It’s the Photographer, Not the Gear

by | Nov 25, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I think it’s pretty obvious but camera equipment doesn’t make photographs, people do.

It’s also obvious that you’ll need a camera and some kind of light source—even if it’s the sun—to shoot anything but you don’t need a $5750 Hasselblad X1D II-50c to make a portrait of your wife, friend or significant other. Any and I mean any camera that takes interchangeable lenses will let you create really great portraits.

A few years ago, I wrote a article for the former print edition of Shutterbug magazine about creating an in-home studio for less than $200. If you poke around their website you might be able to find it. It featured a portrait shoot I did with a camera and lens that together cost less than $400—and that was with a new camera bought on sale from Amazon.

The reality is that there are lots of bargains available in used or refurb cameras that you can purchase from camera stores, eBay, Craig’s List or maybe a friend. My purchase of my dream camera—the Olympus Pen F— was made as a refurb because it was almost half the price of a new one. It looks and shoots like a new camera but without the sticker shock that Pen F’s still have. So here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t let ego determine what kind of camera you should buy or use. Recently I talked with an aspiring portrait photographer who’s using a camera that was introduced four years ago and he told me that when he went to (pre-pandemic) photography meet-ups people disparaged his use of “old” gear.
  • Don’t let other other people determine how you spend your money.
  • Speaking of money, having too much money tied up in cameras and lights or worse, debt for that gear, will sink a new pro or aspiring professional photographer faster than anything else. You should sell your photography based on the quality of your work, personality and business ethics.
  • The truth is that if your clients like you they will like their photographs. And they don’t care if you shoot with a used Panasonic Lumix Gx1, like the one I recently bought from Roberts Camera for $125.

For some other thoughts on the subject if you have time, please read You Are What You Shoot?” on my car photography blog/website or Monday’s post on this blog..

How I made this shot: I photographed Tasha in the loft area that was outside the office of my former home using mostly available light from a large North-facing window to her right. Fill light was provided with a 550EX speedlite with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bunce diffuser in placed to keep the light soft. The camera used was a Canon EOS 50D with EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens (at 80mm.) That lens has been discontinued by the manufacturer but you can pick up used copies from many sources, including Amazon. Exposure was 1/80 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 400.

The original JPEG file (made before my current RAW+JPEG regimen) was lightly retouched—Tasha has fabulous skin—and then tweaked in Vivenza before adding the Dynamic Skin Softener filter from Color Efex Pro,



If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from for the bargain price of $5.33 and starting $2.23 used, as I write this. Even the Kindle version is cheap: $5.07. Since Christmas is coming, why not buy a copy or two for yourself and your favorite photographer.