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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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