Maybe Wait on Buying a New Camera

What camera should I buy? Which is the best camera? These are the sorts of questions that are frequently asked by budding photographers. Even seasoned photographers are occasionally tempted to upgrade their cameras with the hope that it’ll help them take better images. But does gear really matter that much? Photographer Pye Jirsa shares his views:

It’s Within You

“When¬† you don’t have the knowledge and education to actually utilize a camera, it’s basically going to yield you with higher resolution garbage.”

Think about the two examples that Jirsa shares:

  • Is getting a new pair of sneakers going to make you a better basketball player?
  • By spending tens of thousands of dollars on a stove, do you become a better chef?

The answer is a definite no. Similarly, a brand new and an expensive camera won’t make you a better photographer. It all depends on how much you learn, practice, and develop your skills.

Camera Companies are Great Marketers

In order to survive in the market, camera companies come up with new models almost every other year. The upgrades may be merely incremental but they can make you think that you need the latest and the greatest to take the best images. That’s how they work.

Can you find any difference in the following images taken by a $1,000 camera, and a $5,000 camera setup?

image comparison of cheap and expensive setup

The following image was lit by a smartphone flashlight.

portrait lit with smartphone light

Invest in Learning

If you haven’t figured out yet, it really doesn’t matter what camera you buy. Instead of pondering which brand or model of camera to buy, invest your time and resources into learning the workings of a camera. This will help you in capturing the image that you have in mind. Once you have a good understanding of the exposure triangle, here are some things you need to pay attention to.

Composition

Go beyond the rule of thirds. Compose with other dynamic techniques like diagonals, leading lines, symmetry, patterns, triangles, and circular patterns to name a few. Better composition draws viewers’ attention and keeps them engaged. With good composition,¬†images turn out great no matter what camera you use.

triangles in composition

Lighting

Photography is all about capturing light. Whether you’re a natural light shooter,or a studio photographer, you need to understand light. Learn where you need to add light or remove it. This is again independent of any camera you buy but makes a ton of difference when it comes to results.

adding lighting for natural effect

Pose and Direct Your Subjects

“This is one of those things that can never be outsourced to the camera.”

You cannot stress enough how important it is for a photographer to interact with their subjects. Learn to see what kind of pose works best for your subjects and your story, where you can place them to make them look their best, how you can flatter them. This is something that is unique to every photographer and has nothing to do with the camera.

posing your subjects

Post-Processing

Pressing the shutter release button merely gets the job done. Post-processing is an integral part of the photography process; it’s important that you learn how to process your images to add value to them.

“Post-processing is as much of an art form as the actual capture and production of the image you’re trying to create.”

wedding portrait before editing

wedding portrait after processing

How you process your images is unique to you. Give your images your own signature look so that you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Once you have a grasp of these basic topics, Jirsa suggests that you move up a level. Learn advanced topics like color theory, get a hold of a specific genre of photography its nuances. While learning everything is never possible, get a hold of as much skills as possible and implement them in your practice.

There will be a point where you are able to capture an image that is a representation of what’s in your mind. If you feel that the camera is holding you back from achieving your vision, that’s when it’s worth the upgrade.

If you invest in educating yourself, you will have something that will last you a lifetime. But if you invest in gear, you’ll only gain something that works for a couple of years. Only upgrade if you believe that it will speed up your workflow or if you need that extra image quality for your clients.

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