In a recent Skype chat with photographer Joey Jones, we were casually discussing how he runs his successful portrait photography business. At one point, he casually stated,

The camera is just a tool. Its what you do with it that counts.

Needless to say, Joey was spot on. It was something I myself had only realized in recent years. Where were those wise words when I was going through my lengthy “equipment insecurity phase? For many of us trying to make money off of our photography talent, there can be constant pressure to collect expensive, never-ending equipment, especially as new products come out and our buddies proudly tote their latest upgrades. Of course, there’s no denying that our tools of the trade will inevitably affect our final product, but I’ve also come to believe that our equipment is not the ultimate, determining factor of the quality of the photos we take.

In fact, we, as artists, are the determining factor. Not our equipment.

You Are The Secret Sauce

If your equipment were the determining factor as to whether you would be a masterful photographer or not, then excelling at any craft would be easy. Possessing a set of expensive, high end cookery would allow you to whip up a meal like the famous Chef Ramsey, right? Or getting your paws on high quality tools and expensive materials to build a house would allow you to organize a team and throw up your dream home in a snap, right?

Wrong. Talent and artistry come from within, and not from the tools you use. As I heard Scott Kelby say at one of his live events, (and I paraphrase), learning how to use your equipment is the easy part. If that were all there was to it, we would all be great photographers.

We All Have A Unique Vision

Theres so much more that comes into play. Every photographer has a unique vision, as well as the ability to spot the potential behind a scene unfolding before them. We individually choose how to compose and light our shots, possess an understanding our subject (if we’ve done our homework) and decide how to portray the narrative within the scene. We then go on to choose the style of our photos in the processing and editing phase. It’s all up to us. Your artistic flair and the personal touch you add to your photography is what makes your work different than others.

How You Build Your Business and Relationships Matter Too

Learning how to run your business is as important as the photos you take. For photographer Joey Jones, he considers his most important piece of equipment his brain, followed closely by his mouth for building relationships, and rightly so. His thriving business is a testament to his talent. For example, he genuinely loves chatting with clients (aka building relationships) while he’s in the actual act of taking their photos. Its up to you to make connections with your clients, and also with your peers so that you can learn from each other.

The Best Camera Is The One Thats With You

Award winning photographer, Chase Jarvis, entitled his book of iPhone photography, The Best Camera is the One Thats With You. So true! The books title speaks volumes about vision, artistry and intrinsic talent. As far as composition and compelling subject matter, I believe you can take an equally compelling image with a simple “point and shoot” or a Hasselblad. And the debates over team Canon and team Nikon tire me, because ultimately the brand of equipment you use does not automatically determine if you’re successful. In my case, I chose to start shooting with a Canon because it was the brand of choice among my magazine coworkers at the time. Working with a familiar brand helped me learn faster, and it gave me the added bonus of being able to borrow the multitude of lenses that already surrounded me in the office. However, had I chosen to purchase a Nikon (or any other brand for that matter), I doubt my overall career path would have been much different.

Also, an increasing number of photographers that Ive talked to are beginning to carry more compact, point-and-shoot sized cameras. The quality of photos taken with these small cameras is improving rapidly, and have the benefit of being easier to carry around. Here on Photofocus, Pamela Ann Berry wrote a very informative article about her pleasant experience with the mirrorless Fuji X T10. She stated that it was making photography fun again for her, which I think is a very important part of being a photographer. It’s inevitable that I will get my hands on one of these soon enough.

Final Thoughts

Its taken me years to realize that we, as individuals, are the secret sauce, not our equipment. Early on, I was plagued by constant insecurity regarding my gear. Even today I have to occasionally gut-check myself, especially when I encounter a photographer with nicer gear than mine (which is often). Remember, the camera does not the photographer make.

Have fun with the equipment that you have! It is simply a tool to express your creativity.