My first 'proper job' was as a sales assistant for a well known hi - fi retailer. This is of course from a pre internet, pre iPod age when hi-fi separates were highly desired household items and specialists shops were the only places to get them. Over night it seemed I was a local celebrity; access to nightclub guest lists, concerts and discounts in favourite stores were all suddenly offered by people I barely knew - as long, of course, I could somehow sort out a 'great deal' for them. This is all well and good, but what's that got to do with photography I hear you say? I'm getting there, I'm getting there ...
In my experience my old hi fi hunting regulars were roughly categorised in to 2 camps. The first was the harmless music loving, music buying, gig going types who just wanted to get the best kit for their budget. The second was the 'audiophile'who was willing to separate with a vital organ if it meant a " less splashy top end and more realistic sound staging between the mid and low range". Apart from needing a sound engineering degree to have a meaningful conversation, the people in this group (100% male in case you were wondering, and forever clutching a fistful of magazine reviews) always seemed pained by the perceived limitations of the big ticket items they had only recently purchased. If I'm honest, I used to consider myself immune from this costly cycle of misery; I knew my limits and was generally happy with my audio lot.
Can you see where I'm heading with this..? Now when it comes to camera bodies and lenses I have found myself thinking in exactly the same way as my old, pained faced customers. It's so easy to drool over product reviews or someone's work and think if I buy one of those my work will look as good as that. I follow photographers who regularly discuss the merits of equipment that costs more than a family car. What's worse, I've stopped recoiling at the prices and started to work out how long it might take me to get the piece in question.
Kit upgrades do improve your images and types of lenses will change the types of images you create i.e. If you want a wide angled look or a fine blurry background - or bokeh as it is called - you'll still need the right kit to do it. After that, the real differences are from you, your creative direction and technique.
So the moral is keep learning, make the best of what you've got, right? Yeah...I wish life was so simple. The two images below best illustrate my conundrum when it comes to the quest for better images and better equipment.
This image was taken on my Mum's 81st birthday, and I'm really grateful I had my newly upgraded camera to capture this very poignant image.
And below is my attempted reminder that kit isn't everything. I saw this scene set in my all time favourite place but with only an iPhone 4s to use.
However, if you like this image, is it now diminished in your eyes now you know it was taken on an iPhone ? To be honest, it is for me. I love it and the memories it conjures, but eating away inside is the thought of what I could have achieved with my real camera.
I would be foolish to say that I'm not going to lust after new kit in the future, but if I'm to learn anything from the past, I've got be clear about what's it really going to do and why I need it.
Till next time...