Have you ever heard someone say “my pictures would be so much better if I had a camera like you or that photographer”? Perhaps you’re even guilty of saying these words yourself. This is a phrase that I see and hear quite often but is there any truth to it? Or is it just wishful thinking and ignorance?
Will a better camera really make you a better photographer? Will your images instantly become amazing? I’m sorry to say that they won’t. In fact, camera gear doesn’t really matter.
Ok. Before anyone points me out, isn’t it a bit biased that I make this statement when I use top-quality cameras and lenses myself? Sure, but I haven’t always had professional equipment. Just like most other photographers, I started with a simple point-and-shoot camera.
With this article, I hope that I succeed in making you understand that the price of your gear doesn’t define you as a photographer; you’re perfectly able to capture top-notch, professional-looking images even with a point-and-shoot or budget DSLR camera.
The camera doesn’t define the photographer
Let me take you back a few years to the crack of dawn at Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. As the sun starts rising above the horizon, the serene pink-blossoming cherry trees dominate an otherwise hectic town. However, surrounding me are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists and photographers.
Right next to me is a man with a $4000 camera, a $2000 lens and a top-of-the-line tripod. After a few minutes, he looks over at my display and asks about the settings I’m using. I tell him what aperture, ISO and shutter speed I’m using and he applies the same settings to his camera.
Now, I’m using a 6-Stop ND Filter in order to achieve a long exposure but he is not. So what happens when he uses a 30-second shutter speed? The image becomes completely white. I’m not saying that he’s a bad photographer but it made me wonder why he owns such expensive camera gear when he doesn’t know how to use it.
My point is, just having an expensive professional camera doesn’t mean that you’re a better photographer than someone with an entry-level camera. The camera doesn’t define you as a photographer. Skilled photographers are able to capture a good image with the equipment at hand because they know how to use it and, most importantly, understand the fundamentals of photography.
Learn the Basics
The biggest favor you can give yourself as a beginning photographer is to learn the basics first. Study how the ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture work together. Read about compositions and techniques that will help you create more appealing photographs.
As you start understanding these fundamentals of photography, you’ll realize that owning a professional camera wouldn’t have helped you in the beginning and it wouldn’t have made your images better right away.
Why Professional Photographers Have Professional Gear
If the gear really isn’t that important, then why do most professional photographers use expensive and high-quality gear? Isn’t this a little contradictory?
It goes without saying; a $4000 camera is better than a $400 camera and a $2000 lens is better than a $200 lens. Still, the expensive equipment won’t make you capture better images. What it will do, however, is create higher-quality image files of the photographs you capture.
Due to better Dynamic Range, more megapixels and larger sensors, top-end cameras help you produce bigger, better files that you’re able to adjust more in post-processing without reducing image quality.
Since the files are considerably larger, you’re also able to produce bigger prints. High-ISO performance is also drastically better on a high-end camera, which is important especially for night photographers in the landscape photography niche.
When you’ve learned the fundamentals of photography your ambitions increase, you’ll feel the need to upgrade to a professional camera – not because your pictures get better but because you increase the quality of the files.
If you don’t want to do more than publish images online, you don’t need to buy the most expensive equipment. You’re not going to see a big difference between an entry-level and professional camera on a downsized .jpg file optimized for the web.
Examples With an Entry-Level Camera
I hope that I’ve succeeded in making you understand that purchasing an expensive professional camera won’t instantly make you a better photographer. In fact, it won’t have any impact at all to begin with.
It’s your knowledge and understanding of photography that will help you capture better images and that’s not something you can learn overnight; it takes time and dedication to master these skills.
While looking through my archives I came across these images that I captured several years ago with my entry-level DSLR camera and cheap lenses. These are images I’m still happy with and they wouldn’t look any different if I captured them with the equipment I have today.