814Shares Twitter 14 Facebook 112 Google+ 585 Pin It Share 103 814 Flares ×

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography GearRecently, I was asked to contribute a What’s in your bag article to the HDROne magazine. As I was writing it, I started thinking about photographers and their gear.

Photographers are a strange breed. Most of them are in love with their gear, and to some, gear is even more important than the photos it produces. This can sometimes lead to strange behaviors and decisions when it comes to purchasing the right gear and using it to the maximum of its potential.

I was realizing that my own approach to buying and using my gear differs fundamentally from the approach of many others out there. While I do feel an aching need to buy some new item from time to time (plain gear lust), I try to resist it and go rational about this desire as much as I can… well… most of the time. So, I decided to put together some tips for you.

Here are my 10 tips that will help you take better decisions with respect to your gear and get the most out of what you already have.

1. Get to know your camera inside out

»Too many people don’t read their manual at all«

Read the fine manual. Ok, this is obvious, right? Of course you look into your camera manual every now and then. But what I mean is something different: Take the manual of your camera body and read it – form the first to the last page. Too many people don’t read their manual at all or only very superficially.

You may not be able to memorize all the contents, but that’s not the point. Today’s cameras have so many functions that may be helpful to you in different situations. The only problem is that you probably don’t know they exist when you actually have such a problem.

Reading your camera’s manual front to back will give you a good overview of what your camera is capable of achieving. This, in turn, will enable you to come up with the right solution tailored to your camera’s capabilities when it counts.

While you’re reading your manual thoroughly, take the time to try out the features that you read about. That will make it much easier to recall them when the decisive moment comes.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 1. Get to know your camera inside out

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

2. Push your gear to its limits and learn what these limits are

»Let your gear grow with your abilities. Doing it the other way around will not work.«

How do you know when you need new gear? Most people know it when they see it. But if you’re on any kind of budget (and who isn’t these days) then this is not the most effective way to go about upgrading your gear. It may be the way that gives you the most pleasure, but eventually, it’s a waste of money.

If you let your gear lust control you, you’ll only end up buying things that you don’t need. Instead, find out which features of your current gear actually limit your photography. Then, try to find a camera that gives you enough head room with respect to the features that are important to you.

Let your gear grow with your abilities. Doing it the other way around will not work.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 2. Push your gear to its limits and learn what these limits are

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

3. Don’t be an early adopter

»Unless you really enjoy being the first to find out that some new item is crap [...] stay away from brand new products.«

I have always lived by this rule, and it served me well. Whenever there is a brand new toy out, chances are that the first version has bugs. Whether its display problems in the D800, or dust problems in the D600, or focus problems with some new lenses, you’ll be the one dealing with it. Unless you really enjoy being the first to find out that some new item is crap, and unless you enjoy reporting and debating about that online, stay away from brand new products. You’re not going to be very hip, but this will save you a lot of time, money and pain.

Wait a few month until the manufacturer has sorted out the issues and then buy the next version. If you are the first one in the whole wide world to buy that fancy new camera that was just released yesterday, then “Hooah!” to you. You’re the man! But unfortunately, you’ll probably not be able to process your RAW files for the next 3 months because the respective software vendors still need to write the software to support it.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 3. Don’t be an early adopter

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

4. Don’t baby your gear

»Once you start worrying more about the photographs than about the gear, your photography will really improve.«

One of the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur photographer is that pros treat and use their gear as tools. They use their camera in much that same way as a carpenter uses a hammer – it needs to work to get the job done. Many amateurs, on the other hand, treat their gear like little treasures that need to be protected at all costs.

Don’t get me wrong! There is nothing wrong with protecting your gear. But if you’d rather not get that important shot because of that 3% chance of your camera taking a hit, you have the wrong priorities. Once you start worrying more about the photographs than about the gear, your photography will really improve.

Along the same lines: Don’t use a cheap UV filter to protect your expensive lens. Once you’ve convinced your spouse that you need to take a loan to buy that 70-200mm 1:2.8 lens, the next thing that you may do is to buy a 20$ UV filter is screw in onto that beast. That effectively makes your new 2000$ lens a 20$ lens. Don’t do it. Your lens is more robust than you may think. Use it for what it is: A tool for getting great photos.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 4. Don’t baby your gear

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

5. Don’t be a pixel peeper

»Chances are that your 24 megapixel images will be scaled down to 1 MP or less«

The Internet is full of people who spend their time sitting in front of their computer looking at photos (taken by other people) at 300% zoom level, trying to spot noise, a lack of sharpness or other artifacts. If they don’t find any, they’ll go to 400%. They discuss vividly and get aggressive while arguing about things like MTF and pixel density.

Make no mistake – image quality is important. The problem, however, is that nobody will ever be looking at your photo at those levels of magnification. Chances are that your 24 megapixel images will be scaled down to 1 MP or less before they are viewed online. If one of your photos is ever going to be printed on a billboard and displayed on Times Square, people will view it from 500 feet away, making it appear even smaller than the 1 MP on your screen. By the way, at that point in your career, gear will be the least of all your problems.

Think about your gear in realistic terms: Will it allow you to produce high-quality photos for the purpose you are using it for?

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 5. Don’t be a pixel peeper

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

6. Don’t listen to what people say online too much

»Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to tell the sensible people apart from those that are on a mission.«

Pixel peeping is not limited to pixels. The same type of people that complain about lack of sharpness at 763% magnification will put forward bold statements about anything under the sun if you ask them. If you have a gear-related question, you should not as your very first step post it on a forum. Many people on these forums are on one of the following missions:

  1. They have bought the item in question and want to protect their decision by claiming that it’s the best one out there, even if it’s crap.
  2. They cannot afford the item, and they try to defend their decision not to buy it by telling people that it’s crap even if it isn’t.
  3. They bought a different item, and they try to defend their decision by telling everyone who decides differently that they’re plain wrong.
  4. They are trolls and will argue with you whatever you say.

Unfortunately, it can be quite hard to tell the sensible people apart from those that are on a mission.

Try to find credible sources of information that deal with such questions without any emotion or personal desire to be right. This takes more time and effort, but the end result is much better. Big review sites (e.g. dpreview.com or cameralabs.com) usually have good objective reviews. But be aware of people who only promote products to earn money from affiliate marketing.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 6. Don’t listen to what people say online too much

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

7. Don’t blame it on your gear

»Blaming it on your gear does only one thing: It keeps you from using your gear effectively.«

If you only had a Nikon D4, a Canon 1D, or a Leica M9 (or whatever you are dreaming of), your photography would be so much better, right? Well, maybe. But that is no excuse for making crappy photos. Today, even entry-level DSLRs are capable of capturing professional photos. The difference between a Nikon D3000 and a Nikon D4 is no longer to be found in the quality of the photos, at least if you have sufficient light.

Blaming it on your gear does only one thing: It keeps you from using your gear effectively.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 7. Don’t blame it on your gear

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

8. Be inventive

»For many problems, there are simple solutions with which you can reach your goal without investing in new gear.«

If you really find that your gear is limiting you, and you don’t have the budget to change that, try to figure out how you can use your gear to work around the problem. If your camera only does 3 shot in an auto exposure bracketing series, use semi-auto bracketing to extend it. If your camera is not as good in high ISO settings as you wish, use exposure stacking to reduce the noise. If your lens does not go to f/56 to give you the depth of field you need for your macros, use focus stacking.

For many problems, there are simple solutions with which you can reach your goal without investing in new gear. Research and learn! If you’re having a gear problem, google it and see how other people solved it. But stay away from those pixel peeper forums, will ya!

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 8. Be inventive

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

9. Be prepared to make compromises

»If you can’t decide, make a priority list.«

Nothing is perfect in this world. This is especially true for camera equipment. Often, you will find yourself having to choose between two or more products, and whichever way you go, you have to sacrifice something. Some people get so carried away over such decisions that they lose sight of the actual problem they had in the beginning. Some even become pixel peepers or start online fights with them.

If you can’t decide, make a priority list. What’s most important to you, and what’s not so important. Compare the products according to this list. If you still can’t decide, just buy either one. Apparently, it does not make a big difference.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 9. Be prepared to make compromises

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

10. Think and act holistically

»Photography is [...] about a whole system of hardware and software entities that need to play well together.«

Photography is not about one camera or one lens. It’s about a whole system of hardware and software entities that need to play well together. Optimizing one without looking at the others may break your whole system.

As an example: When the Nikon D800 came out, I seriously thought about getting one. But when I discovered that those 36 MP files are about 45 MB large, I knew that this would break my whole workflow, forcing me to buy new storage and maybe reduce the images in size before processing a big HDR Vertorama. This simply did not make sense. So, I decided against it for the moment, even though the camera itself is fantastic.

The point is that you need to make gear decisions with your whole system in mind. Try to find the piece of equipment that fits in best, and make sure that this new item does not become the limiting factor too soon.

Oh, and don’t use a crappy tripod to support your new pro DSLR with that 600mm lens, please.

10 Tips for Getting the More Out of Your Photography Gear - 10. Think and act holistically

Pin this tip to one of your boards on Pinterest
Pin this tip

Summary and Conclusions

Buying and using photography gear can be a real pleasure if you do it right. Sometimes, however, you upgrade too early or for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, simply using your existing gear in the right ways can be the solution, and paying some extra thought before you purchase can save you a lot of money, time and pain.

Be sure you take the right decisions next time. Oh, and have fun with whatever you have right now. Chances are that it is capable of doing what you need.

Tagged with:
 

15 Responses to 10 Tips for Getting More Out of Your Photography Gear

  1. Diana Delgado says:

    Very good article, specially when you are loosing a little perspective when new gear shows up (and that is more frequently than not)and tend to think you need to upgrade. Just for you to know, I tried to pin it through the link provided but it didn’t work. Pinned it through the screen add-on on my desktop though. No mobile capability

    • farbspiel says:

      Hi Diana,

      yes, resisting shiny new gear can be tough. But managing to resist can be a rewarding feeling too. :)

      Yeah, that pin thing is broken for some strange reason. One more item on my todo list. Thanks for the heads-up.

      Regards
      Klaus

  2. Tony Leyland says:

    Hi,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading the articles that you post. They are full of practical advise with lots of details. You produce the most comprehensive tutorials/guides and I look forward to reading them.

    The last one I read was about creating a campaign and thought it was incredible.

    Keep up the great wor
    Tony

  3. Juan Silva says:

    Excellent article, as an amateur photographer gears are always a great thing to make us happy, even it is not going to use frequently. I learned to keeping my focus into photography itself rather just buy gears for no any other reason than just enjoy to buy new toys.

    This is really helpful for me, thank you for taking the tome to share your experience with us.

    • farbspiel says:

      You’re welcome, Juan!

      The secret is to enjoy your toys and use them effectively at the same time.

      Cheers
      Klaus

  4. Chris Smith says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read an article before where I agreed with every word. Until now! I agree with every point you make. Some of the points I agree with but had never thought about-don’t blame it on the gear. I couldn’t agree more about Don’t Baby Your Gear and Push Your Gear to the Limits. I always hear people talk about this Farbspiel guy. Now I know why. Thanks!

    • farbspiel says:

      ” I always hear people talk about this Farbspiel guy. Now I know why. ”

      He he he! So, I finally gotcha, eh? ;)

      You’re welcome and thanks for your great feedback, Chris. It’s nice to see that this also matches your personal experience.

      Cheers
      Klaus

  5. Paul Mack says:

    What great food for thought Klaus.Your articles are always interesting,but this one is not just practical in nature but also motivational.Thank you my friend :-)

  6. “Oh, and don’t use a crappy tripod to support your new pro DSLR with that 600mm lens, please.”

    Well, I don’t have a 600mm lens, but I do have a crappy tripod! But luckily I now have a camera with enough headroom (point 2), so I use point 8 (I use a remote or timer shot) and 9 (I bought a new camera instead of a tripod) and point 7 after that (I know the limitations of the tripod and use it accordingly).

    Thanks for a great article!

  7. Great write-up Klaus. I really like the term you coined here: ‘gear lust’.

    Recently, I had an incident that made me rethink my approach to my gear. I changed my beloved but very old LowePro top-loader camera bag to the new version, which is way smaller than the previous model. Suddenly, I ended up with not enough space for my camera accessories and had to prioritise. That really made me realise that I was carrying some unnecessary accessories with me all the time. Anyway, once I wrote about my favourite DSLR gadgets some people may find interesting:

    http://shutterexperiments.com/2011/02/28/six-inexpensive-gadgets-for-your-dslr/#more-187

    Best
    Greg

  8. Great Post. Thank You.

  9. Jaime says:

    I just bought lights that are expensive 3200 but for a 700 discount. And now I realize that I better learn these lights up and down right side up because I can’t return them. they are really nice lights and I suppose the discount was a good cushion but man oh man now that I think of it I was getting frustrated with my photography my gear. I went over lard with the lights. (This is my first gear lust by the way hopefully last.) I have eight year old body and a 50mm lens I use for EVERYTHING.

    Now lets say I got really got to work on my craft with these lights and was happy with my learning and growth, would I regret this purchase? NO. And so this is the only way I can think of to approach this so I can redeem myself and make this purchase count FOR ME.

    Please wish me luck. and thank you for the exclent article. This will be printed and pulled up each time I consider a purchase.

    best.

  10. Mahdi Abdulnabi says:

    thanks Klaus for the great article.

    all the best

  11. plex says:

    Shut up. Everybody is their own judge to know what to do with their gear. Period.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

814Shares Twitter 14 Facebook 112 Google+ 585 Pin It Share 103 814 Flares ×