Art is about the creation not the tool.
A camera is a tool, like a paintbrush to be used by an artist to create something. As a photographer you are always tempted to buy the latest and greatest gear – myself included but I’ve developed a philosophy that my work must justify my equipment, that my equipment must not cost more than the money I make from my photography. Clients come back because of my style and quality of photography not because I have the latest Canon or Nikon. Some of my best photographs were taken on the cheapest camera. “The best camera to have is the one with you.”
It’s all about the light and how you shape it. The word photography means Painting with light, not “Look at what my camera painted.” Natural light is free and you can manipulate it at very little cost. Cardboard/foamboard and foil is not going to break the bank. Rather spend money on enhancing skill and technique when you are starting out.
Dont’ get me wrong, you need to have the right tools for the job- invest in good lenses. All I’m saying is that you should look at what kind of job you want to do before you start buying expensive gear that end up unused and devaluing in your camera bag. You will never get the price back for what you paid for it, so be sure that you are really going to use it.
Ask yourself these questions:
“What kind of photography do I do?” If the answer is Sport or landscapes, don’t spend money on light shapers and backdrops.
“If the camera/lens/equipment cost R30 000.00, how many photographs/shoots do I have to sell to afford it?”
“Where do my photographs end up?” If it is a family portrait on large print canvas, you need a good quality lens and a descent sensor on your camera. If your work is published on-line, don’t pay for a 20 megapixel camera, you are not going to use those pixels and you are going to waste a lot of time resizing.
I started with a little Olympus E-420 and two kit lenses. It was one of the few 10.1 megapixel cameras on the market at the time and it was just enough pixels for print work. I did however spend money on the best tripod I could afford and I’m still using the same one today.
In 2003 I bought a second-hand 3 light kit with shapers and flight case for studio photography. That same kit is used in my studio today. Knowing how to use your equipment and taking care of it is a great advantage and you will often see the more knowledge you acquire the less you feel the need to buy every new thing on the market. Once you understand light you soon realise how different tricks and homemade gadgets gets you the exact photograph you want.
As the work required a second camera and macro lens I could then afford to splash a little and buy better. That camera has long been paid off and after a few years I’ve been able to save for the next one. After a lot of research and really looking at where I want to take my photography next I know exactly what my photographic needs are and when I buy it I’ll have the peace of mind that I can afford it.
Remember it is the artwork that sells not the tools.