Debunking a myth

As hard as it is to believe, especially when you're first starting out, you don't need expensive equipment to make high quality photographs. We've all been guilty of thinking "man, if I had that new lens, I could do amazing work", or "He's not a better photographer than me, he just has better equipment". There is a myth among photographers that better equipment equals better photographs.

Most of us that have done this for a while, disagree. Yes, for certain types of photography, you need specialised equipment – it's hard to shoot birds and wildlife without high-focal-length lenses, you're unlikely to get spectacular results shooting in low light without a flash or a tripod. I accept that. But you do not need the latest and greatest option to do the best work.

I shot professional work for years on an entry-level Canon 350D DSLR. I have used my current camera, a Canon 5d mark ii, for the better part of 10 years. I feel no desire or pressure to upgrade. I've written elsewhere about Triple E, a regular winner on Gurushots. This is a man that wins challenges on a weekly basis. But if you look at the EXIF information of his images, he shoots on a crop-factor DSLR, and often on his iPhone. And he wins awards.

I did an experiment with a friend once. He had a Canon 5d mark iv. We set up our cameras and shot the same image, with exactly the same settings. On a pixel for pixel comparison, we could not tell which was shot with the newer camera. There really isn't a discernible difference in quality. Until you feel a real need to upgrade, don't.

I shot a Guns N Roses concert in Gurgaon in the early 2010s on my trusty 350D. I used L series lenses, but when I saw my results, I realised that if I was going to shoot low-light and variable-light events like a musical concert, I needed to shoot full frame. My images were more noisy than I liked. So that's when I upgraded to my current camera.

I can hear you say, "Sure, but what about in a studio?"

Yes, let's look at a studio shoot. Consider the image at the top of this post. Studio, professional lighting, right? Wrong.

The reflective surface that the strawberries were sitting on, was my iPhone. The single light source was an LED lamp from IKEA that happened to be on my desk. The 'seamless' background was a leather box (also from IKEA) I use to keep stationery in. I found the berries were very dark on camera right, so I picked up a white book of Post-its, and positioned it to fill the shadows. A couple of test shots later, I realised the light from my lamp was spilling on the background, ruining my shot. A block of white note paper worked perfectly as a flag, blocking light from falling on the background. One more shot, 5 minutes in Lightroom and Photoshop, done.

Desklamp as light source, block of paper as flag

Book of Post-its work as a reflector

My home studio