were convinced they needed that wound up collecting dust and killing their cash flow when they needed it most. Everyone has one piece of gear they bought that should have been rented first...and there's one more point this morning.
Before you make a big investment in new gear, rent it first. You wouldn't by a car without a test drive. Well, then why would you spend almost as much on a new exotic lens without trying it out first? Most of the major camera stores have rental departments with everything from cameras to lenses to studio lights. Plus, they've got the expertise behind the counter to help you better define your equipment needs versus the end result of what you're trying to accomplish.
Remember, you can have the greatest equipment in the world, but if you're not shooting from the heart you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings. And the next time somebody says, "So what do you shoot with?" Just smile and answer, "My heart and my eyes!"
Illustration Credit: © Stoyan Haytov - Fotolia.com