Picture by: Joel Eye 

Let’s get something clear about cameras, the gear and being a photographer. All this stuff IS REALLY FUCKING EXPENSIVE. Before you go buy the most expensive camera you can afford (like I did), then DON’T. Sit down and read this first. – Below is some wisdom that I wished I had known before I started my photography journey.

Us photographers are regularly asked what camera we use, what we recommend, what to but next etc. So I want to quickly chat about the misconception of the photograph, cameras and buying power. There are lots of blogs/vlogs on gear (YouTube, Amazon, to FlickR, Strobist) and this post is not aimed to compete with them. However, I will add in some links below as resources for you to go check out.

If you’re worried what the crowd thinks about what you are shooting with (whilst you are shooting) then now is the time to leave this post. It’s not really for you.

There seems to be so little chat about what really is the best way to spend your money when buying gear. Personally, I really believe this is the best and most useful tip I have to share if you’re new to photography, looking to buy new gear or had to restart all over.

 

A few years ago, I was on the beach shooting the sunset (Khoa Lak, Thailand) where I took the above picture with my Canon 5D mrk III. I walked up to the woman in the picture (not a model) to show her.  The German lady looked at the picture at the back of my camera and she responded “That is a good camera”. She couldn’t really care less about anything else about how the picture was taken. A little annoyed by her response, I walked away a bit deflated. So I returned to my friend, she’s sat on the sun bed enjoying the view, scrolled through my pictures and said in turn “Wow! This is such a good camera”. Grrr, uffffff….. <insert screaming noises, profanity & one sided conversations in my head>.

The above story is 100% true and the underlying truth is, that these responses is how the general public sees photography. Be it a good picture or a bad picture is not the point. But most people think that it’s the camera that makes the difference. The bigger, the more expensive, the better! WRONG. We are all the general public before we become an amateur, seasoned or a professional photographer. We all start somewhere at the starting line with this misconception.

We all rush into a shop or go online and buy the most expensive camera we can buy. This notion is backwards, it makes no sense and the salesman won’t tell you this either.

FACT 1: Photography is about light.

FACT 2: …….Actually, photography is only about light.

FACT 3: To make an enjoyable picture you need to understand light. Technically the most important aspects of a good photograph is:

1. Light —-> 2. Lens —-> 3. Camera Body.

A good photographer is not defined by what camera he or she uses. It’s the artful eye that makes the difference. There are 3 main things that technically make a good picture. The light (or lack of light) the lens (that channels the light), and then the camera body (which records the light). The camera body comes third in the line of importance of equipment. You don’t need the best or most expensive camera to take good photograph. Know how to use light, the gear and what’s at hand.

  1. Light:
    • TIP: Buy a good flash and gear that allows you to take the flash off the camera. When you start to use flash photography, there’s a phenomenal difference between no flash, flash stuck on the camera and off camera lighting. Most photographs that people go “WOW” to are done with flash photography. Yes even a lot of NatGeo pictures. – Pretty much all my photographs (that aren’t street) are all done with off camera lighting. Check out David Hobby’s site: strobist.com & Joe McNally’s Book for more information about that shining stuff.
    • NOTE:  You don’t own light. You learn to see it, manipulate it and replicate it. Understand how light works (flash and natural) and you can make great pictures.
  2. Lens:
    • TIP 1: Spend the largest bulk of your money on QUALITY lenses. I can’t stress this enough. It’s better to have the right gear to use on the right occasion, than to have a one ridiculously expensive camera and only 1 lens (you’d be surprised how many people do this). For example if you’re into landscape or street photography, buy wide enough lenses like a 24mm (or even a 14mm) a 35, a 50 and an 85 (or a 24mm to a 70mm for and maybe an 85mm lens). This is much more useful than a kickass body but not the right lens to shoot your subject with. I’d rather have a lower tier body and kick ass lenses any day.
      Personally I only shoot in primes (that’s just me) and they range from Canon’s cheaper USM to Canon’s top of the range L lenses. You might like or require zooms and each type (primes and zooms) has it’s positive and negative side. Buy as many of the best lenses as you can afford and that meets your needs. If you want to learn more about glass then check out Ken Rockwell’s reviews. Also check out Dustin Abott’s YouTube Channel and if you want something a little more basic check out Christopher Frost’s YouTube Channel too. Also check out Karl Taylor’s YouTube post about buying second hand lenses.
    • Note: When I buy a new item I go crazy researching it. I read and watch every YouTube post/review and every Amazon.com review on it to to decide if it’s right for me. Why Amazon? It’s not a photo geek site, but the reviews are easy to read and it offers an all around good advice from pros to amateurs. – I am not interested in crazy pixel obsessions.
    • Relationship Counselling 1: You marry your lenses. It is a life long relationship and they are with you forever; so count this tip as relationship advice.
  3. Camera Body:
    • TIP 1: Buy a mid range camera or second hand higher tier. I spent over $2,600 dollars on my new camera and truth be told all the pictures on my site could have been shot with my Canon 450D (an entry level cropped sensor camera) too.  But because I spent most my money on the body, it took me a lot longer to buy the lenses and lights that I actually needed for my work. Learn from my mistake; I should have bought a 2nd hand 5d mrk II.
    • TIP 2: Don’t sell your camera body if you are upgrading. – If you are replacing an entry or mid level camera body (for example) then don’t sell it. Just in case your upgrade is faulty, breaks down or is broken. Besides, what you make selling it isn’t worth the loss. For example my Canon 5D was dropped in the ocean by my dad’s girlfriend (yes by mistake) and I had to go 5 months without my baby. It’s always better to keep a backup on hand just in case.
    • Relationship Counselling 2Whilst you marry your lenses, the body is the mistress. They come and go.
  4. Computers:
    • TIP: To quickly touch on it, pretty much all computers can run photoshop and Google’s Nik software these days. You don’t need the latest and most expensive model; just get one with a good quality screen and make sure it’s calibrated right. It will do the job until you are making enough money to replace it. – Unless you are doing video save the budget and buy more lenses or light modifiers.

Round Up & Notes:

  1. Basically I am saying, don’t be a gear head and buy the most expensive and gear. Don’t feel you like you have to have everything under the sun to make a good picture. I’ve seen enthusiasts with much more expensive gear than me take terrible pictures. Having top of the line gear doesn’t guarantee you a great shot and Henri Cartier-Bresson was taking amazing pictures with what might be counted as a hunk of junk these days.
  2. Sure there are lots of sites out there that you can go read/watch about gear and info. Some are more technical and some less, but my site and my blog isn’t for this purpose. – It’s to explain what I would do if I was to restart and what I wish I had of know before. To understand that a good shot doesn’t come from what type of camera you have. – But from light and understanding it. Even Apple’s new marketing campaign emphasis the point that you can shoot great shots with just an iPhone.
  3. Later at some point, I will write a blog as to what I own, so keep tuned for that.
  4. No. I am not promoting the concept of having mistress’. 🙂

Kerim