"YOUR CAMERA TAKES AMAZING PICTURES!" | A NOTE ON GEAR AND GROWTH

While I love this shot, "technically" it's not perfect. It was taken on my Mavic Air drone, whose images do not handle lifting shadows very well. You can see lots of grain. But just because something isn't technically perfect doesn't mean it's not a cool shot!

While I love this shot, "technically" it's not perfect. It was taken on my Mavic Air drone, whose images do not handle lifting shadows very well. You can see lots of grain. But just because something isn't technically perfect doesn't mean it's not a cool shot!

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard the line, "Your camera takes amazing shots!" I could probably afford a Canon 5D Mark IV.

But I'd probably spend that money on a few photography classes, or a vacation. Here's why:

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The Sigma 35mm lens combined with a full-frame camera allows you to blur out foreground items and achieve crisp focus on your subject while staying close to them. If you prefer a less intimate way of shooting, there are advantages to having a crop sensor, or a longer focal length on your lens.

The Sigma 35mm lens combined with a full-frame camera allows you to blur out foreground items and achieve crisp focus on your subject while staying close to them. If you prefer a less intimate way of shooting, there are advantages to having a crop sensor, or a longer focal length on your lens.

You can be an amazing photographer with just an iPhone. Or an Android, or a pinhole camera you make out of a cardboard box. The camera does not take amazing pictures - YOU do.

It's true that you may be limited by certain technical capabilities (low light sensitivity, depth of field, print resolution, etc.), but you should never feel discouraged by your gear (or lack thereof). While you're working up to your next purchase, think about what other skills you could be developing. Master manual mode and make ISO, aperture, and shutter speed second nature. Experiment with composition. Shoot a lot with whatever you have, and figure out what works.

Good gear doesn't equal a good photographer, and vise versa. I've met photographers with top-of-the-line, excessive gear whose work is, frankly, boring. It may be technically top-notch, but it lacks interest and creativity. You aren't going to stand out with your gear; you'll stand out by producing photos that are unique to you.

Of course, good gear can elevate your work, or allow you to capture more diverse scenarios (i.e., low light) more accurately. But think about how you can keep your gear as simple as possible. I thrive on being inconspicuous. It draws less attention, makes people feel comfortable in front of the camera, and gives you less to worry about on a shoot (less to carry, less to go wrong, etc.).

I'm really happy with my current gear set-up. So I figured I'd share a bit about my gear "journey":

When I first started photography, I had a Canon Rebel (from early 2000s) and the kit lens (18-55mm) it came with. Soon after, I got a 50mm 1.8 lens for just over $100, which I wanted for its shallower depth of field capabilities. It's a great starting lens for portraits!

Even though my work has changed stylistically, I still LOVE this shot, taken with a kit lens and a Canon Rebel in 2010.

Even though my work has changed stylistically, I still LOVE this shot, taken with a kit lens and a Canon Rebel in 2010.

Canon 6D: Purchased during Black Friday deal on Amazon I love this camera body. The main reason I needed to upgrade was the full-frame camera body. The Canon Rebel has a cropped sensor which is not as beneficial for low-light situations, and I wanted the wide look of a full-frame sensor with a 35mm lens, where you're able to get up close and still have lots of room around the subject. I don't really use its wifi capabilities (they are kind of clunky), but it's nice that they're there. It also doesn't have a dual card slot (only takes 1 SD card at a time), which is not great for weddings or other events where backup cards are extremely important, but I don't shoot those often. I also love its focus point system! Would highly recommend the 6D over the 5D series if you don't need a dual card slot or the more sophisticated focus points.

taken with the Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

Sigma 35mm 1.4: Purchased off of Craigslist at a lower rate This lens. I can't recommend it enough. I've heard that people have issues with the lens calibration and focus, but I have been using it for 3 years now without any issues. I rarely take it off. I occasionally use an 85mm 1.8 lens, but that is only once a year or so when I need a longer focal length or want the compression for certain headshots. If you can only get one lens, get the Sigma 35. I've also heard it's better than the Canon 35mm 1.4

TL;DR: 99% of my photos are taken with a Canon 6D and Sigma 35mm 1.4. It's a great set-up for under $3000.

Lighting For most of my shoots I only use available light. However, I recently started getting into product photography and purchased two Paul C. Buff 400W Alien Bees with 47” Octagonal Softboxes.

Post-production:

I use Lightroom to develop my RAW photos, and occasionally Photoshop for more intensive retouching. For my signature editing style, I use my own candy-coated presets, which are available for sale here!

I hope that gives you some insight! What gear did you start out on?

A few more 2010 shots taken on my Canon Rebel and kit lens (18-55):