It's not all about gear

When I first started in this art form, digital was just coming up and lots of really professional and tenured photographers were starting to switch over. It was a constant battle between Canon or Nikon and many even winced at having to put their medium format cameras on the shelf until digital backs were more widely available.

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Some didn’t make the switch at all. Some swore by one brand or another. But I’m here to tell you IT DOESN’T MATTER ABOUT YOUR GEAR.

What does matter then Jackie? Let me tell you: Experience, practice, and the willingness to always learn and be receptive to criticism.

I’m going to blow your mind by telling you whats in my camera bag. You might even laugh and say what the how? Or you might say, oh it makes sense. Either way you’ll be surprised, for sure.

My gear:


  • 28-105mm F/3.5-5.6

  • 580 EX ii flash

  • Cheapo extra flash that can be slaved or TTL

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Yep, that’s it. Every image you see here on my website was made with that gear. And before a few years ago, it was a Canon 5D, the original one, which I still have two if anyone is looking to buy. While it’s good to keep one for backup, that’s all they are now. Just cameras I lug around “just in case”. I also have a tripod and I’d be surprised if I actually ever pulled it out to use it.

But all the gear listed above is what is in my bag and I love it. Keeps my gear light, easy to access, and I seriously love the 85 and could honestly shoot everything with it if I had the choice.

Now let’s get into what DOES matter when it comes to photography.

KNOW YOUR GEAR AND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

If you’re just starting out and are worried that you’ll be judged by others, clients, photographers, neighbors, your dog, that you don’t have all the top gear, or that you’re still shooting on a semi professional system, let me be the first to tell you that IT DOESN’T MATTER if you don’t actually learn how to use your gear.

Knowing your gear in and out until you don’t even have to look down at the buttons is what makes you great at the creative side of things. Sure, tech is cool and trust me, I’d love to have all the latest gear to play with but it’s not the reality and honestly, let’s be real, expensive.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

Photography, at least not professional photography, is not cheap. So it’s best to really get to know gear and even rent if you need to until you’re sure what gear works for you for the type of photography you want to do.

The only way that you’ll understand what the differences are between a 35mm and an 85mm is by shooting with them. You’ll see subtle differences and perhaps your style doesn’t include a 16mm wide angle lens. Perhaps you shoot in a studio and feel like a solid 24-70 is your sweet lens.

Perhaps you’re a natural light photographer and don’t need anything fancy in terms of flash. Perhaps you are all good with a reflector and some good light.

Maybe you’re starting out and have the kit 18-55mm lens. Use that lens with everything its got and see how far you can push it’s limits.

Get so in tune with your gear that you are not phased when work comes your way, you know you can rely on the gear you have and the set up you’ve created for yourself.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

My gear works for me. Because I mostly photograph families, children and events. Sure a 70-200mm would be nice, but personally I’ve shot weddings with that lens and it’s painful for my hand after a few hours. Plus, most beach weddings are small and intimate and I don’t even think I’d use it all that month. So for me, it’s not on my wish list.

My gear is light, easy to move around and change, and more than anything, still gives me the results that I’m looking for. It’s what works for me, find what works for you with what you have or want in the future.

PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE

It doesn’t matter if you have all the latest gear. It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent learning Photoshop. The only way that you can make your gear work for you, is to practice and gain experience.

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Shoot, learn, watch other photographers and how they work, read tutorials, get insights into how people do and create the images that you like, try recreating (not copying) and learning light. Ask friends to pose for you, try different lighting situations, use different backgrounds, reflectors, creative ideas to get unique style photos that are all your own.

Shadow another photographer. Send them emails, ask questions, connect with other photographers, build a community, and shoot, shoot, shoot as much as possible.

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That’s the great thing about digital now, you can shoot until your finger goes numb and if you don’t like any of it, erase it and start over. Only when you feel like your gear is holding you back is it time to start thinking about what you can change, if you have the money. If not, then think of unique ways to use your gear to get different photos or the photos that you’re trying to create.

NEVER STOP LEARNING

I started photography when I was 19 years old. I’m 34 now and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new about photography, lighting, gear, the creative aspect, or the industry as a whole.

There is always something to learn and that’s what makes it so fascinating! Which is always why I write articles and tutorials because if i can pass down some kind of knowledge I’ve learned over the past few years, then I will.

CREATIVITY

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I can’t end this post without talking about this aspect of photography that has nothing to do with gear. You can have all the gear in the world but if you don’t expand your creativity or at least attempt things, try new things, add ideas to your list of ideas, or explore that side of yourself, your photography will not flourish it it’s true potential.

Creativity can be found in all different formats and doesn’t have to be to actually taking photos. Some photographers are inspired and get their creative juices from books, movies, music, paintings, experience, personal struggles/triumphs, family, etc. There is so much floating around that can move us and keep our creativity flowing.

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This doesn’t mean you are to compare yourself to someone else. NOT AT ALL. Creativity is personal and it is an intimate experience with yourself. Your photography is an expression of that and it can push your limits.

Just because you photograph portraits doesn’t mean that you can’t do macro photography as well. Or mixed media with photography and other types of art. Allow your ideas to be big, crazy, and creative. Allow yourself to really dig deep and get it out and see how you can bring it to life.

No amount of gear can bring out your creativity.


Okay, I know that this week’s post is a little fluff but I can’t even begin to tell you how many photographers and artists I come across who are so bent on the fact that they can’t move forward with their craft because they don’t have the right “gear”. Let’s be real: It isn’t just about gear. A camera is a tool, that’s it.

Photography is much more than that, it’s YOU. Your drive, your creativity, how much you practice, the experience you accumulate, and how you express your creativity.