It will probably come as no surprise to you that there are certain “must-have” items that photographers don’t really need in their lives. Before making your next purchase or business decision, check out this list.
You don’t have to look too hard on the Internet to find lists of “must-have” items all photographers should own. I have to confess that I have added to this noise by writing such articles myself. While I hope these pearls of wisdom were always helpful, your house could easily start to resemble a photo store if you bought every single item ever recommended to you. Not only would this be bad news for your bank balance, but it could slow down your progress as a photographer, as some of these unnecessary items will just act as a distraction.
In no particular order, here are 10 things you probably don’t need as a photographer.
For many years, Photoshop was one of the few places to edit your work. This has changed in recent years thanks to free Photoshop clones such as PhotoPea and GIMP. Photoshop is unquestionably one of the great editing programs out there, but unless you are using a lot of Adobe’s fancy tools, the cost of a subscription could be spent on something else.
2. The Latest Camera
Keeping up to date with the newest camera releases will not make you a better photographer. While it’s obviously nice to buy new gear, the incremental improvements the manufacturers make are not worth the thousands of dollars you would need to spend every few years. I still occasionally shoot on my backup Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which was released back in 2008. I personally believe it’s better to master the gear you have and use that camera money elsewhere.
3. Camera Straps
This may seem like a petty one, but I don’t think you need to spend money on additional camera straps when your camera probably came with a perfectly good one at purchase. While I can see the merits of some of the fancy quick-release options out there, the traditional camera strap has never failed me, and the 50 or so dollars saved could be used on a couple of inspiring photobooks instead.
4. A Light Meter
Being able to measure light is obviously a useful thing for photographers to be able to do. Saying that, I don’t think in this day and age a dedicated light meter is worth having on most occasions. Not only is it something extra to carry around in your camera bag, but a decent light meter will cost a good few hundred dollars. Instead, I prefer to trust the meters built into the camera, or if I need a rough idea of what the light is doing when I’m shooting on film, I use a light meter app on my phone. It’s not going to be as good as a purpose-built light meter, but my iPhone and the Pocket Light Meter app have always done a pretty good job of getting me in the right ballpark.
5. Film Photography
While I must confess to shooting on film from time to time, I don’t think the majority of photographers (including myself) should be working in this medium. It’s expensive, there’s a greater risk of losing images, and it’s a much slower way to learn photography when compared with the instant feedback of digital. If the most interesting thing about an image is the fact it was shot on film, then the photographer is in trouble. Worry less about the camera and the medium and more about the images and stories made. An amazing image taken on a smartphone will always trump a mediocre one shot on a film camera. Film photography is one of the biggest distractions for photographers trying to learn the craft and honey their style.
6. Branded Photography Cases
There are some amazing hard photography cases out there that are water-resistant and seemingly bomb-proof. They also cost a small fortune if you need several to house all your gear. Instead, search for “hard tool case” or “waterproof toolbox” online to find similarly rugged storage options for your camera gear. I own a few of these tool cases, and they are just as tough and waterproof as the ones that cost five times as much. By sidesstepping the dedicated photography cases, you can avoid the higher premiums that seem to be placed on most photography equipment. For those worried about looks, these tool cases look just as professional as anything you can buy from the camera store. With the money saved on buying several of these cheaper tool cases, you could treat yourself to a nice lens instead.
7. Bought Presets
It feels like every photographer with a presence online has a set of presets to sell these days. You may have guessed from that last sentence that I’m not a fan of presets. More specifically, it’s paying good money on a preset that will make your work look like someone else’s. By all means, use presets to help speed up your workflow, but it’s better if you make your own, not just so you understand what is happening to your images, but also so your work doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
8. Teams of People to Work With
If you were to believe the many behind-the-scenes photoshoot videos online, you’d think it was crucial to have a big team of people with you when you make your pictures. I’m here to say it isn’t necessary. Of course, it’s great having a team of stylists, makeup artists, and assistants with you on a shoot. But you’d be surprised how much you can do on your own. Remember, it’s the final image that counts and not the numbers in your entourage. The reason I wanted to make this point is for those photographers who are reluctant to pick up the camera because they don’t have a team of people to work with. This kind of mindset will just slow down your growth as a photographer.
9. A Fancy Website
Having a home online for your work is always going to be important for photographers, and a personal website is still the best place for your images to be seen by customers and clients alike. That being said, this website does not need to have every fancy new plugin or widget you can possibly throw at it. Please don’t waste your time and money trying to have a website do something special when it’s your photography that should be doing the talking for you. Instead, opt for an off-the-peg template that best suits your style and branding and works flawlessly on all devices. You’ll waste thousands of hours and dollars on websites and web designers trying to keep these features working correctly if you try to do anything too fancy.
10. Having 100 Amazing Images in Your Portfolio
The biggest mistake I see photographers making is that they think they need a massive body of work to get clients. Of course, it’s important to have a collection of well-rounded images in your portfolio, but you don’t need to have made 100 killer pictures for clients to start calling you. The number of images you actually need in your portfolio will vary from industry to industry, but 10 to 15 great pieces will show the most prospective clients and customers that you’re capable of doing what they need. The biggest pitfall with trying to amass hundreds of amazing images for your portfolio is that by the time you get even halfway to that magic number, the older work will no longer meet your standards and you’ll want to remove it. If you wait until you have made 100 amazing pieces before touting your wares as a photographer, you’ll never actually get there.
So, there you have it, 10 items I don’t think you need as a photographer. While I’m sure some of my suggestions will ruffle some feathers, I do truly believe that less is more when it comes to making great work. Carrying too much, both physically and metaphorically, is never going to be a healthy place for a creative person to be. By minimizing what you need as a photographer, you can cut through the distractions and use your time, money, and energy on things that will actually make a difference to your career.
Over to You
Any items you think I missed off the list? Anything I mentioned you disagree with? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.