The Most Important Thing

Why do we do photography?

Some of us want to capture images from a once-in-a-lifetime trip or event.

Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto, Japan

Others hope to document their kids growing up.

Portrait of Baby & Mom Laughing

Artists aspire to create art.

Palm Tree in the Wind

But no matter our photographic subjects, we’re all aiming for one thing: the end result.

How each of us gets to our end image varies a lot based on things like how much money we have to buy (the usually expensive) gear or how willing we are to carry around whatever gear we happen to buy.

But here’s the thing. It’s not really about the gear. It’s about the most important thing. And that thing is

You.

Before any of the gear enters the frame, so to speak, you are the one who will be controlling it all. You are the one who will be “seeing” a scene and translating it into pixels or onto film.

The camera and gear are nothing without you.

Some people think that it’s professional-quality gear that makes a great image. And of course I can’t argue with part of that.

High-quality lenses definitely play their part in helping you get tack-sharp, clear images a good portion of the time. Consumer-quality lenses and camera phones can’t really compete and aren’t always gonna perform like you want them to.

But it also depends on how you define a “great” image. Is the content just as important as the technical qualities of the photo? I’d say yes, and maybe even more so.

My point is that there are plenty of gearheads who’ll insist you need a bunch of stuff in order to take good photos. They’ll say you can never have too many lenses, accessories, bags or whatever to get the job done right. I say that’s malarkey.

When I first got started in photography it seemed like I couldn’t read an article that wasn’t telling me I had to get something new. There will always be new products coming out and, guess what? This one is even better and more necessary than the one before! You gotta have it!

Luckily, I didn’t have the funds to buy all this extra crap and so instead I did a ridiculous amount of research prior to buying anything photo related. Photo equipment isn’t cheap and I needed to spend my money very wisely.

The extra time spent researching what I actually needed (very few items) versus what was available for me to buy (the whole world!) was well worth it. And instead of feeling bummed that I couldn’t afford the best gear (and a lot of it), I went to work on other things.

And by other things I mean my

Vision. Style. Art.

Sure you can have the fancy gear, but at any given moment you can only really be using one camera and lens at a time. So who needs a bunch of lenses that end up sitting in their bag most of the time?

Deciding to make do with what you have and focusing on your style is way more important than worrying about the awesome lenses you want but can’t afford. Your ability to see beautiful images no matter what gear you have is going to be more important in the long run.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s not the camera that takes great photos, it’s the photographer. And it’s so true. Give a pro a little camera phone and you may be amazed at the awesomeness coming out of that little tiny thing. Give an amateur professional camera gear and there’s a good chance you won’t be surprised at the um, well, perhaps less-than-stellar images they produce.

It’s easy to get tricked. I fall into the trap once in a while of thinking I need more stuff. I do covet faster lenses and some fun accessories. But limiting myself has been really helpful in forcing me to work with what I have. My guess is it’ll do the same thing for you.

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