Should I swap my brand? The gear-change myth.

Philosophy Comments Off on Should I swap my brand? The gear-change myth.

I think it happened to all of us – it certainly happened to me.  You look at some brilliant photos and think “damn, those are good!” and then you notice that the photos were taken with the brand that is the competitor to yours.  You ask around, speak to people that own the different brand.  “Fantastic machine” they say.  “Awesome camera, best investment I’ve ever made” they say.  And now you are sitting here with doubts…  is my camera up to scratch?  The people that shoot with the competitor brand swear by it… I’ve seen great photos from them so…  I’m gonna pack it in, sell my yellow-brand camera equipment and buy the red-brand…

I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you ever have this “should I change my brand?” thought, its time to put down the camera, and do some introspection.

Firstly: camera for camera, model for model, there is hardly any difference between brands.  All of the major brands all make freaking fantastic machines.  And even some of the non-major brands make excellent cameras.

Herewith the hard freaking truth: if you don’t like your photos, you cannot blame your camera.  Put differently: a different camera or camera brand will not give you a better result.

It’s as simple as that.  Should you change your brand?  The answer, is a resounding, shout it from the hill-tops, “NO!”

What you need to do, are four things: one philosophical, and three practical.

Okay, let’s start with the practical issues:

Firstly: a good image is directly proportional to the quality of your light.  Bad light equals bad photos.  Good light equals good photos.  Most of the time when you see someone else’s work and think “damn, that’s a great photo” what you are seeing is the light they managed to capture.  This is the primary objective of photography: to capture light.  A camera is nothing but a light proof box with a lens at one end and some electronic fiddly bits at the other that allows you to capture light.  Whether that camera takes the form of a smartphone, or of a terribly expensive medium-format camera, the principles remain the same.  And crappy light on a Samsung Galaxy is the same crappy light as on a Hasselblad.  If you want to improve your photography: learn your light.  Master the light.  Without knowing light, you will never take good photos.  Some people have this capacity naturally, some need to learn it, but the end result is the same – good light = good photos.

Secondly: any image is just as good as the lens that transfers the light.  While it is very, very difficult to buy a bad lens, there are such things as “goods lenses” and “great lenses”.  The quality of your lens directly affects the quality of your light entering the camera, and thus, the quality of your light affects the quality of your image.  I’ve had first-hand experience where a simple upgrading of a lens produced the most remarkable results.  Most entry-level cameras come with kit lenses.  Now these kit lenses are (generally speaking) the bottom of the barrel stuff – they are literally the cheapest, nastiest, pieces of plastic that you can put in front of a camera and still get an image.  For the average hobbyist photographer or guy that wants to make memories, these kit lenses are perfectly fine, but there comes a point where these lenses will let you down.  If you want to upgrade your camera / change your brand, and you have money burning a hole in your pocket, don’t buy a new camera, invest in a good lens.  Getting decent glass in front of your images can make a hell of a difference to your photography.

Thirdly: Have you considered that the guy who is getting “better” images than you does not simply have a better camera, but that he has a better skill set?  Before you upgrade your camera and lens, maybe you should upgrade your thinking?  Have you mastered that which you have? If not, why do you think that a different brand will be better – if you have not mastered brand x, why would brand y improve your photography?  This is kinda like saying “I’ve not had much success writing a novel with blue ink, maybe I should try writing it with green ink”.  It’s not the pen that is the problem, it is the writer.  This is a hard question that needs to be answered, but have you mastered the equipment available to you?

And then, lastly, the philosophical one:  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Us humans have this infuriating capacity to see that which is “different” as “better”.  When we see something that is “different” to what we can produce, and that difference bamboozles us in terms of how it was created, we want to assume that there must be something special thrown into the mix – and we would be right.  That something special is “individuality”.  Do not compare yourself to others.  Other people have their unique offering to humanity, and you have yours.  Do not try to be as great as someone else, be as great as you.  Comparison truly is the thief of joy.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  You are you, and that is sufficient and complete.  Yes, you might need to learn your light, screw on a better lens, or learn to master the equipment available to you, but at the end of the day, you are you, and your unique vision is your gift to the world, go share it!  Don’t waste your gift by trying to be someone else.

So, do you want to upgrade your camera or change your brand?  Don’t.  What you have is what you need to be the best you can be.

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On Wednesday March 2 2016
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