The photographer, or the gear?

Started Jun 27, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Lee Jay
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The photographer, or the gear?
Jun 27, 2013

This question seems to come up often.  I want to give some points which I believe to be true.

  • All other things being equal, the better photographer will usually get the better shots (fortune can occasionally turn things the other way, but that's unusual).
  • All other things being equal, better gear (defined as more well-suited for the shooting conditions) will improve the shots of a particular photographer.
  • If a given photographer acquires more capable gear, the additional capabilities can, over time, allow that photographer to learn techniques that they would not have access to without that gear and thus to improve or expand their skills over time.

Those shouldn't be all that contentious, at least for most people.

This one, however, might be.

  • At times, better gear can help a less able photographer to get better shots than a better photographer can get with lesser gear.

Here's my reasoning.

The abilities of the equipment and those of the photographers are along a continuous scale - they are not discrete.  Such is also the case with the shooting conditions.

If the shooting conditions are demanding enough that the lesser gear of the more able photographer is not capable of capturing quality images in those conditions, the less capable photographer with the more capable gear might well obtain better images in those shooting conditions.

This depends on how much "less capable" are the less capable photographer and the less capable gear relative to their counterparts, of course, and it depends on the difficulty of the shooting conditions and the demands they place on the gear itself.

In less demanding conditions, the better photographer will usually do better, even with somewhat inferior equipment.

In more demanding conditions, the better gear may well win out, even in the hands of the lesser photographer, assuming that lesser photographer is at least capable of properly using the equipment and the more capable photographer's equipment would be working beyond its capabilities in those shooting conditions.

So, here is the take home lesson for me:

  • Better gear (gear better suited to the conditions) is capable of helping you in two ways:  1) It can obtain better images given the same skill set of the photographer and, 2) it can help you to expand your own skills by opening up a wider range of shooting conditions for you to shoot in and thus learn about.
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Lee Jay
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