If you’ve ever gone to a photography convention, you’ll know that some photographers like to turn up with massive long lenses. The guy with the longest lens walks with a swagger, like there's something stuffed down his pants. What's up with that? Does he seriously want shots of the Canon stand with a 1000mm lens? Nope. More likely it's because he bought a rumor. The rumor says that the best equipment equals the best photographer.
Is this true?
Admittedly, it’s true that the best photographer will want the best equipment. But it’s also true that money doesn't buy skills. I spent years working in the music business and I noticed a good analogy. Amateur guitarists are often told to buy a 'good enough' guitar when they start out. They may have talent, but if they don't practice daily, a top-of-the-range Fender won’t save their asses. It’s funny to watch them if a pro borrows their cheap scrappy guitar. The pro will tweak the strings and produce an awesome set of riffs that leaves the amateur gobsmacked. I’ve seen this happen a few times. The simple fact is a pro can make anything sing. Even a banjo. So where does this leave the budding photographer? Simply put, if you start with gear that’s good enough for your needs, don’t go drooling over what you don't have. Don't be eyeing someone else's kit bag. Practice, practice and push your limits. If you keep pushing, who knows? Maybe you'll develop a style that's totally your own. Next time a guy with a massive lens kicks sand in your face, check his online gallery. It's possible he's an awesome photographer. It's also possible that he's stuck in Automatic and his photos are beautifully polished turds.
There's a caveat to this. If you grow your skills, eventually you'll outgrow your gear. When this happens, do a personal audit. Check your own gallery and ask which shots are your best. This can give you a pointer to your next step. You may decide that you need a sharp portrait lens. Or a set of strobes. Or a medium format camera with wide angle lens - the camera equivalent of a lap steel guitar? If this helps you scale new heights, go for it. Equipment does matter if you want to keep climbing. But it’s not the express ticket to the top.