Have you ever heard someone say “my pictures would be so much better if I had a professional camera”? Perhaps you’re even guilty of saying these words yourself. I hear this said quite often but is there any truth to it?
Will a better camera really make you a better photographer? Will your images instantly become amazing?
I’m sorry to say that they won’t. In fact, camera gear doesn’t matter that much.
Ok. Before anyone points it out, isn’t it a bit biased to make this statement when I use professional cameras and lenses myself? Perhaps. But I haven’t always had good equipment (and there are still way better systems out of my price range).
Just like most other photographers, I started with a simple point-and-shoot camera. I learned photography with an entry-level DSLR and still used one when I first started making some money from my hobby.
The purpose of this article is to make you understand that the price tag of your equipment doesn’t define you as a photographer; you’re perfectly able to capture top-notch, professional-looking images even with a point-and-shoot, smartphone or budget DSLR camera.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading and I’ll show you several examples.
The Camera Doesn’t Define the Photographer
Let me take you back to 2015 at the crack of dawn by the popular Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. As the sun rises above the horizon, the serene pink-blossoming cherry trees dominate an otherwise hectic town. Surrounding me are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists and photographers.
Next to me is a man with a $4000 camera, a $2000 lens, and a top-of-the-line tripod. He looks over at my display and asks (not politely if I may add) for the settings I’m using. I tell him the aperture, ISO and shutter speed I’m using and mention that I’m using a filter.
He shrugs and turns back to his camera and applies the same settings. 30 seconds later he harshly says that this can’t be the setting I use as his image is completely white. He was getting uncomfortably aggressive.
What he didn’t understand is that a 6-Stop ND filter is used to do long exposure photography.
I’m not saying that he’s a bad photographer but it made me wonder what’s the point of having the best camera gear when you don’t know how to use it.
My point is that having a professional camera doesn’t make you a better photographer than someone with an entry-level one.
The camera doesn’t define you as a photographer. Skilled photographers are able to capture a good image with the equipment at hand because they know how to use it and, most importantly, understand the fundamentals of photography.
Focus on the Basics
What all talented photographers have in common is that, at some point in their journey, they took the time to learn the basics.
It doesn’t matter what camera system you’re using. The ISO, shutter speed and aperture remain the same. Compositions aren’t affected by the quality of your camera.
If you want to become a better photographer, you need to learn these things. You need to understand the Exposure Triangle. Compositional techniques. Light. Color. These are the things that help you create compelling images.
When you understand these fundamentals, you’ll realize that a professional camera wouldn’t have helped you in the beginning. It wouldn’t have instantly made your images better.
Why do Professional Photographers Have Professional Gear?
Now if all this is true, and you can capture professional-looking images on an entry-level camera, why do most professional photographers use expensive and high-quality gear?
Isn’t this a little contradictory?
It’s true that expensive gear won’t make you a better photographer. However, it’s no secret that a $4000 camera is better than a $400 camera and a $2000 lens is better than a $200 lens.
The main advantage of professional camera equipment is that you’re able to create higher-quality image files. This is mainly due to:
- Better Dynamic Range performance
- Better ISO performance
- Superior and larger sensors
- Larger sensor size and higher resolution
- More focus points (important for wildlife or action photography)
For landscape photographers, I believe Dynamic Range, ISO performance, and higher resolution are three of the main advantages.
ISO performance is drastically better on a professional camera, which is especially important for night photography.
Since the files are of a considerably larger resolution, you’re also able to produce much larger prints. In short, top-end cameras produce bigger and better files.
Who Should Use Professional Camera Gear?
So, who is professional camera gear for? What is the right time to make the move?
There’s no correct answer to this. I believe it depends on your goals and ambitions with photography.
In general, I recommend starting out with an entry-level camera. Take the time to learn the fundamental camera settings, experiment with the camera and different techniques, work on your compositions, and be active with photography.
You’ll at some point feel the need to upgrade your gear. Be it because you want to do more post-processing or perhaps print bigger images.
If you only publish images online, you don’t need to buy the most expensive equipment. You’re not going to see a big difference between an entry-level and professional camera on a downsized .jpg file optimized for the web.
At the end of the day, what camera equipment you choose is up to you. Everyone’s financial situations are different. I just want you to understand that a better camera won’t make you a better photographer.
You still need to put in the work.
Examples With an Entry-Level Camera
I hope that I’ve succeeded in making you understand that purchasing a professional camera won’t instantly make you a better photographer. In fact, it won’t have any impact at all to begin with.
It’s your knowledge and understanding of photography that will help you capture better images and that’s not something you can learn overnight; it takes time and dedication to master these skills.
While looking through my archives I came across these images that I captured with an entry-level DSLR camera and cheap lenses. These are images I’m still happy with and they wouldn’t look any different if I captured them with the equipment I have today.
You can also read our Ultimate Guide to Smartphone Photography to see that you can take stunning images even with your phone.