Gear is something we hold close to our hearts as photographers. There's that one favorite camera sitting on our desks or shelves that has seen action and countless rolls of films. Sure, it may have dings and scratches but that's the beauty of a well-used camera — patina that comes with serious use. You just can't get those marks by buying new gear every chance you get.
In this day and age when we get more highly advanced photo gear, we can just easily buy things that we think can “help” us with our photography. Is that really the case? Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography touches this topic with a video and we can't help but think that maybe, it's not all about the gear we have. Sure, there are advantages to using specially made cameras and lenses for specific tasks but do we always have to rely on our equipment in order to make “great images?”
Ted makes it clear in his video that it's just a discussion and is in no way meant to bash anyone who prefers to use the best or latest gear they can afford. It's actually more of a reflection on who we are as photographers and how gear plays its part in our own personal creative processes. He starts with an interesting quote he heard that goes “Every famous photograph ever made was done with equipment that wasn't as good as what you have right now.” Makes you think, right? Well, you're not the only one with questions and thoughts running in your head.
Let that sit for a minute, let it brew in your mind, and then ask yourself this — Does my photographic gear define me or my photographs? Well, it shouldn't because you are what makes the photo at the end of the day, and not just your camera or lens by itself. It's you who takes visual cues from your subject, decide when to hit the shutter, and who adjusts for lighting conditions and everything else in between. You are the photographer who makes the images.
It's nice to have great gear that gets the job done but relying on it too much may harm your creative process and the way you make images. Ted makes his point by naming various photography masters like Ansel Adams, and Henri Cartier-Bresson in his video. They shot with less tech-y equipment than what we have now and still managed to get great results. Of course, they were real masters with what they did back in the day but they preferred to use gear that they trained with. They knew that it wasn't all about the camera but rather was more about the photographer who uses it.
"Image quality alone does not make a great image."
Take film cameras for instance, maybe they're a little dinged up. Maybe they're a little worn out but we still love shooting with them. Why? Some would say nostalgia, some would say they like the feel of it, some just prefer using film cameras. We just can't shake the fact that a lot of us love the idea of making images with tools that we can learn with. You can shoot with a simple pinhole camera and still love the images it produces. Those soft lines, moody atmospheres, blurry coincidences — all of its imperfections.
Cameras are tools to get the job done. The less you have to work with, the more you engage in the process of creating the image itself. Ted mentions the Holga in his video and how he loves the way it challenges you as a photographer — it makes you think about your vision, what you want to communicate with your images, and what you have to say. When you think of it, that actually makes a lot of sense. Our images aren't judged by the camera or lens we used but rather the results we got with them.
So how about you — what do you have to say with your images? Does your gear define who you are as a photographer? Make yourself be heard in the comment section below.