Can Equipment Improve Your Photography?

I’ll be the first to admit that I love gear and I know that I’m not alone in that.  While I am certain that equipment is not always the way to better photography I do believe that there is one piece of equipment that will make you a better to photographer.

Most equipment tends to make us sloppy or lazy in our craft.  We zoom our lens instead of moving.  We set up our tripod at eye level instead of bending our knees.   We take hundreds of images on 32GB memory cards hoping we get a few good ones.  Sound familiar?  We all do it.

In our effort to make photography more convenient we are losing sight of how to be better photographers.  So if equipment isn’t the answer, what piece of equipment will help us become better photographers?  It’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s going to make you work…it’s a 50mm lens.  You may already own one, heck; you may have a zoom lens that includes this focal length.

It’s not expensive, glamorous or exciting.  You won’t see people drooling over one in catalogs but it will change the way you approach photography.  A 50mm focal length* records the world in much the same way that your eyes do in terms of perspective and angle of view, which is its biggest strength and greatest weakness.

In my view, photographs are interesting when they capture the world in a way that we can’t see with our eyes.  So then, why would I recommend using a lens that sees the world the way your eyes do?  Because it makes you do three things you need to do more: Move, Think and Work!

Put a zoom lens on someone’s camera and watch them; they often remain stationary and just zoom through their focal lengths until they arrive at a composition that is acceptable.  Switch it out with a 50mm lens and you’ll observe a progression.  First you’ll see a mixture of terror and frustration that is eventually followed by a significant behavioral change: The photographer starts to move!  They will change the height of the camera, the angle and distance of their position and their connection with the subject.  They will move with the concentration and intensity of a prizefighter; adjusting, reacting and repositioning as they photograph.  They will think more about the light on the subject or the background behind it.

Once acquired, this new approach will change your photography regardless the lens you use. Your sharpened powers of observation and new found approach to each subject will result in photographs that are interesting, compelling and unique.

*One note about focal length.  A 35mm focal length for those with APS-C sensors (“crop sensors”) will result in a 50mm effective focal length.  If you don’t own a camera with a full frame sensor use a 35mm lens or the equivalent on your zoom lens to get the effect of a 50mm lens.


You can catch Tony at one of our upcoming Photo Weekends in 2013 in these cities:
Las Cruces, NM
Cleveland, OH
Portland, OR
Portland, ME
Chicago, IL
Nashville, TN
Duluth, MN

Tony is also leading these Workshops in 2013:
Intermediate Photography
Macro Photography
Photography of People


One thought on “Can Equipment Improve Your Photography?

Nancy Thompson

I used a 50 mm lens for a photo project and it was a wonderful choice. I had low light situations (nursing home), mostly portrait/people shots, and was able to capture what I saw. I bought the lens specifically for the project and it has become a favorite.

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