Forget about Gear

Is it the gear that makes art? Or is it the photographer’s creative skill? It’s time to forget about the gear and instead, focus on the mind that wields it.

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Gear wishlists. We all have them, and they’re often quite extensive. Filters, lenses, new camera bodies, lighting equipment, computers, and software — some of our wishlists are quite extensive!

But is any of this stuff really necessary?

I’ve talked about this before, how the need for gear is an ever-present thing in the photography community. How sometimes, the feeling that we don’t have enough equipment or good enough equipment, holds us back from making the art that we could be making. Of course, some gear is necessary. A good camera, first and foremost. And then perhaps you’ll want to expand someday with a couple of lenses, some filters, and so on. But it always seems like once you have all of that stuff, still, there is the need for more. Once you’ve got it, now the desire becomes to upgrade it.

And that’s the thing. Modern marketers are savvy. They know this about us. They know that if they keep us always hungering for new and better gear, they’re going to get our money. So, where photography is concerned, we are constantly blasted with advertising from all directions. It’s in the articles we read and on Youtube videos. We spend hours upon hours reading gear reviews, comparing camera bodies, scrutinizing comparison photos taken with different lenses.

All of these sources of advertising are promising us one thing: Buy the next new thing, the next latest and greatest piece of technology, and you will become a better photographer. That expensive camera body will magically make you take professional photographs. Pricey lighting systems somehow produce better light and thus better photographs than lesser expensive systems. There is always the promise that this piece of gear or that piece of gear will revolutionize the way you work.

And, we’re primed to be receptive to this viewpoint. After spending all this time absorbing the advertising, and talking about gear with friends and colleagues, many of us hold dearly to the hope that these bits of gear will give us some sort of edge where artmaking is concerned.

But here’s the truth about all that fancy equipment. It’s just an incremental improvement. Sure, perhaps an upgraded camera body or a high-end lens will help you create slightly sharper 16×20 prints over the gear you’re using now. But that’s all. In the grand scheme of things, the difference between one piece of gear and another is likely negligible.

Sometimes, that new piece of gear is essential, and sometimes, it represents a massive improvement over the gear that we already own. But more often than not, this just isn’t true. Most of the time, we’re probably really better served to forget about the gear because truthfully, when there are photographers out there creating gorgeous art with phone cameras, we can be assured that it’s not the gear that gives us an edge.

What does give us an edge is a drive to be more creative. The photographer’s eye, trained to see things that other people don’t necessarily notice—that, too, gives us an edge. It’s all about keen observation and the creative wit to create something unusual and moving.

Gear is just a tool. It’s true that better tools can give you a slightly better result, but in the end, it all really comes back to the mind wielding those tools. That’s what makes the biggest difference.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will is a photographer and his love of the arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in the art of photography.