I get similar messages or emails several times a month:
I can’t afford the gear I want, because in my market, people only pay xyz for a photoshoot, and that is barely enough for me to get by
if I only had your gear, I would be able to charge so much more and take better pictures, but I don’t have the money
This is the chicken and egg problem, but frankly, not really. I have taken images with a $400 camera and sold one of them for several thousand. I have taken images with five thousand or more in gear, and only sold it for five hundred. The key is not the gear (although gear enables you to do cool things that make you stand out, but more on that later), the deciding factor is whether you are selling a commodity, or a unique product.
With decent DSLR’s today costing about 600-700 dollars (incl. kit lens) and many free photography classes online, everyone can take well-exposed and halfway decent pictures. If you fall into that category, you are competing with all other weekend warriors, hobbyists, enthusiasts, moms, dads, students, and pretty much everyone else who owns a decent camera for the same piece of the pie; as more and more people want to have a piece, the pieces get smaller. At some point several years ago, this market collapsed and is now where people charge $50 or $100 for a natural light portrait session; this type of photography has become a commodity. Not only is this a disastrous market to be in from a business point perspective, but furthermore, it will never allow you to spend enough time with your clients and be creative, or afford interesting gear that enables you to do more things.
I often hear others say that you should know your gear first before you move on, and that holds true. You don’t put someone with a learners permit into a racecar, but you can’t go 0-60 in a stock Honda civic in less than 2.5 seconds either. So gear or no gear, and if gear, which gear?
Gear is important, and I hope these following steps will help you to make a more educated decision on where to spend your money, and how to advance your career (and charge properly for your work). Here are my simple rules in the order of importance:
I hope this helps you a bit with deciding what to do next, but doing the exact same as the guy or girl next to you won’t allow you to charge any more than they do. Gear can help with this, but without you understanding how to use that gear it’s just another expense that won’t do much for you. Add gear as you add skills, and keep in mind that the benefits coming from better gear are incremental at best. It’s not the gear that sells, it’s how you use it!
PRIOLITE has agreed to host several workshops over the next months, so if you want to learn how I approach my images and create my composites, pick my brain and have a great time doing so, make sure to subscribe to their newsletter (click here) and get notified when these limited events take place.