Guest Post: Great gear does not make great photographers – by Steve Kalman

I have two cameras. One is a Canon XTi, with 3 lenses (wide zoom, telephoto zoom and 50mm prime), two strobes, wireless triggers and tons of filters. A Gitzo carbon fiber tripod completes the set. The other is a Canon SX1IS with a Manfrotto monopod, bought last September.

For Christmas 2008 we visited Italy. I brought a backpack camera bag with almost all the gear (I left the 50 and a strobe home). We walked over much of Rome, Florence and Venice and at the end of the vacation I had some photos I was happy with and a backache severe enough to visit the acupuncturist.

While carrying all that gear, people often approached me to talk photography or ask me to use their camera to take their picture. Their assumption was that I was a good (or at least better than them) photographer.

This year we went to Costa Rica on a tour and I brought the small Canon and the monopod. People carrying big Nikon and Canon gear talked freely to each other, but assumed that I was just a vacation snapshot shooter. They all wanted to give me advice (mostly wrong) and take none. Their working assumption is that the better the gear, the better the photographer.

When it comes to people playing one-upmanship on vacation, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to personal desire for the latest and greatest I need to keep reminding myself that better gear doesn’t equal better composition. A few hundred dollars spent on books or online training, or a few thousand on a week-long workshop will do more to make better photos than a new lens or camera body. For that matter, a few hours re-examining old pictures and thinking about what would make them better is free and might be the most productive choice of all.

I’ve included 4 pictures. The Ponteveccio was taken last year with the XTi, the Poas volcano was taken last month with the SX1. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which camera was used for each of the other two. All are Tonemapped HDR. Ponteveccio and Washington Monument were handheld. The other two were with tripod or monopod. I’ll bet you can’t tell, and that’s the point.


Canon XTi

Poas Volcano

Canon SX1 IS

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Utrecht Canal

Old City, Utrecht, Holland


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