On the importance of gear, and the significance of Vision

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” –Ansel Adams

I decided to write a post about something I never thought I would. Or at least, about something that I never thought I should, if you’d like.
But the fact is, that all the more lately, I keep hearing or reading about how ‘limited’ someone is by his “very limited gear”, or how “the lens is truly making the photo and my camera is just capturing it”, or how “I got this expensive camera, now I can take photos like the pros do!”.
I believe that this kind of mentality can be extremely misleading for new photographers, and I’ll try to explain why below…
(P.S.: Make sure you click on the links for maximum analysis on the subject)

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” –Henri Cartier-Bresson

So, let’s take Vivian Maier, for instance. She had a Rolleiflex camera with which she took over 100,000 photographs, all on film mind you. Her work is simply mind-blowingly stunning, and then some more if you consider the gear she had and the fact that she worked as a nanny for most of her life and had no studies in photography whatsoever.

“A camera is a tool, nothing more than that.” –Dave Allen

What’s that? Vivian could very well be one of a kind, you say? Ok, let’s take Joe McNally then. While he went to school to be a writer, when he hit New York he started off as a newspaper wire service photographer. Take a look at his bio, to grasp what an impact he had (and still has) on the world of photography. He says, and I quote; “The most important piece of equipment in your bag is your attitude”. I really doubt that Joe failed to deliver even once due to “limitations of gear”…

“The most important thing, about any photograph, is where you put the camera” –Joe McNally

Now, let’s be fair, Joe surely had all the equipment he wanted thrown at his feet from his employers, right?
Ok, so let’s stop giving specific persons as examples (although I could go on and on), and let’s check out what Fstoppers have to say about why your gear might be holding you back from being a better photographer.
Or read about what Chris Conti believes are the three things that contribute to truly stunning photography. Those three things are Subject, Skill, Vision. Did you read anything about better, expensive gear there? Nope, neither did I.

“We are the photographers, our ideas, our thoughts, our passion must come before the equipment. And the expense or complexity of the equipment is meaningless, if in the end we don’t create something from our hearts and minds” -Kent Weakley

What I am trying to say, to new photographers, is simply this.
Stop worrying about your gear, and start shooting with what you have. The more, the better.

“The important thing is not the camera but the eye.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt 

There’s is a catch though, and if you made it reading this far you’re probably starting to realise it by yourselves too. Well, gear doesn’t matter…. except when it does. Read Sohail Mamdani’s article on PetaPixel to understand why and most importantly, when. He’s stating that the phrase “Gear doesn’t matter” should be appended with “when you are starting out“, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Although I’ve already stated from the beginning that this is mainly written for new photographers starting out, the truth is that at some point you’ll have to move to better equipment. But this is a process that has to be conscious, justifiable and well-thought out. You have to know why you need the upgrade, as opposed to believing that the upgrade solely by itself will result in better photographs.
You may have also noticed that this post doesn’t contain any of my photos, as usual, and that is done intentionally.
I don’t want to come across sounding like I’m the expert on the matter (far from it, really), so I thought that the quotes from some famous photographers in lieu of photos was the best alternative.

In conclusion, I’d like to suggest (to whoever wants to take his photography a little further), some excellent reads;

  1. The Digital Photography Books, by Scott Kelby
  2. Complete Digital Photography, by Ben Long
  3. The Art of Photography – An approach to Personal Expression, by Bruce Barnbaum
  4. The Photographer’s Vision, by Michael Freeman
  5. Chasing the Light, by Ibarionex Perello

In addition, this very nice article by PetaPixel has a nice breakdown of the best free online Photography Courses and Tutorials.

As always, I’d like to hear your opinion on the subject, so feel free to leave a comment below!
Thank you for reading,
Until next post,


One thought on “On the importance of gear, and the significance of Vision

  1. Pingback: On building courage, strangers and flea markets | Through the Looking Glass

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