I've been working with minimal equipment since 9 years ago when I started photography, and to this day I try and use as little as possible. Not because I think that it's more "pure" or something; I would gladly have bought more if I had the financial means, and to be honest, I have spent more on photography than I probably should have. Ever since I spent WAY too much money on my Nikon D800, I've been trying to apply a new life strategy: Earn the gear you have instead of buying into the bullshit that you need more than what you have.
I BS'd myself into buying a camera that shot such enormous files that I needed a whole new computer to edit them. I wasn't running a business, I just wanted the new thing. My D7000 at the time was plenty for what I was doing. I started photography with an Olympus point and shoot digital camera, used the crap out of it for about a year, and moved on to a Nikon D3000. It didn't take me long to reach the limits of that camera, probably about 2 years. I saved and bought a D7000 eventually, and it was an incredible camera, truthfully, I'd still be doing pretty well with it.
I bought the D800 because I wanted to look like some sort of photography badass. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a photography badass, and no one but losers think that your camera is what makes you cool. A more embarrassing version of this was when I was maybe 15, and I put a 500 GB hardrive into my laptop (which was huge in 2007), and I half expected the ladies to throw themselves at me. I've always had delusions such as these, because I'm good at convincing myself I need things to move to the next level.
I'm fascinated with this idea right now: What gear do you actually need for whatever photography you're interested in? Over the years, I've been into portraits, landscapes, street photography, film photography, product photography, etc. I've spent a lot of money on this hobby, but not nearly as much as I could have. The D800 is the most expensive piece of equipment I have, and most of the time I've been rocking 2 lenses at most.
I want to go on this ride, where I make a series about doing something with minimal equipment. I'm a self proclaimed "makeshift photographer" where most of my stuff is cheap and taped together, or I just built of piece of equipment myself. I'm going to go through each type of photography I've been interested in, and talk about how I've made it work without "the right tools".
Why am I even going there? This comes from a recent trip I took to Best Buy with my friend Woody. We perused the camera section because I'm enthralled with the Sony mirrorless stuff. The viewfinders are so crisp, and the camera is so small and sexy. Every vlogger and "influencer" and Instagram photographer is rocking one of these right now, and part of me feels like I need it. Woody and I looked at the prices, and determined that to get the body and all the lenses I would need, it would probably run me about $10,000 at the end of the day. I thought I spent an absurd amount of money on my $2600 D800, and now if I upgrade, I'd be spending 3x that. It pissed me off. I would need to be working day and night photo jobs to even have that thing pay for itself.
No one needs that. Sure, it's absurdly nice and high end, but no one can tell what camera you've used for that cool Instagram photo. It all comes down to who is taking the picture. If I had the means, I'd probably buy it, but if you're working in any part of the photography industry, you're probably on a budget yourself.
For less than $10,000 I got a D800, a 85mm 1.8 lens, a Sigma Art 24mm 1.4, a GoPro Session, a Phantom 4, a Canon EOS M3 with an 11-22 lens, a heavy duty tripod, a cheapo lighting kit, a Nikon flash, and more.
That's what I want to talk about: The Gear You Actually Need. I don't want to talk about how gear doesn't matter, because it does. You just need to be smart about what gear you get. The kind of gear that doesn't matter is overpriced gear; the more money you spend does not make you better.
To be honest, in 2014, I didn't need a D800. Now, I'm so glad I sprung for it. It has made life so much easier, but it took a few years to grow into it. Even 3 years later, it's still a beast, and whenever I upgrade, it's because I've seriously earned it (or absolutely destroyed the D800). It's too good of a camera to be looking at the A7r II mirrorless exit.
Stay tuned for my next post: The Gear You Actually Need for Street Photography (I'm doing this one first because it takes almost no gear to be a successful street photographer)