Don’t get fancy with gear
“Many are willing to suffer for their art. Few are willing to learn to draw”
This is as much to my students as it is to me, everything great takes time. Often a lifetime (unless you’re Van Gogh…but I don’t think I am)
Patience, build slow, develop your skills, do not seek instant gratification.
This quote from Simon Munnery works on multiple levels. Of course it is immediately funny, but also underpins the impatience that I experience so frequently across multiple domains.
I’m 30 year old award winning wedding photographer in London, soon to be 31. The retirement age in the UK will probably be around 70 by the time I get to state pension age. In real terms, this gives me about another forty years of work. Being self employed, the idea is I become super successful, make a tonne of money and retire early. This however goes against everything that I believe in. I’m not thinking about age, wages and pension, I’m thinking about my legacy. I want to be working, taking pictures til my very last breath. Squeeze the shutter button, sudden pain, bam! Gone.
To this end most of my goals are in five and ten year chunks. The most amazing part of blogging is that in five years time, I can re-read this and be accountable for what I’ve written. Please feel free to bookmark this, set a date and ready the firing squad.
In all seriousness, whether it’s Facebook groups, my students (I teach photography too) or even my family, there are many out there thinking short term. If I get the new VSCO presets this is gonna be it! If I find out the gear they use i’ll be the next Avedon. I’ve been guilty of this too. However, as of 2018, I’ve made the decision to cut all my paid advertising and go full hustle. Paying others is short term, I want long term greatness. The funny thing is, at 30, I still feel like I’m learning new things all the time. Probably explains why my Instagram has so few posts. I’m not burgeoning with self confidence, so I had to work at my craft, listening, learning and always improving. At the beginning of my career, peers told me I charged too little (this still happens) but money is no driver for me, enough to cover my bills is, feed my fish and chickens, that’s plenty, I love the work itself, the grind, the journey, call it what you will. I want to build slowly, incremental increases, always keeping my confidence and always learning.
I read a great article the other day about the animator/illustrator from Studio Ghibli. They held his retirement party and the very next day he was back in the studio drawing. Having a purpose is what keeps us moving forward. Even after I’m too old to shoot weddings, I’ll still be shooting.
The meat of this article.
Don’t get fancy with photography gear.
I mean this sincerely and believe it to be true in all aspects of life. You don’t need fancy gear to make great work. Tracey Emin used her bed. Tabatha Bundensen used her Grumpy Cat. Get creative with whats around you, its the creativity that tells the story, not the object. Can this be more perfectly exemplified by the jackass crew? No money, rubbish camera but played to their strengths – skateboarding, creativity plus nonsense. Result? Millionaires.
That market exists, the debate will rage on about the value in upgrading, but it does still exist. Manufacturers whack out the latest tech every year, all the while ignoring what reviewers, working professionals and the general public really want. “Hey you wanted two card slots on the new 6D, whoops! We left it out, oh well, £1700 please” Jose Villa shoots film and can charge $25,000 for a wedding, but we need an articulated screen…
I’ll stop ranting…
My point is, to want to get good, buy what you can afford and get creative. My writing style I’m starting to realise is mostly aimed at myself. I covet gear. It happens. But for the record I did start with an EOS3 and my first digital camera was a 10D (side note for fun, I bought the sigma 170-500 when I first started based upon the idea that a beast lens made me better, incidentally my favourite focal length is now 28mm)
I have no issue telling you that my camera and lens combo is a 6D and a 28mm f1.8. Total value, about £1500 new. I took this with it…
and it’s a great picture. Its fast to focus, can be used at 1.8 (although 2.8 is often the widest i’ll shoot), built well, reliable and most importantly is incredibly light. Carry around chunky gear all day for thirty odd weddings and your back wont thank you, probably why so many are making the shift to the tiny fuji’s.
So why did I write this?
Partly because I encounter alot of young creatives (particularly the A-Level students I teach) stifled by the idea that they need top end kit. It is a challenge to think of ideas, and not everyone is creative. Use what you’ve got around you, it’s practice at being resourceful.
I am of the opinion that the dopamine releasing effects of mobile phones is enough to lure young and old into a stale place creatively, so I’m going back to basics and rediscovering my love of Lumen prints. Photo paper, pens, pencils and scissors. Phone in the other room, 6 music on the radio, start, brain, now!