This blog has been swilling around in my head for a while but last week gave me full motivation to write after I got a new camera at The Photography Show, which caused lots of excitement online including messages and comments asking what camera and lens I had decided to invest in. Now I know this is coming from what I call ‘new gadget excitement’ which I am extremely guilty for. I can’t believe I have lasted over a year with my iPhone 7 Plus as I normally insist I need the brand new phone & end up spending fortunes buying myself out of my contract. So yep - I love a gadget. However when it comes to photography I have been very good when picking and choosing when to invest. Please note - I am going to ramble & this is all a matter of opinion of my own personal experience & photography journey!
I think when people first decide to embark on a photography career they think the first thing they should do is go out and spend THOUSANDS on ‘the best’ camera and a bunch of different lenses before doing anything else. This is the one thing I didn’t do to start with and I actually think it’s made me a better photographer and helped my business. You need to be in control of your kit, not your kit in control of you, my kit has grown when I have grown. When you are first starting out you have no idea of the kind of photographer you are going to be. You could think you want to shoot weddings, but then discover they really aren't for you. So become a master with the basics then when you get the top of the range stuff, (when you know your stuff), it's so much more rewarding.
My first 'proper' camera was a Nikon D3200 paired with a 50mm 1.8 lens. I found this was the best most affordable camera to 'play around' & 'practice' with. I did a few headshots with this & a styled wedding shoot. I started shooting straight away with manual & taught myself until it became second nature - like driving. I took some nice pictures & starting building a portfolio. As I started to get interest for weddings, starting with a friends, I knew I needed to invest in a full frame camera, so this is when I got the Nikon D610, which is basically Nikon's basic professional camera, & an 85mm 1.8 which is still my baby & favourite lens now! The first two years of my professional career were shot with a Nikon D610 & three prime lenses (the 35mm was added). The more I photographed I got into a 'groove' & style, & found myself comfortably shooting weddings using just my 85mm & 35mm. Yes you can all GASP - but it's true, & proves my point that it isn't actually all about the kit. Obviously when Rob or other photographers second shoot with me they would use a different lens to me for variety. Mainly Rob on his 24-70mm. The real reason I was only shooting with two prime lenses & a Nikon D610 was money, I wasn't earning enough money to justify expanding my kit just yet, I used what I had to the best of my ability & I had no need for anything else. I am so pleased I started with prime lenses as I believe it forced me to work harder, to move to compose the perfect shot & to interact with my clients a lot more. You are doing more of the work rather than with a zoom lens. I had some mentoring & practiced, practiced, practiced. Which made me get better & better. I would've been taking exactly the same quality & style of images if I was using a top of the range camera because I was still developing my style. You have to do about 25 weddings until you go 'ahh got it - that's me', well that is what happened for me anyway. After around that many weddings I clicked. I developed a style, a way of working & a way of editing. It took me a very long time to be 100% happy. Once I found this & was sure of this, I knew the kind of photographer I wanted to be & the kind of clients I wanted to attract & I started getting very busy. I turn up to weddings with three prime lenses (mainly only using two) & I feel one million percent confident, & always consistent. But there's the word - consistent. I don't want to be consistent, I want to be better. But I had to reach the consistent mark, before I could get better. Am I making sense? Stick with me..
Two years into shooting weddings I then added the Nikon D750 into my kit & I have been very happy ever since! However now my business is rapidly growing & another two years have passed, I knew this year would be time to expand on my equipment again, so the D750 has taken the passenger seat & the driver is now the beautiful D850, which is quoted to be "Nikons most versatile DSLR - EVER". I now also have my first zoom lens to start experimenting with. I haven't found the need for them until now as I work primes so naturally, comfortably & CONSISTENTLY, it's now nice to have something different in my bag. I can now justify investing in all this as I have a full time photography business & I do believe you constantly have to be better. I always push myself to be better. Photographers should NEVER settle because the market is too big & styles change all the time. We have to grow & adapt with it. I could have just stayed consistently 'good' using what I use, but I have done that now, so now it's time to grow & get a camera which can assist in this. I am rambling now because this is something I am so passionate about. So let's try comparing someone who knows how to see light, compose, get the right emotion out of their clients & who knows how to work their Nikon D610 to the best of its abilities to someone who is only just starting out, still learning, not too sure on what exactly they want to photograph - families, weddings, babies - or all, and they have the brand new Nikon D850. I can assure you, the camera becomes irrelevant in this instance & the person with the Nikon D610 will produce the better work. I found it more beneficial investing in a basic full frame camera, some mentoring and creating my brand & website when first starting, then as I have expanded, my kit has expanded too. Nothing makes my heart sink as much as the sentence "wow your camera is really good" if showing someone an image from the back of the screen. I cannot CLEARLY stress enough how much it is NOT all about the camera. YOU are the photographer, you create, compose, communicate & the camera is your tool. If you are good at creating, composing, communicating, seeing light, thinking on your feet, it doesn't matter if you have the D610 or D4S (I shoot Nikon, obviously, which is why I am only comparing Nikon cameras) - UNTIL it's time to grow. Like me now. My new camera won't suddenly change my work, it will just compliment where I am now & assist me to hopefully take a step to the next level away from consistency. Side note to non-photographers who are reading this - this is another reason why you may see photographers pricing changing over the years. Mine has HAD TO change three times over the past few years, due to skill, equipment & mostly demand.
"So the camera won't make a difference but you've just got a new camera to make a difference." Yes, you may think I am being hypocritical as I have just invested in Nikon's brand new camera, but this is four years into my business. I have become aware of other photographers just starting out who have invested in £4,000 cameras with about five different lenses but have no bookings - for me I can't understand that. Some are that wrapped up in kit that it consumes everything they do & clients get left behind, when the number one thing to be a people photographer is YOU & how you communicate. You could have the best camera in the world with every single possible lens, but if you can't communicate with your clients properly & make them feel comfortable - the kit's almost irrelevant. I am just basing this on being a 'people photographer' by the way - in terms of Landscape & Astronomy then I can't comment & imagine it is very different.
To cut a very long ramble slightly short. You need to discover the kind of photographer you want to be & once you know, then you can invest accordingly. What I am basically saying is, please don't think you need to spend fortunes on kit to begin with. If you have the money to do that - great! Go for it. But realistically that isn't always the way. I think it's just pressure, mainly 'new gadget pressure', & I assure you that I am proof you don't need to do this so early on. Also, to those wanting to become a photographer & who think "wow that camera is really good" is all it takes, don't be fooled. Buying the same kit as your photography inspiration will not mean you will take the same photos. I know this sounds so obvious & stupid - but it's happens. People think if they buy 'that' camera, then they will be the same. Don't compare to anyone else, "no one is you and that is your power", discover what you like shooting with. Remember you control the camera, not the other way around. I know photographers who would hate just shooting with prime lenses but I LOVE it, it's me & my style. I have recently got my first zoom lens, the 24-70mm, mainly for practical reasons, & I have enjoyed shooting with it this past week, but I know it will NEVER be my main lens. But again, that's just me!
Being a successful people photographer isn’t just about taking a great photo, its about the people. How you interact with them, how you make them feel, and to be blunt - you can’t be a people photographer without having social skills. Sometimes it is a case of 'all the gear, but no idea'.
Written with love!
Remember I am offering Skype sessions to fellow & aspiring photographers which can cover any topic you wish, or if you are just wanting advice & inspiration. All info will be coming to my website soon but in the meantime you can email me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org