May 7, 2010

Properly Equipped - Part I

People are always asking me what kind of camera I use - for travel, for food, etc.  Its kinda crazy to me - back in the day no one had any clue what an SLR even was and now they are buying the nicest one on the market to take on their next vacation.   I love that people are passionate about Photography, but I don't love the assumption that the equipment determines the quality of the output.  I am not one of those that likes to write how-to's or give advice - I don't have nearly enough confidence in myself for that. I just assume everyone reading knows more than me.  But people insist and ask, so in this series I am going to share with  you some insight that I have learned after 12 years of beating my head up against a wall over my photography equipment, and maybe it will help you.
Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-inch LCD (Body Only)
Cause see, the thing is, I am really not that attached to my equipment.  In fact, in this day and age of everyone-and-their-dog-has-a-dSLR I kinda think equipment is overrated.   Its soo easy to become a gadget-hound - whether you are doing photography as a hobby or professionally.  Thats not to say I don't want a 7D as much as the next girl (and wouldn't possibly sell my soul to get one because its the coolest thing ever)(this is part of the 'beating my head up against a wall I mentioned).  But seriously, neither I, nor you, nor anyone needs to spend 1600 bones to be a good photographer.  I spent half that on my camera and really, you can spend half that as well.  Even better, buy used (I have always bought all of my camera's used in the past) -  people are buying new cameras so fast its pretty easy to find a really good gently used one on ebay or craigslist. 

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
 You know, if I am being honest though, I am a bit bitter that I have never been able to afford the best equipment.  Sure, everyone says that buying Canon L-series lenses is sooo much better, and really they are right, their quality is undeniable.  That's all well and good, but when I really, really (REALLY) need a 24-70 f/2.8 lens (like right now), and I have the choice between 1400 bucks and 450 bucks for similar rated quality...well thats not really a choice.  I know, I know, I can't afford not to get the 'better' lens, right? Pffft should I just not eat this month?  Not pay rent? equipment is really expensive and I would never be able to do what I love if I was waiting around to buy the 'right' equipment.  Maybe someday I will be afford to take the more expensive option - but I'm not holding my breath and my work isn't suffering either

Canon AE-1 35mm Camera w/ Extra Lenses and AccessoriesMany assume - including many photographers - that 'professional' equipment is what makes you a professional.  It isn't.  I don't care if you shoot with a Rebel or a 1D Mark IV, I care about what you do with it.  Buy whatever you can get your hands on that will get the job done and start shooting.  Not having all the equipment you 'need', or want, or think is necessary to do what you want to do often can push you to new heights.  You work harder and smarter and rely on the very basics of photography instead of leaning on the equipment.  And often, you discover things you might never have otherwise.  Whenever I have a bit of money to spend on equipment I don't usually 'trade-up'  - instead I get a new lens that fulfills a different need, or a cool used film camera (currently wanting a Canon AE-1) or some lights, or better yet save it for processing and printing costs or a good workshop or class to improve my skills.  Unless you are trying to start a commercial photography business with advertising firms giving you ridiculous image requirements - you simply do not need a 21 megapixel camera.  And that is really the one thing to keep in mind - different equipment serves different purposes.  If you are a sports photographer that shoots racing, then yeah, you might actually need to throw down 8 grand for a lens (and my condolences - hopefully it pays off).  But if you are wanting to start shooting high school senior portraits or food or just want a good kit for your trip around the world- you really can get by with a lot less.

In Part II I will outline what I equipment I actually have and why (for travel, for food, for what-have-you) - and what I wish I had (and why).  

(note: yes this post is very Canon-centric, because thats what I know.   More on that in Part II)


  1. Hi Julie,

    I saw your comment on the FMH blog and it really resonated with me. I am also an expat, and have a food blog as well, no wonder I could feel we had a lot in common! Thanks for posting. If you want to respond, please email, people who read my blogs do not know the reason why I would res with you, wink wink...

  2. Great series. You're absolutely right, it isn't the equipment, it is the eye that takes great photos. If only it were as easy to GET that eye as it is to get the equipment.

    Nice blog, I will drop by more often.