Gear versus skills

I’m in several photographer groups on social media, and most of them have had some conversations around gear. “I’m a newbie and don’t know what to get” or “I’m thinking about upgrading my camera body” or “I want XYZ lens—show me pics you’ve taken with it.” There’s always a subthread in these conversations about how the gear isn’t nearly as important as the skill.

In these same groups, every couple of months, someone full of righteous indignation will post that they were at a popular place for shooting couples or families and they saw someone doing a shoot with their phone and how you canNOT be a professional photographer with a phone. </indignation>

Occasionally someone in these threads points out that it’s not the gear that matters, and that new phones have good cameras built in and while they can’t do all the things that a high-end DSLR can do, they can do some of the things, and as long as the photographer advertises shots that they are able to take with a phone and the client is happy with the shots … then they actually can do that.

In a thread about gear on reddit, I saw this bit of wisdom: “You upgrade your gear when you’re presented with a problem that skill cannot solve.”

That resonated. True for most pursuits I’ve tangled with in my life. Exceptions would include upgrading for safety (for example, a Grigri instead of a belay device without auto-braking). But true in music, true in photography, true in drawing and painting, true in athletics. 

So now when I’m hankering for some new gear, besides “Do I actually need this?” I can ask myself, “Do I need new gear or do I need more skills?” Alas, the answer is usually skills. Less fun, no immediate gratification, better long-term results, and better on the budget.

How often do you try to use gear to replace skills?

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