Just How Important is Photo Gear?

Yvan Cohen

Mon Aug 19 2019

Just How Important is Photo Gear?

Photographers love gear

We love comparing it, we love talking about it and when we have a bit of spare cash, we love buying it too.

If you’re passionate about photography and are dedicated to your art, it goes without saying that buying the best camera you can afford is a given. After all, if you’ve lined up that perfect shot, you want to make sure the final picture looks as stunning as it can.

Amidst the banter about f-stops and bokeh, there’s always plenty of talk about the latest and greatest high end professional cameras, about the newest pro-sumer models, about sensor size and pixel counts.

Frankly it can be pretty confusing.

Do I need a full frame sensor or an APS-C sensor? What difference will it make? Should I pay that little bit extra for a weather sealed body - knowing that I’m not going to spend much time taking pictures in rain storms? And how many lenses should I have in my bag?

One can easily be blinded by a blizzard of technicalities and lose oneself in a fog of expensive gear choices.

So let’s dial it back and remember the well worn adage that ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’.

Wherever you are in your career as a photographer — be it as a professional or as an amateur — you are more important than your camera. The software of your creative eye matters much more than the hardware in your hand.

Trust me, if you’re an amazing photographer you can still take amazing pictures with whatever picture taking device you happen to have. Sure you might not be able to make such a big print if the sensor is small, or the image might be ever so slightly less sharp if you don’t have a prime lens, but at the end of the day the essence of the picture, the alchemy of light, composition and subject matter, will speak for itself.

This is not to say gear doesn’t matter, of course it does but when you think about your photography and how to move forwards with your work, always think critically about your images more than the tools you use to create them.

If you only have a mobile phone then work within the constraints of that medium, develop your eye. The beauty of the digital era, unlike in the days of film, is that we can just keep on shooting, keep on trying things out without worrying if the lab will be closed or if we can afford another roll of film (I’m showing my age a little now…).

If you only have a 50mm lens on your camera, then do the zooming yourself by moving closer or further away from your subject. Make the angle interesting by adjusting your position and not just because you have a crazy wide angle lens.

The bottom line is: as a photographer you should never be using gear as an excuse for your own limitations.

As creative people, we should always be pushing the boundaries, finding new spaces where images can be conceived. Sharpness is not always everything - so don’t worry too much about pixels. The fact that your camera can take just a few frames per second or 10 pictures a second, is unlikely to make any difference to the quality of your work, so don’t worry about it.

Good…now I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going to check out some deals on gear. There’s this new camera I’ve been eyeing for a while, it’s got amazing low light capabilities, a full frame sensor and a massive pixel count. I can’t wait…

Written by Yvan Cohen | Yvan has been a photojournalist for over 30 years. He’s a co-founder of LightRocket and continues to shoot photo and video projects around South East Asia.

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