I have to start by saying I am just as guilty as anyone when it comes to this subject, but I have finally seen the error in my ways. Over the last 3-4 years of making digital images I have migrated between a few different cameras. From cheap to mildly expensive. From film to digital. I have by no means “seen it all” but I have a good taste of what’s out there. As with a lot of new hobbies that you start, it is easy to get wrapped up in the gear and tools side of the hobby, which is normal because you are not only learning about new things, but you get to play with them too! Over the years I have ooh’d and ahh’d over certain camera bodies, lenses, tripods, etc. In your head you know that buying a newer, more expensive, body or lens doesn’t make you a better photographer, but maybe it will help right? I think a lot of us feel this way when starting out, “if only I had X, I would make such better images.” Often times, the shiny part of the new piece of gear overtakes logic and you end up with the new item, and yet your photos remain unchanged. How could that have happened?
I recently took a Black & White film photography class at a local college. This class was my first real experience with film. After shooting various assigned projects, we went through the steps of manually processing the film, and then making prints in the dark room. Shooting film was a whole new world; you were still making images, but in a very different way. With digital cameras, the camera does a lot of the heavy lifting for you, but when shooting film, every single aspect of your end result print is 100% your doing. From manual focus, to shutter speed, to proper processing times with the chemistry, to exposure times for photo paper, it’s all you. This class was the beginning of my “new vision of photography”. That sounds kind of weird and deep, but what I mean is the way in which I approach photography as an art form.
The Internet and the age of digital has opened the flood gates to everyone to be creative (or not so creative). I have taken a lot of inspiration from fantastic photographers and artists that I would never know about if it weren’t for places like Flickr and SmugMug. This also means that “competition” is vastly increased when it comes to people finding your particular images interesting. This is where technique and style come into play the most. Anyone can pick up a cameras and press the shutter release, but it take someone with a highly tuned and developed eye to make that image wonderful. No piece of gear will help you tune your creative eye. The next time you are going to do research online about a new tripod or camera body, go outside instead and shoot 10 or 20 photos of things you would never normally shoot.
Longish story short, gear doesn’t matter; forget about it. Anytime you find yourself saying that you could make a better photo if only you had XYZ piece of gear, you are only making excuses. Trust me, I am speaking to myself as much as any of you, so don’t take it personal. I even removed all the gear I was lusting over from my Amazon wish list. I am going to focus on developing my skills over the next 12 months, and just make the absolute best images I can with what I have!
Film. Digital. $20 camera. $20,000 camera. 1MP. 50MP. None of these will change your images, only your vision will.