Discuss: Better Equipment Versus Knowledge - Which Will Help You Improve Your Photography More?

Discuss: Better Equipment Versus Knowledge – Which Will Help You Improve Your Photography More?

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As a photographer, you always have the urge to buy new equipment thinking it will bring you better results. This might be true, but only up to a certain point, because if you don’t have the knowledge you can’t make the most out of your equipment. I started with a Nikon D3200 and I use it to this day because, in my opinion, it’s not the equipment that is going to help me take better photos.

If you’re asking yourself, “What can I do with my entry-level camera?” then this is the article that’s going to prove that you can achieve great things and be a great photographer with your own camera. There are many photographers that took some amazing pictures with film cameras, photographers like; Andreas Feininger, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, etc.

What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE? - portait in a field

We cannot deny that their cameras were the best of their time. But my point is that even today they could compete with any owner of a fancy camera because having the latest camera is not going to guarantee a better vision.

I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on how to take better photos and overcome the obstacle of not having the latest equipment.

1. Read

The most important thing you can do is to read. Many people skip this step and think that only by practicing will they improve. It is true that you have to practice, but unless you study the theory first there is no way of practicing in an efficient way.

For example, if you read an article about shutter speed and aperture it’s easier the understand the mechanism and then apply it, than trying to figure it out all by yourself.

Start here to get to many great dPS articles and find the topics that interest you the most.

girl reading in the grass - What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE?

2. Know your equipment

You just bought your first camera and you are stuck with your kit lens. But before buying a new lens you have to learn the basics. You can use your kit lens for numerous types of photos, from landscapes to portrait photography.

I took more than 5,000 images with my kit lens before buying my second one, and I learned a lot of helpful things. If you’re shooting portraits, 35mm focal length can get a nice bokeh having an aperture of f/4.5. This focal length is perfect because it’s not wide so you’re not going to distort the face and you can have more light than shooting the same lens at 55mm, f/5.6.

3. Know what to buy

Buying equipment can be difficult when you can’t afford expensive things and you have to spend your money right. I am speaking from the perspective of a portrait photographer. My first portrait lens was (and still is my main lens) a 35mm f/1.8. If you want nice bokeh for a cheap price this is the right choice. I’m still exploring with this lens and I always find new perspectives.

Knowledge Over Equipment

Next, I’m going to present some arguments on why better equipment doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer and on why knowledge can help you overcome your equipment struggles.

Buying new equipment is always tempting, but you have to learn how to make the best of what you already have. The best thing you can do as an amateur is buying an entry-level camera and a prime lens. Stick with it and see if you can come up with a new vision every time you go out to take photos.

At first, I didn’t know how to use manual mode. But do you think buying a better camera is going to help with that? No is the answer, you have to read and understand how the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture affect everything in a photo.

After learning that no picture is the same and the settings are going to change every time, you have to do a lot of trial and error. If you practice enough you can achieve great things. After learning how to use your equipment you have to learn how to process your pictures because it makes a big difference as well.

What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE? - before and after processing

What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE?

The next thing you have to know is that light makes the difference in every picture, you have to learn how to manipulate and control the light. Once you know how light works you are going to love your equipment.

lady and umbrella snowing - What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE?

lady in leaves - What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE?

When do you need better gear?

There are a few situations where better equipment can be helpful. I’ll give you a few examples and some tips to overcome the difficulties.

1. Shooting in low light conditions

Having expensive equipment can help you here, you can have a higher ISO without a lot of digital noise. With my entry-level camera, I can raise the ISO to 400 and it already looks really noisy. With a full frame camera or even an expensive DX sensor you can raise the ISO to 1600, or 3200 and your image is still going to look fine.

girl walking in the woods in winter - What keeps you from taking better photos, your EQUIPMENT or your KNOWLEDGE?

2. Sports photography

This is another hard thing to do with an amateur camera, you can still achieve great things. Your autofocus is going to play some tricks on you, so you have to work on your timing. Knowing where and when to press the trigger will help your autofocus a lot. Another thing you can do is to learn the panning technique.

Conclusion

So in summary, equipment is just a tool. It doesn’t help you to shape your vision and buying the latest gear as a beginner is not the best choice you can make. When you find that you have difficulty expressing your vision with your current equipment, then you can start thinking about upgrading.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Eduard Gross is an amateur photographer, based in Romania. He specializes in portrait photography, is currently studying journalism and looking forward to inspiring more photographers and expressing himself through his images.

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  • capixaba

    Using the Pareto principle, we can see that learning a photography technique, or learning editing, taking a new course can improve my photogrowth by 80%. In the meantime, a new camera will improve only 20%

  • Gross Eduard

    I didn’t know about that principle, but I agree. Thanks for your comment

  • Robert Molan

    Good technique is essential no amount of expense or post processing can turn merge to gold, however with the same skill level, better equipment will provide a better image. The dynamic range of the sensor, its ISO sensitivity, its noise response, colour response all improve. The performance may not be linear but it is easily visible. The same could be said for glass. Cheap kit lenses are ok, but more expensive lenses are faster, have less fall off and generally have better resolution, as well as better VR compensation.
    Should everybody buy a Sony A3R or Nikon D850? If they are serious about photography and can afford the investment of time and money, certainly, their photography will improve. Must you own a an expensive DSLR or medium format camera for great photos? No! Should you learn the basics of composition, photographic exposure and image development before spending a fortune on equipment? You bet.

  • Gross Eduard

    You are right, and you are right that better equipment with same knowledge can provide better images, but no knowledge and a good camera is not going to do a good job.

  • Tom Cooper

    I have two other things that are likely to lead to more improvement than new equipment. One is practice. Someone who works at improving their photography for two hours a day is going to make huge strides compared to someone with the same level of talent who goes out shooting for a couple hours one weekend a month.

    Another is investing in experiences. Another recent article here tried to address technical vs creative issues as related to personality. For many, being in the moment is an issue. New and varied experiences can be tremendously powerful when it comes to being drawn into the moment.

    Now get off the internet, go someplace new, and take some pictures.

  • Gross Eduard

    Right, I also said practice is important, thank you for your feedback!

  • oldclimber

    Q 1: where are you deficient? Are you coming from an artistic background, or sensibility, with an intuitive ‘eye’ already, so that you may make very good art with humble equipment? Technical obstacles can be numbing, but know that in digital equipment a large amount of in-camera settings and processing still just boils down to best-guessing focus, iso, exposure, f/stop, based on stored algorithms instead of educated guesses stored in the photographer’s memory. To date, aside from combining images to expand contrast range, every camera still captures one instant, using one exposure and speed and focus; metering wizardry only guesses which single final setting to use. Technical issues can become distractions; no one critiques great images for their deficiencies in resolution or graininess. Grand, classic images were taken with mediocre, uncoated lenses, limited range film or even self-made glass plates. Learning to maximize your limited tool set may be more valuable than falling for the trap of chasing the elusive perfect camera or editing software.

  • capixaba

    “aside from combining images to expand contrast range, every camera still captures one instant,” you said.
    I desagree…. try to combining images from a flying bird…..i wait…

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