This Camera Makes Me a Better Photographer

This Camera Makes Me a Better Photographer

As photographers, we are constantly told that our gear or camera does not matter. As someone who has pushed this narrative, it is finally time to admit I’ve been wrong this entire time.

As a full-time landscape photographer with a small platform to voice my opinions to more than just my pets or friends, words carry meaning. Phrases like “gear doesn’t matter,” which I’ve said for years. The intention behind those words is to express that gear shouldn’t hinder you from pursuing photography, or finding ways to improve your work simply because you don’t have a certain lens or camera. While the intent of the phrase remains true, interpreting the words more literally could very easily be misleading to those that are newer to photography.

Gear does matter! Every person touting that it doesn’t (me included) is simultaneously taking photos with multi-thousand dollar equipment. Recently I’ve realized that gear even makes us better photographers, and if you don’t agree, then I’ve got a plethora of reasons to change your mind.

Excitement

Excitement is one of the most important aspects of photography. It motivates us to get outside and experience nature, or into the studio to learn how light changes the mood of a portrait, or to invite friends around to practice on. This is how many of us fall in love with photography. If you’ve ever been excited to capture photos on a new piece of gear, then it has made you a better photographer!

When I first dived into the hobby of photography back in 2009, I purchased a camera and was genuinely excited to learn everything about how it worked while learning many of the technical aspects of photography in the process. I spent weeks or even months researching a particular lens I wanted to the point where, when it finally came in, it single-handedly reinvigorated my excitement to go out and take more photos. This continually made me a better photographer, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

This is a great time to vocalize that it’s okay to enjoy gear! While I personally don’t get nearly as excited as I once did, it is totally okay if you do.

A Camera to Photograph What You Want

I’ve spent the majority of my landscape photography career without the ability to photograph anything cohesive past a 200 mm focal length. Once I finally took the plunge and bought the Canon RF 100-500mm so I could photograph wildlife in Alaska, it opened a new door for what I could capture during my travels. Did such a lens suddenly make me a master wildlife photographer? Of course not. However, by giving me access to a genre I once avoided, I had to learn (and continue to learn) a myriad of new photography techniques.

Landscape photographers typically are not worried about autofocus, shutter speed, or burst modes. Wildlife photography is the exact opposite, and I had to teach myself the ideal shutter speed for a flying bird or just how far I can push my ISO for noise reduction software later. Without the lens, I simply would have just enjoyed the moment in front of me and moved on.

Imagine the widest focal length lens you own is 35mm and you recently got a super-wide angle lens such as the Canon RF 15-35mm to capture astrophotography. That is an entirely new genre of photography with a lifetime worth of knowledge to learn by simply opening the door with a new lens, thus resulting in you becoming a better photographer in the process.

Easy to Use Cameras

While I personally don’t get too excited about new gear anymore, I do find myself continually on the hunt for a camera that just gets out of my way so I can focus on creating. I gravitate towards cameras that are ergonomically better for my hands, have simple menu systems, or reliable autofocus. A few years ago, I even “downgraded” the image quality of my videos on YouTube by trading in my ​​​​​​​Fuji X-T4 for a Canon R7. The biggest reason is I couldn’t rely on the autofocus when recording myself. This fault, along with a poorly organized menu system, meant I got frustrated enough times to get rid of it.

You never want to be frustrated with the camera you’re using. As photographers, if we spend more time focused on getting the camera to do what we want rather than the story or art we want to represent, we won’t capture the moments that matter. This is incredibly important in the moments where I’m not only trying to capture the photo as it happens, but also record me capturing the photo. So how does a camera that gets out of my way make me a better photographer?

Simple, I can focus on the photography! A camera that gets out of your way so much that it becomes second nature to you and you can focus all your energy on the composition, the lighting, or the moment. This will slowly improve your skills as a photographer. Not only that, but you’ll be more excited to go out and shoot when you’ve got such a positive relationship with your gear.

Like an old car that only you can start the engine on, developing a relationship with your camera is far more important than you might imagine. If your camera hinders you from capturing the images you want, you are likely going to be unmotivated to go out and shoot. If you love the camera you have, you’ll find yourself enjoying the experience much more, which results in your becoming a better photographer in the process.

Cameras That Slow You Down

While a camera that doesn’t get in your way is great for someone like me, what about cameras that do get in your way? That might sound ridiculous, but think about it. The most popular camera in the last 5 years is very likely to be the Fuji X100 line. A fixed lens, crop sensor, “slower” camera. 

Combined with the significant resurgence of film, it’s pretty clear that many people out there are looking to slow down and take a less-is-more approach. Just like having access to any focal length you could possibly want, restricting yourself to a fixed focal length provides unique challenges within itself. You have to find images that fit into that frame, and many photographers out there find these challenges refreshing or fun.

These restrictions test your capabilities, challenge you in new ways, and ultimately push you to become a better photographer simply because of the camera you picked up that day. This goes even further when trying to learn film. As someone who hasn’t taken the plunge yet, I know for certain that I will become a better photographer with an arguably much worse, slower, and older camera when I snap my first 35mm roll of film. These cameras are more about the experience and relationship you have when capturing photographs than they are about the end result.

Before you get your pitchfork out in the comments, please note that I’ve never said any of these things suddenly make you a good photographer. A new expensive or old expensive camera won’t suddenly turn you from amateur to master. They will all continually motivate you in different ways to improve as a photographer though. Even if you don’t care about the gear aspect at all, I’m sure there’s something you love about the tool you use that makes you a better photographer.

Still disagree? I’d love to know why in the comments and welcome any opposing views!

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