There are a LOT of really cool photography tools out there these days. At one point it was really just a battle for the top spot with two brands. Now there are so many more options. Sure, people still love their brands, but there are so many great cameras out there now, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
But here’s the thing — none of it really matters! You as the photographer are far more important than your equipment.
Know you gear
You could have the most expensive equipment on the planet, but unless you know HOW to use it, it’s not going to make you a better photographer.
A great photographer can take a great photo with just about anything. Knowing how to get the best shot, the best settings, the best composition etc. is more important than how many dollar signs were on the latest lens you bought or the coolest gadgets out there.
I mean, do you know HOW to switch your settings in the dark without a torch? You really need to be at one with your gear. Learning your gear and your craft and becoming a better photographer come hand in hand.
Tip: Download your camera’s instruction manual to your phone so you have it in times of need.
Know your craft
Just like your gear, you need to know your craft — regardless if you photograph landscape or portraits, or use natural or artificial light. You need to know your F-stop from your ISO and how to use it to get the most out of your image.
Just snapping a few photos on auto and hoping for the best is not quite going to cut it at a pro level. Anyone can do that. Learn the rules and then creatively break them as required. Know why depth of field is so important, whether it’s landscape, macro or portraits.
Speak your own voice
As photographers, we strive to find our own ‘voice’ in our own niche. If you have your own style, stick to it. It can evolve over time, but don’t just do what some else is doing because it seems to sell.
Genres come in and out of vogue, but if you have developed a certain style, stick with it. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you are enjoying what you are creating, chances are others out there will too.
If you are selling a product or service, you need to be able to connect with your client. We’ve all seen some big egos, and they may take pretty pictures, but they probably won’t get our money.
You need to be approachable and personable, especially if you are running workshops or teaching. You really need to be honest and truthful, don’t promise things you can’t deliver.
Do you offer real value and real service? This is something really valuable in today’s economic climate.
Be accessible, but be reasonable
If you’re busy, and that’s great, don’t take on more than you can handle. Sure you need to be accessible for future clients, but don’t twist yourself in knots trying to make everyone happy. Work out what you can reasonably work, while still allowing time for shoots, editing, marketing and paperwork … but still have downtime for yourself, family, friends, etc.
If you’re quiet, don’t make promises you can’t keep or offer things you normally don’t do, unless you want to branch out. Seriously, if you really, really hate shooting weddings, do you really want to take them on?
So really, you are the right tool for the job
So when it boils down to it, as a photographer, YOU ARE the right tool for the job you are doing. Nobody can do exactly what you can do. Nobody has your vision, your style, your knowledge. Chances are people are coming to you, for well … YOU.
Our advice to beginners
Learn your craft, this can’t be said enough. Just because you have a camera, that doesn’t automatically make you a photographer. Practice, practice, practice. When you feel confident in your skill, your knowledge, your craft, then you will become the best tool.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn on the job. Be a second shooter, learn or be mentored by other photographers. Photograph family, friends and neighbors. Shoot every chance you can. Shoot what you love, shoot intentionally. You don’t need 10,000 hours to be a master photographer, but the quality of the practice is possibly more important than the quantity of the practice.
Just for fun
You don’t want to be a pro photographer? Hey, that’s great too. There is absolutely nothing wrong in doing all this just for the sheer fun of it too. Passion and knowledge can be equally invaluable for the enthusiastic hobbyist too.