3 Reasons why your camera gear doesn't matter (and 1 time when it does)

There have been a lot of weighty discussions lately about gear. The Sensor Size War of 2019 is still raging online where ever you look. It’s all a big stupid, isn’t it? Here are my thoughts on the matter.

1. The final product is what matters

If a full frame camera, or a m43 — or your phone — can achieve the look that you want then it really doesn’t matter how you end up there. Just like making music is about the song at the end of the session, photography is about the photo at the end. If that photo moves you, makes you think or feel, then who cares what camera it was taken with?

I think the Internet is a wonderful resource. I try to learn something new from it every single day. FOR FREE. Seriously what a time to be alive? But I also think that rules are made, where there shouldn’t be rules. At least not so hard-and-fast rules anyway.

One person says “You MUST have this camera for this style of shooting!” or, “You MUST have full frame if you’re shooting portraits!” and then what happens? Well, the blessing and the curse of the Internet is how this stuff spreads like wildfire. These suggestions turn to rules in the echo chamber. Especially when every other YouTuber repeats them and repeats them and repeats them.

And unfortunately not all of it is true.

2. How we consume photographs now

To continue “The right tool for the right job” theme, I personally deliver my photos via an online gallery. My clients can then download them, print some out, share some on Facebook or Instagram. They might put them as wallpaper on their laptops and phones.

So long as we’ve got around 8 megapixels of data, and the image is sharp, the photos will appear perfectly fine in any of these formats. If I were shooting high-end magazine shoots every other week then maybe I’d spring for a 50mp camera just for some added wiggle-room in post-production. But as it stands, the cameras I use more than fit the bill for my paid and non-paid work.

If they ever didn’t? Then there would be no shame at all in getting something different.

Photography gear is not a hill to die on.

Say it with me now: It’s about having the right tool for the job at hand.

There’s also been many a video on the old conundrum that precicely 0.0001% of us will ever face as photographers. “But what if you want to put your photo on a BILLBOARD?” someone might say, rather pedantically. You couldn’t possibly put anything but a medium-format-sensor-ed, 100mp image on a billboard, could you? I mean, billboards have only been around in the last 2 years or so, right?

Due to the viewing distance required the same rules apply to billboards. If you’ve been round a city lately you’ll probably have seen some iPhone photos on billboards for their new campaign.

The truth is: most modern cameras are good enough to achieve fantastic results, no matter where the final images end up.

3. Photography is really all about the story

Aside from camera nerds, have you ever shown a good photo to someone and their first response is, “what sensor size took that?” I bloody well hope not.

It’s like asking about the types of brushes a painter might use. The people close to the industry will be interested, but 99% of everyone else will just enjoy the damn art.

Can’t we all, as photographers, just enjoy the damn art? Can’t we see an image and take it in and let that be enough?

Photography is capturing moments, telling stories, sharing your stories with others. It’s about capturing reality — or inventing hyper-reality. It’s about freezing emotion and bottling it up for future generations to experience. It’s about making a unique piece of art — something that’s entirely your own representation — of a person or place.  That’s it. that’s why we all love photography, right?

What, in any of that, is about the gear, the sensor, the lens, the camera brand?

Gear is good. I love nothing more than testing a new lens or a new camera. but these are only tools to help us achieve our goals.

The truth that the photography industry probably doesn’t want you to know is you can create art with any camera, with any budget, anywhere in the world. You only need a vision, and practice, and an interesting moment in time.

and… one time when your camera does matter.

When you need a specific tool to achieve a specific vision.

There is no shame in acknowledging that certain cameras are better for certain environments. You wouldn’t fling a plastic-y Lumix G7 down a mountain when you’re skiing, you’d probably use a GoPro. Certain cameras have faster burst-rates for sports. Some cameras are weather-sealed for that dusty safari trip you have planned.

Each brand, each model, has a set of strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You have to pick the right tool for the job.

For instance. I have a lovely twilight wedding coming up in November. It starts when the sun is already down. It’s a candle lit ceremony. There are going to be fireworks, sparklers, and all the portraits and group photos will be taken outside at night. I’ve done some of this with M43 very successfully in the past. But those jobs were a mixture of numerous things. They were 80% standard wedding stuff with maybe 20% more challenging moments. I aided myself with faster lenses, additional lighting, off-camera flash etc.

However, I think I’d be doing a disservice to my client in this case by using m43 exclusively. So I’m totally going to rent a Lumix S1 to get me through the more challenging parts. And there’s no shame in that at all. It doesn’t mean I’m abandoning ship or saying my GH5 is crap. I’m just saying that for this particular set of circumstances, there might be better tools available.

Your camera is a tool. It’s the thing that takes your idea out of your head and places it into reality. And for paid work you have to be confident that you’ll achieve a certain standard of work. It’s about capturing the moment as best as I can, with the least amount of risk as humanly possible. Because I’m playing with someone’s wedding here. I only get one chance to get it all right. 

Here is Emily’s final thought.

Camera gear shouldn’t be a hill to die on.

It shouldn’t be something we wear like a uniform as we throw rocks at the opposition.

It should be something we all use the ever living crap out of to CREATE with. That is what a camera is made for. It isn’t a dick measuring contest, and you certainly can’t buy your way into creating a good photo. The only way to achieve this is with practice, determination, and sometimes even a bit of luck.

I know I said I don’t like rules. but here are a few suggestions I’d like to add:-

  • Never judge a book by its cover

  • Never judge a photo by its sensor size

  • Never adamantly use the wrong tool for the job just to prove a point

And always…

Always judge art by how it makes you feel and think, not by how much it cost to create it.