If you’re anything like me, you spend half your time fighting for new business and the other half fighting your urge to spend the money you make from new business on gear. So, for a bit of fun, today I thought I’d share my own personal, self-directed pep talk whenever I feel the urge to splurge.
I see you sitting there. One window open to Fstoppers. Learning about the latest and greatest gear. A second window permanently parked on B&H. Maybe a third open to Amazon.
You must have spent half the morning so far pouring over options. You’ve looked at all the mirrorless cameras. You’ve read every review and memorized the specs. You’ve even spent more time than you’d care to admit reading the gearheads duke it out in the comment sections over everything from the importance of sensor size to whether or not having two card slots magically designates you a professional photographer.
You’ve imagined yourself walking onto set with all these new toys. Naturally, everything from the $2,500 lens to the round, metal dongle whose name you can’t recall but were told was an absolute necessity by your favorite vlogger is in your bag. And of course, you imagine you’ll use every single item in your new artillery, forgetting for a moment that you’ve been getting along just fine without any of it to this point.
As a matter of fact, if you were to take a moment to really think about it, you’d realize that anything deemed cutting edge technology can’t, by definition, be a necessity. Since photography has been around for well over a century, with amazing imagery being created long before you were born, it stands to reason that as much as you want that new LED panel, it would be hard to argue that you objectively need it.
Was Richard Avedon any less of a photographer because he didn’t shoot mirrorless? Did Alfred Hitchcock suck as a director simply because he didn’t have dual-pixel autofocus at his disposal? Of course not.
You don’t become a professional photographer by being able to buy the best equipment. You’re not being hired for your ability to use your credit card. You’re being hired for your ability to create art that no one else can create. You’re being hired for your unique voice. You’re being hired for your experience and because you’ve put in the hard work over the years to now make it all look so easy.
So, maybe all those hours you spent on Google this morning trying to get the definitive answer to whether full frame or APS-C is a superior format wasn’t the best use of your time. Maybe it would have been more useful to have spent the morning cold-calling clients for whom you can put your old equipment to use. Maybe instead of surfing the web, you should have been updating your own website. Maybe instead of having a Twitter duel over the merits of someone else’s work, you should be out creating work of your own.
Being a professional photographer is not about the tools you bring to set inside your designer case. It’s about the creativity and work ethic you have no matter what tool you hold in your hand.
So, next time you find yourself strolling down the digital shopping aisles in search of value, turn your attention instead to building the value of your own product. Instead of looking for a new camera, ask yourself if there’s a way to get more out of the one you already have. Instead of trying to convince yourself that you really need that upgraded lens, ask yourself if there’s a new way you can look at a familiar subject. And next time you subconsciously, maybe not so subconsciously, begin to think that you could really go to “the next level” if only you had better equipment, remind yourself that you can’t buy creativity. You can’t buy experience. You can only work for it.