People ask me for gear recommendations all the time. If I had a nickel for each time that someone asked me what lens they should buy, I’d be…well you get the picture. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is NOT going to be an anti-gear rant. I LOVE gear, I like the way it looks, the way it smells and I love the promise that it provides. We’ve all said to ourselves “once I have that new (fill in the blank) I’ll be able to (fill in the other blank).”
The truth is, to the question of “what _____ should I buy” there is both only one answer and no answer. The answer isn’t clear-cut and it is different for each person who asks the question. In the end, however, the answer depends on one thing: Who are you?
It would seem like the answer I would give you when you asked for my favorite lens would be important but it’s not. The real questions should be “why is it your favorite?” “What do you shoot with it?” and “How does it support your style/vision?”
You and I are very different photographers and that’s what makes photography great. We shoot different subjects, in different conditions and achieve different results. We are each unique and so are our needs. Now that’s not to say that many of us won’t want or need the same lens to achieve our desired results but it is to suggest that there’s not a clear cut answer to the question.
The fact that your favorite photographers may shoot prime lenses exclusively should have absolutely not bearing on whether or not you choose a zoom, in fact, a zoom could be a much better choice for most photographers.
When I first started out, I used the fact that I was a professional photographer as justification to buy everything under the sun. Give me every Nikon 2.8 zoom please…the more expensive the better! A year later I found that I photographed less and, when I did photograph, had fewer photographs that I loved. I had two new obstacles: Lugging around 40 pounds of equipment and having too many lens options. Photography was no longer as fun because I was focused on rounding out my equipment and not rounding out the artist that used the equipment.
So, am I ever going to tell you what to buy? You betcha! But before I do you owe it to yourself to answer some questions first. The two things that I think are most important revolve around what specific problems this new toy will solve.
The most important thing that this new purchase should serve is your vision. By that I mean…How do you see? What do you like to shoot? How do you like to photograph the scene? What do you like to include/exclude in your shots? Is there a specific shot style that you love? If you can’t answer these then you’re not ready to purchase anything.
Once you know the answers to those questions you only have one more to answer and that is; How does your current gear prevent you from doing the above? For instance, do you not have a necessary focal length covered? Or are there specific limitations in your current gear that are preventing your from capturing your subject/scene in ways that are critical to achieving your vision?
If you can’t answer all of those questions then it’s time to spend more time shooting and less time shopping. Spend your money on things that will help you discover who you are as a photographer. Take a class, try one of our awesome workshops or treat yourself to a weekend trip to some place that will inspire you.
If you can answer those questions then let’s go shopping…and to help you figure out what to get we’ll be rolling out some resources for you. Visit our gear pages so you can see exactly what we use. We’ll also be writing regular gear posts that focus on specific equipment, how we use it and why we love it. We’ll also have regular Image Breakdown posts in which we take one of our favorite photographs and walk through the process of how we created it.
After carefully answering these questions, come see what OUR MOST LOVED GEAR is.