I watched a short video recently on whether gear is important and the conclusion (not surprisingly) was it is but it isn’t.  Basically it won’t make you a better photographer but it is important in getting the look/feel and/or image quality.  All true but nothing really new said.

In pondering this I was thinking about why we even ask the question.  No one interrogates a painter to ask what brushes they use or a sculptor what brand of chisel they use.  Why is photography so focussed on gear?

I think it’s because photography is more accessible to the unskilled and so someone with no photography skill can take a picture with a cheap camera and get good results.  Most people can’t pick up a paint brush and paint a good portrait and so if they try and fail they give up and forget about it.  In photography however they pick up that point and shoot and hey that looks quite like what I pointed it at.  Then they start pointing it at other things that other people also point it at and some of those others produce better pictures than theirs.

This makes them wonder and they see the equipment that other person is using and they think that if they had that equipment their pictures will be better (which is true) their pictures will be better (technically) this process continues because a person who slowly upgrades will see improvements in their images.

What this drives though is a belief that the gear is what is making the improvement and ignores the artistic skill.  Which may or may not be improving with each upgrade.

In the same way a good brush will not make a bad painter a good one, a good camera will not make a bad photographer a good one but a good brush is important to a good painter to get the results he’s looking for and the same goes for photography gear.  At the extreme end of photography where light or other factors aren’t ideal that slightly better gear will help produce the hoped for image.

The other problem is that, for many, the idea that photography is an art is still not fully embraced (at least away from the very high end) in the same way the painting and sculpture might be; partly by the accessibility of it and partly by the apparent simplicity of the moment of capture.  Because to the outside world it looks like you press a button and hey presto! the image is captured.  The preparation and thought process before or the creative process after are not obvious.  This leads to a mindset where this is a technical activity rather than artistic which is where the interest in gear comes from.

I can’t see this ever changing especially with the gear making it easier and easier to accommodate extreme conditions and with software to make ‘fixing’ things a simple affair.

The debate about gear is here to stay though from my point of view unless I am reviewing a particular camera I rarely comment on what gear was used and maybe in that small way I am reducing the importance and just letting the image tell the story.