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July 18, 2016

Why Do We Need The Best? And who the heck can tell the difference?!

Every wedding photographer EVER has been in this situation. You’re going along, minding your own business, working really hard to photograph this wedding, and a guest comes up to you and says “wow, that’s a big camera! it must take really great pictures!”

And all the photographers in the world just die with that sentence. That really isn’t the entire point of this post (I actually already did a post about this… you should read it!), but it does set the stage. During the craziness of a wedding day, most photographers will just smile and be polite, but if there is more time, we will try to explain that it’s not actually the camera making those pictures turn out beautiful.

So if that is the case, why on earth do photographers spend thousands and thousands of dollars buying new equipment? Why are we always waiting for the next camera body to be released so we can snatch it up? It sounds a little hypocritical, right? We are constantly saying that “the camera doesn’t make the photographer!”, so what gives?

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First of all, my advice to photographers that are just starting out, is always to learn the basics on the camera that they have! You DO NOT NEED to go out and buy the fanciest DSLR you can find. There are so many variables to this situation (do you have loads of money just sitting around? do you know for sure you want to be doing photography full time in x amount of months? etc.), but I will typically recommend starting out on something basic. A Canon Rebel, or a Canon 40D, for example, will allow you to learn how all the settings work together in order to create those beautiful portraits.

A professional photographer can take stunning photos with a terrible camera. I can’t think of any way to make my point better than by sharing a link to one of the videos in the “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera” YouTube series. Chase Jarvis is a world-renowned photographer, and in this video he is given a LEGO camera, and the photos he is able to produce are incredible for what he is working with! This series really just goes to show that it truly is not the equipment you use, it is your knowledge behind how to use the light and posing your subjects.

So back to the real question: If that is the case, why don’t photographers roll up to a wedding with a Canon Rebel? Why doesn’t Annie Leibovitz photograph all those celebrities with a Canon 40D? And the reason is a very simple concept, but one that is sometimes a bit difficult to explain.

The short, non-technical answer? More expensive equipment offers us photographers options that the regular Joe would never notice. The more technical answer is that the higher-end camera bodies have better ISO capabilities, allowing us to photograph reception rooms easily, while saving more detail. Expensive camera bodies usually have more megapixels, which means that our clients can print the photos larger than life! They also give us more focus points, which result in perfectly sharp photos while shooting at f/1.2. There are so many reasons that make it worth it for a professional photographer to constantly be upgrading their gear, but it does not make sense for the average person who just wants to take photos of their family to do the same.

I have so many different lenses, and they all serve a different purpose. For me, as a wedding photographer, it is absolutely essential that I have all these lenses! And while most people would never understand why on earth the $1,224 difference between the 50 1.8 and 50 1.2 is so worth it, us photographers do (that .6 makes all the difference in the world!). Without the 100mm, I wouldn’t be able to take those gorgeous macro shots of the bridal details. My 35mm gives me the ability to get those stunning wide shots, and also gives me some extra space when I’m in a tight getting ready room. My 50mm creates absolutely incredible bokeh, and makes gorgeous skin tones. The list could go on, but clearly the point is that most people don’t think about all those differences. When a guest compliments my camera, they aren’t thinking about my constant thought process of “which lens will be best in this situation? are my lights at the right place? am I keeping with the rule of thirds?”, they just see the finished product. 

My mom probably couldn’t tell you the differences between a photo taken with a Canon Rebel, and a photo taken with my Canon 5D Mark III. But you know what? I can. Even my wedding clients may not be able to pick those differences apart! They will never think “wow, this reception shot is gorgeous! she must have bumped her ISO way up, since it’s clear she didn’t use off camera flash in this photo, but it’s super impressive that there is no noise in the photo!”. Unless I photograph a fellow photographer, that will never happen ;)

BUT, a wedding client would notice if it was wrong. They might say “wow, why is this picture so dark? and why are our faces so grainy and out of focus??”. 99% of our clients don’t understand the technical aspect of taking the photos, and so it is our job to be able to deliver photos that feel effortless. It is not my goal for anyone to look at my photos and immediately notice the lights I used (it’s different for fellow photographers, because we’re always looking for that kind of stuff ;) haha!), I simply want them to see the photo and think it’s beautiful. That it captured the moment. And that it’s effortless.

My job is to make my job look easy. And getting the best equipment out there is one of the ways I can do that! So yeah, my camera DOES take great pictures! But it’s because I have spent years learning the basics of photography that have nothing to do with the equipment. 

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