As of writing this article, I’ve been shooting portraits for about 5 years, and I still have a strong passion for photography learning. One very important lesson I’ve learned over this timeframe is expensive photography gear doesn’t make you a better photographer.
Have you ever heard the saying “The best camera is the one you have with you?” I’ve actually heard it from new and old photographers and I find this statement to be very true.
In this article, let’s review some of the myths that photographers tell themselves and how expensive photography gear doesn’t make you better a portrait photography.
Exposing the myth: Expensive gear makes you a better photographer
I truly believe that this is a myth that needs to be addressed especially for beginners. Expensive gear does not make you a more professional photographer. I’m not sure how this came around, but I’ve heard this question many times online and in forums.
Remember every professional photographer started somewhere and don’t think that they started out with the most expensive gear.
Even though everyone might have their own opinion, I still think it makes beginner photographers think they have to spend thousands of dollars on expensive gear just to get into the photography industry. This is just not the case.
The Sony a7 Mirrorless Camera: My very first camera
For transparency, my first camera was the original Sony a7 mirrorless camera paired with the 28-70mm kit lens. I researched Canon and Nikon, but decided on Sony for myself. It was on sale at my local Best Buy for $700 and the camera had already been out for around 2 years.
That was the start of my investment into photography. I eventually bought a camera bag and other accessories like a battery grip and extra batteries so it’s safe to say I spent around $1000 for over a few months time.
There were cheaper options at the time, but I knew I wanted to start with a mirrorless camera and not a DSLR. This was my choice even though my wife was shooting with the Canon 6D mark 1 at the time.
Building my portfolio with limited features
I didn’t have continuous eye auto-focus like I have now. I didn’t have IBIS (In-Body Image stabilization) like I have now. There was not subject tracking and I didn’t have an off camera flash strobe to help with lighting. The Sony a7 camera was limited but I knew how to get the best images because I practiced and learned the limitations of my camera.
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I built my portfolio on this camera and I still use some of those photos today because they are some of my favorite. I eventually invested in the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss lens and I just kept shooting. T camera was years old when I purchased it, but I still made the best out of my investment. Check out my review and portrait shoot with the Sony 55mm lens.
My main camera and backup camera today
Years laters, I now shoot with the Sony a7riii and the Sony a6400 mirrorless camera. Yes I shoot with both full-frame and crop sensor cameras. I’ve invested in better lenses, and other equipment as I have progressed over the years.
I purchase mostly second hand and RARELY ever buy anything new. I use MPB.com to sell my unused gear, and I also purchase from them when I’m ready to upgrade.
When I get asked by photographers about my current Sony a7riii camera, I explain the camera is a creative tool. Like a laptop or computer is a tool. It can’t make you more creative. It can only assist you in creating your content and bringing your work together into a final form.
I purchased the camera second hand and I traded in 2 other cameras for this single Sony a7riii. It was an offer I couldn’t pass up and I made it work with my budget. I hadn’t upgraded my gear for about 2 years so I knew it was time to et something new. The Sony a7riii had been out for about 1.5 years so It was already old in technology terms and cheaper than the launch price.
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iPhone photographers & smartphone creatives
Smartphones are becoming better and better every year. Ever notice that the largest upgrade made too many phones every year is the camera? This is because it is often the one piece of equipment that everyone has on them at all times.
We are a generation of instant gratification so we take pictures and share our memories on social media in real-time.
Many phones now come with both front facing and back facing cameras, and some feature better image quality than older DSLR cameras. Some phones like the iPhone shoot 4K video and high resolution HD. This is better than some older full-frame DSLR cameras.
Keep in mind your creativity will set you apart and not the gear you use. The best camera is the one you have on you.
As a final note on camera phones, consider there have been more and more magazine covers that have been shot with just iPhones. This is insane to consider but it shows the progress in quality and standards that are being changed every year.
What I want you to keep in mind
Expensive gear doesn’t think for you and can’t tell you the best angles to shoot in portrait photography. Now don’t get me wrong, having cool new features in a camera can help spark your creativity but it will never be the thing that makes you creative.
Investing in online learning
If I could go back and start over, I would invest more in online photography learning and not so much gear. I know I had G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) but I quickly realized that I needed to break the habit.
This is when I started investing in more online classes and taking tutorials from my favorite photographers to learn better workflows and better editing techniques.
If you’re interested in learning about portrait photography tutorials, check out the ones I took from PROEDU.com.
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Capture memories not just photos
When you think of portrait photography, I recommend thinking of it as a way to capture memories in time and not just a photo. These memories often mean the world to the subject so capturing these with your closest piece of gear will always bring a smile to someones face.
We don’t always have the time to pull out our gear for pick shoots, so keep remember that your phone has a camera and it can mean the difference between missing a shot or capturing the moment.
Photography is about connection not expensive gear
Making a close connection with your subject, especially in portrait photography, is a good way to get some great shots.
This is one of the reasons I love shooting lifestyle photography. Working with models in a great environment and letting them act natural and flow-pose lets me get some amazing shots for my portfolio. Shots that I can’t wait to share.
Taking lots of photos is not always the best
Digital cameras come with external storage. This means you’ll be using SD cards that allow for hundreds if not thousands of photos to be captures. Just depends on how you shoot. While this is great, sometimes you only need a few great shots to make a session completely worth it.
While everyone shoots in different modes, my recommendations are to slow down and enjoy the experience of learning and being creative.
So what is the best camera you have with you
Your eyes will always be the best camera in my opinion. Learn to see and capture emotions and tell stories. Second to that is the camera you have on you. This could be a smartphone, a film camera, a mirrorless camera or even a DSLR.
The point is to have fun when shooting and be as creative as you can. Grow as a photographer and don’t be afraid to break boundaries and grow as an artist.
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An expensive camera is not going to make you a better photographer. It won’t make up for having good judgement in setting up your shots. It won’t think for you and tell your subject how to pose.
These are things you should learn on your own and skills that will guide you to better portrait shoots. Think about expanding your communication skills and learning how to edit your photos in a more detailed way.
All together just keep in mind that your eyes and your mind will be the ultimate factor in differentiating you from the competition. Happy shooting!
Author - Jason The Creative
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