This isn't a new topic for me to write about, but it's so relevant, especially this year since there are hundreds of announcements about new products from Photokina going on right now.
There are few things a photographer can be asked that top the irritation scale like this question:
"Your work is beautiful. What do you shoot with?"
Usually, the request is from a guest at a wedding who doesn't care what camera you're using. They either want to tell you what they have or want to pick your brain on what you think of something they're getting ready to buy. Or, they honestly think if they get the same camera, their images will match or even top yours!
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 the worst offenders. New and veteran shooters alike latch on to the idea a new lens or camera body, 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 coming up to the fourth quarter of 2016. At all of the conventions and trade shows over the next six months, you're going to see new products, many of them announced this week at Photokina. And, somewhere walking down an aisle at PPE, IUSA, WPPI or ShutterFest it's going to hit you - just like that craving for a good steak (apologies to my Vegan friends) you're going to get hit with NGF, New Gear Fever.
Technology is changing all the time, and I know there's some gear out that really will make your images better, but not if you don't pay attention to your skill set. For example, I'm totally absorbed in playing with mirror-less these days, especially anything in Panasonic's LUMIX family. This new technology is amazing, and if I were a working pro, I'd be doing everything I could to also add hybrid to my bag of tricks as well. Another example is Profoto's new Pro10 and their Off-Camera Flash Systems or as Bobbi Lane called them originally, "The game changer!" Then there are new lenses from Tamron, and the list goes on and on.
I'm not suggesting you shouldn't buy new gear. New gear is important, and just the three companies I mentioned above are helping artists raise the bar on their quality every day. However, let's make sure you're buying gear you need. Here's a short list of qualifiers before you screw up your cash flow and invest in new gear.
I know this sounds basic, but so often photographers convince themselves they need new gear when what they need are new classes/workshops first. They need creativity and inspiration to help them fine-tune and expand their skill set.
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 to this post.
Before you make a serious investment in new gear, rent it first. Most of you wouldn't buy a car without a test drive. Well, then why would buy any new gear 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 hoping 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 asks, "So what do you shoot with?" Just smile and answer, "My heart and my eyes!"
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Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.