On The Topic Of Letting Gear Define You

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In the early days of my time in photography I was worried about gear.

I’d let gear, or the lack thereof, define me.
Conversely, I’d let the gear of others define them.

“What are you shooting with?”

I’d lost count of how many times this was asked during conversations with other photographers.

Most of the time I’d have my entry level Canon 750D with the 18-55 kit lens. Them… they’d have their pro-grade 5Ds, 16-35s, full filter kits and a myriad of other cool accessories.

How could I compete with that?
There was no question over who was going to produce to best work. At least that’s what I thought.

Fast forward a few years and here we are now.

My answer to the same question.
A lot of the time, it’s still the 18-55 f/3.6 kit lens.

The body? The old 750D took a little swim in the ocean (along with a brand new 11-16mm lens), so I’ve had to upgrade to the slightly better specced 800D.

But it’s not like I don’t have better gear.

In terms of lenses, I’ve got my nifty fifty 1.8 and a Tamron 70-200 2.8, both amazing lenses and superior in terms of quality compared to the 18-55 kit lens. However, neither are well suited to wide angle landscape photography on a cropped frame sensor. At least, not in and around Sydney anyway.

So, the relatively entry level camera and very much entry level lens still sit at the top of my list. The only difference is that they no longer define me, or my work.

Gear doesn’t, and shouldn’t, define you

I see a lot of beginners fall into the same trap I had.

Better gear must equal better photographs, right?

And that assumption can be an absolute motivation killer. Worse, when you do get your hands on that “better” gear, the experience never really matches up with expectations. It doesn’t automatically make you a better photographer. Your images don’t automatically become better.

Skills, knowledge, vision, and an understanding of the gear at your disposal is what makes a good photographer. It’s what makes a good photograph.

The gear that you have should not define you. And the gear that others have should not define them. Lesser gear does not mean a lesser photographer, and greater gear does not equal a greater photographer.

Why do we fall into this trap?

I guess as human beings, we have a tendency to want what others have. So we think we need that $10k camera that the guy getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars is using. We think we need that $8k lens because the girl using it just won an award for photographer of the year.

And I think the photographic community and wider population is also partly to blame. A lot of the time when a photographer produces a great image, they aren’t necessarily praised on their skills. Instead, they’re often praised on their gear.

On a daily basis when scrolling through social media, I see comments like:
“You must have a really good camera”
“What gear did you use”
“What camera settings were you using?”

Heads up, it was the person behind the camera that created that kickass photograph, not the camera. The camera was merely a tool.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with asking about gear and settings, but they shouldn’t be the center of praise.

Gear doesn’t, and shouldn’t, define you.

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