This is a question I get asked a lot by new clients starting on their photography careers, even when I’m photographing at a wedding or an event there's always somebody coming up to ask me what camera I use or what I would recommend.
The difference between a successful photographer who makes a lot of money, one that turns their hobby into a very profitable profession and one that fails has nothing to do with their camera equipment. It’s all down to marketing your business correctly, building a great name for your brand and becoming a likable and followable person on social media and your blogs.
No matter what camera you have if you don’t set goals and you aren’t consistent with your business marketing then you are very likely to fail and a top of the range Canon or Nikon will not make a difference to your success.
***THE BEST CAMERA FOR A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER?***
I'll probably upset a few photographers by saying this, but I believe it doesn’t make a difference what model or brand of camera you choose but obviously a Digital SLR is the preferred choice - on that, I would agree with most photographers. I personally use Canon and have done for over 25 years going all the way back to my Canon A1 film camera, that was my first serious SLR. However, during my time serving as a Royal Navy Photographer, we were all issued with Nikon Kit and Hasselbalds.
These days cameras are changing so fast it’s impossible to keep up with the latest models but to be honest I truly believe you don’t have too. I’ve personally photographed over 750 weddings to date plus around 10,000 portraits, not to mention the 100s of nurseries and schools I’ve photographed over the years.
When my business entered its second year and I turned over £100,000 from my wedding photography alone, did I go out and buy a top of the range Canon camera? No, I certainly didn’t! However, I did invest in some really good Canon lenses and today still have them in my camera bag. To be honest they are pretty much the same price now as I paid for them 12 years ago because you’re paying for the quality of the optics and that’s the business end of the camera. By contrast, if you go out and buy the best DSLR on the market today in 12 – 18 months it will have lost half it's valued and be outdated by an even bigger megapixel monster that you really don’t need.
Last year I took some portraits of two little girls at their home, they were the daughters of a bride whose wedding I’d photographed 11 years ago. After the shoot, we had a coffee and a catch-up and she brought out her wedding album. “Remember this Jeff?” she said. I did because it was one of my first digital printed albums I’d sold for £1895, that was 11 years ago. Now looking through it the quality was perfect and the photos looked as good to me now as they did then but more importantly the bride still loved it. Those images were taken on my first DSLR, a Canon 10d, which I’m sure at the time was only a 5-megapixel camera, my mobile phone has more megapixels now.
My point is, that was 11 years ago and the images were good enough then to charge £1895 for my work and the bride, and many more brides like her, still love their albums. So, is there really any need to spend £3,000 or £5,000 on a camera when a sub £1,000 body will do just a good a job for you? You can even pick up some great second-hand bargains with warranties too.
If you’re just starting out my advice is don’t go for the top of the range, you don’t need it. That money would be much better invested in marketing your business. When you start thinking of marketing as an investment, not an expense then you’ll realize that’s how you’ll make big money out of photography.
I’d much rather have two £800 camera bodies in my bag than just one £3000 model. If you’re serious about photography and making money from it make sure you have at least two full sets of equipment because one day out of the blue your camera will just stop working. It’s happened to me on several occasions but each time I’ve been fortunate enough to have a spare set in my bag all loaded up and ready to go - panic over! Imagine if you just had your one all singing all dancing top of the range model at a wedding, then suddenly it stopped working….it doesn’t bear thinking about.
I used to do a lot of trout fishing years ago and there was a saying about fishing tackle shops, they sell more equipment to catch the fishermen than they do to catch the fish - very true! The same applies to photography. If like myself, you’ve done very well out of photography and really do want the latest top of the range camera then great that’s your preference and you’ve earned it.
Remember your clients look at photographs differently than you do, they don’t see the little flaws that we obsess over. Make getting a top of the range camera your goal as a reward when your business has achieved a certain point and you’ve crossed off a few of those important goals. Invest your spare money in marketing, building your brand with great and powerful design and grow your social media presence with paid ads and you’ll see the investment pay off.
Stick a photo of your dream camera on the wall next to your desk and every time you receive a booking transfer 10% to your dream camera fund. That’s an incentive to crack your marketing and smash your goals in record time and it's proportional too, the more money you save the better your business is performing.
Hope you’ve found this post useful, I know a lot of people may disagree with me and try to argue the toss that a particular camera is better than another, this may be the case but it won’t make you more money and in 18 months time they’ll be arguing that another camera is better again.
In reality, our skill is in the art of taking photographs, it’s how we tell a story in images, it’s how we compose and arrange our subjects for a shoot, how we control and work with light to our advantage. We could probably get some amazing results on our camera phones if we had to because it’s our keen eye and attention to detail that clients are paying us for. To me, my money has been better invested in marketing my businesses than upgrading my kit every year and my investment in marketing has paid off hugely allowing me to grow 5 successful photography companies. If you are just starting out I can’t stipulate enough how important it is to invest in your marketing as well as having a good back up camera system in your bag.
Hope this helps, Jeff