People will judge you by your camera

House Park Stadium Sunset - Austin, Texas

House Park Stadium Sunset – Austin, Texas

People tend to judge a book by its cover. It might not be fair but that’s reality. The same goes for your camera too. People will judge the photographer, professional or amateur, by the camera they use.

I had to chuckle when I ran into a parent from my kid’s elementary school. “Wow, you used to be such a good photographer”, she remarked as she saw me with a humble Panasonic point and shoot at a high school football game. I took no offense. The last time she saw me, a few years ago, I was the guy taking photos at school with the big DSLR on Olympics Day. While I’m sure my photography skills have improved, in her eyes I’m now diminished — obviously point and shoots are not used by serious photographers. Ironically, I’m really proud of the images I created that night. Something that I probably wouldn’t have managed just being a DSLR shooter. Limits, such as the ones imposed by an old point and shoot, forces you to improve.

People will judge you based on your camera. I use this stereotype to my advantage — I pick cameras to “influence” my subjects. Often, I use cameras that allows me to blend in, to go unnoticed. That’s one of the reasons why I own so many different cameras. For street photography, I like use the Olympus micro 4/3. They don’t stand out like DSLRs but often match their performance. But it works the other way too. When I shoot at Fashion Week, I purposely bring the big DSLRs to blend in with everyone else. Using a smaller camera will actually make me stand out more. Not standing out is important since I want to capture the most natural expression. Ideally the camera would just disappear and be invisible to the subject.

When I want to appear “professional”, I use my DSLR. Shooting models for example, the big black DSLR adds credibility compared to a smaller camera. At SXSW music, I shoot DSLRs when I have permission to shoot at a venue. I shoot micro 4/3 when I want to look like a regular fan with a camera.

So what does this mean? For me, there is more to gear selection than merely the performance and features of a camera. Sure, when I’m in the ocean, I use my waterproof Olympus TG-2. When I want the best possible high ISO performance, I use the Canon 6D. But when I can use several cameras from a technical standpoint, I use the camera that is the most invisible. The least intrusive.

McCallum vs. Anderson, House Park Stadium - Austin, Texas

McCallum vs. Anderson, House Park Stadium – Austin, Texas

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11 thoughts on “People will judge you by your camera

  1. Interesting point! I think I used to be one of these, and I am ashamed to admit this now. But the bigger the camera, I thought must be pro! Since I started taking classes and learning the art of photography I discovered that tutors were using point & shoot with a mere 4 megapix or a bridge camera like mine. It is the composition, lighting, quality of the shot that counts, not the size of the equipment. Great post, it does need to be pointed out 🙂

    1. Sometimes having that big camera can be more confusing, especially for someone just beginning to learn photography. Yes, seeing the light, color and composition is certainly more critical.

  2. So true. A big DSLR with a big lens can ether get you more respect and open doors OR it can keep you out of a venue. But with today’s small camera, the quality if not different. I just can’t afford a 200mm 2.8 lens for my micro 4/3 😉 I read about the wedding photographer who did a whole wedding with 3 micro 4/3rds tied to his belt. That took guts.

    1. It does take guts but I’m sure the photographer has great results and the couple looked at the photographer’s work was convinced regardless of the gear he used.

  3. Great post, I had a similar incident this weekend, had my 5D Mark III and my 70-200L, a couple guys were mesmerized, asked if I was from the paper lol, told them I was just a hack, I need a smaller Camera, I kept my 7D but I am really thinking of selling it, I want something small that would make a good spare that brackets, any input would help, cheers

  4. This attitude is probably reminiscent of the early days of photography, when a proper photographer would haul around his accordion chamber camera, with his plates, tripod and probably half a truckload of chemicals, and his head would disappear in the camera when he’s taking the photo.
    Nowadays, with the advances of technology, anyone with some money can afford pro gear without necessarily being able to operate it, so the differentiation between good photographers has to be made on other factors.
    Photographers with some experience also know that a good photo doesn’t wait for you, and doesn’t warn you beforehand, and they also know that if they keep hauling heavy gear around they will end up hating photography altogether.
    Some people aren’t aware of all that (yet!), I guess.
    I’m happy to see people interested in photography, and well, those who aren’t interested, we just let them live their lives 🙂 They make good photo subjects.

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