Expensive Gear Myths

As photographers we are constantly being told we “need” the newest Canon or Nikon with the faster more expensive glass.   Let me say simply before I get started on this topic, I would love to own a Nikon D5 with about $30,000 worth of glass. That would be an amazing dream come true, but do I need it to make a great professional quality image? No, and the idea that the camera is what makes you a professional is laughable.  The other laughable thing that I read recently was; you wouldn’t want to do professional work on a camera that doesn’t have a full frame sensor.

This is a blatant lie, I know this for a fact because I am a professional that has worked for many commercial clients and the most I have used was a Nikon D300. I have even gone so far as to give marketing firms images shot on a Nikon D80 and a D300. In fact when I was the head product photographer for a massive electronics company and I do the majority of my product work on a Nikon D5000. Today I use a Nikon D7000 for product photography.

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

If an experienced photographer can get the job done with 5 year old camera gear, why would a Nikon D7000 not be considered a professional camera?  Oh, I know because that is what you’re being told by people that have no idea what these cameras are really capable of. Trust me you can make amazing shots with a Nikon D200 or a D7000. What did we do before the D3 and the D700, were all of those images not up to par without FX sensors?  Think about it, the camera’s are better I totally agree but are we better photographers because of the extra money we spent.  Nikon and Canon would have you believe that, but the fact that you have a camera from 2006 is not what is keeping you from getting work.  It is your portfolio; it is what you are capable of doing in post and what you do when you have your subject right in front of you.

I use up-scaling on most of my images, so my 10mp images are normally set at about 17.5mp or 23mp. This can be done in Adobe Camera Raw, there are a variety of settings in fact that you can use right away to improve the quality of your final product.  Properly setting up your camera for the maximum versatility and setting your Camera Raw settings for the highest resolution at the widest color gamut right away can make a huge difference. This would be setting your color space to Adobe RGB 1998 at 300 ppi.  The following three images show the up-scale process; where to find the option in camera RAW and the second two images show the pixel details along with the final image. This image was shot while walking with my Nikon D80.

Up-scaling in Camera RAW

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon


Details at 100%

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

The Single Shot: Point Loma Lighthouse  (up-scaled)

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Another big tip is when up-scaling is to keep your camera off the “P” mode. This is a terrible setting that will give you a false sense of security, and will often leave you with soft focus images in the detail areas.  This mode doesn’t care if your images are soft it will let you take the picture anyway.  Try using “M”, “A” or “Av” for manual mode or aperture value.  It may be scary, so don’t do it for the first time on that paid gig! But just go out and practice having to think a little bit before you press that little shiny button.  This is a great way to improve your images right off the bat.  You’ll thank me later; if you are already on board with this then you are ahead of the curve.

Look at the comparison of the images below, these are 2 images that I made on a Nikon D80 a great camera from 2006. It has a 10.1 mega pixel DX sensor and it is a CCD on top of that.

Downtown Philly

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Pixel Details at 100%

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Bar Harbor

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

Pixel Details at 100%

 Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

I will show you some insane night images in my upcoming series on the ins and outs of “Nightscapes” made with the Nikon D80.  I used this camera to prove to you that great images can be made in 2012 with a camera that you are supposed to believe is substandard and defiantly not a camera that a pro would use.

“Nightscape” in Ocean Beach

Photography by: Douglas Lee Coon

I am here to help you; I will be giving you my photography secrets and tips that allow me to work in the highly competitive in Southern California market.   So keep these things in mind when flipping through articles telling you that you need to have a $5,000 camera body to get jobs with the big dogs.  Chances are the camera that you bought last year is more than capable of making great images.  Do great work and the clients will come, the photographer is still the single most important factor in making professional quality images.

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