17 September 2019

What to Do If You Can't Upgrade Your Camera Right Now

Art Model, Covenant
New Cameras are coming out every single year. Your camera model will have an upgrade likely every 2 to 3 years, particularly for the higher end and professional models. Sometimes these upgrades will be incremental or marginal. Other times, they will be a huge overhaul with a new sensor and a completely different look. More power. More megapixel. Faster autofocus and it will come in either a bigger or smaller package. That's chiefly about how it goes. Then they'll promote the secondary features to pull in the video audience, like 4K video or 4k video at 60/120 fps. Maybe a flip-out screen, or improved ergonomics for a more natural feel in your hands.

Art Model, Covenant
That's just the way it goes. Advertisers, Marketers, Engineers, and Sales Teams all get their ducks in a row to sell you a product... year after year. It's what they do in order to keep their jobs. You likely do the same thing in a different field.

But what happens when that 61MP or that 100MP, or that 20-frame per second burst mode shooting beast comes out and, well... shoot. It's just not the best time for you to upgrade. You watch your peers put in their pre-orders. You hear about how fast-selling the camera sells out making everyone think they MUST get theirs now or they'll all be gone. How can you compete now that everyone else has the brand-spanking newest, latest and greatest, state of the art, system that has that one new feature?

Well, the first thing to do is chill. It has all happened before and will happen again. Then ask yourself how you were doing before the new camera system was announced. If you were doing quite well, chances are that you will continue to do quite well. It might be wise anyway to let the dust settle and see if the camera has any bugs or defects that need to be dealt with. Let everybody else find this out for you BEFORE you make that investment.

But if it's already been six months since the camera's release and you find that your work needs improvement, here are THREE things you can do to UP your game if you can't UPGRADE your camera.

Art Model, Covenant

I have known photographers who DO NOT OWN A CAMERA!! That's correct. You did not misread this. I have known a few like this. THEY DON'T OWN A CAMERA! I mean, if you think about it, it's perfect. They don't have any brand affiliation. When they get a gig, they ascertain what they need in order to fill that order. Then RENT the gear and space they need and then bill their client for the rental fee and everything else! They return the camera... keep all the money!

These are pro shooters. They already know how to shoot. If you are a developing photo, then you need to go buy a damn camera to have on hand so you can practice, practice, practice. However, even if that's the case, you can still rent a high-end camera to practice on. Or maybe you want to rent new gear and test it out before you buy it. But if that new camera comes out and you can't get it yet, but feel you need it, RENT IT! If you are flying into Las Vegas, you can check out B&C Camera Rental for cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, sliders, or whatever you need. Otherwise, take a look at LensRentals.com. Can't upgrade your camera, RENT IT!

Art Model, Covenant

2. To UP Your Game... CHANGE Your Game

Change yourself - This is one of the best things you can do for yourself, even more so than upgrading your gear. You can upgrade YOU! I may have to do a blog post just on this topic alone. Improve on your own skillset and you can start with the same thing you're doing now. If you do pet photography, do it better! Learn how to shoot pets better. Get out of the studio and maybe get the pet outdoors. Catch the pet in motion or doing the things it loves or shooting it in its natural environment. Try a pet night shoot. Introduce water. You can even concentrate on the business of pet photography instead of just the shooting of pet photography.

Ever think of learning to edit better. That's likely the next best thing you can do after better shooting skills. I don't care who you are, you likely do not know everything in Photoshop. And I'm not talking about just learning IG filters. I'm talking about actual editing a photo. Learning how to use layers. Learning blend modes. How to make a selection and editing non-destructively. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade yourself!

Change your gear accessories - Upgrade by implementing a slider. Introduce timelapse to your game. Use a friggin' tripod for a change. I don't know how photogs travel and they don't bring a tripod. I broke mine and wasted no time replacing it. Get a cable release and do some long exposure work. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade your gear accessories!

Change your light - If you are still using only on-camera flash and you're not doing macro or red carpet work, think about taking the flash off the camera. I'm referring to utilizing OFF-Camera flash, by using a remote trigger and either speedlight flashes or monolights hooked to receivers. Test out some modifiers. My fave for speedlights is the Gary Fong Lightsphere. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade your lights!

Art Model, Covenant

3. The Manual

I've made a lil' bit of money teaching photography to people who hate to read. I mean, they may actually like to read, but not camera manuals. And that's cool. I'm can take you places your manual can't go. That being said, I'll wager there are features your camera has that you never even suspected. Let me invite you to go pick up your manual and just read it. It's not as much as you think. Only read the English part of the section that is written in your language. The manual is thick because its the same thing in 5 different languages! So it's not as bad as you think.

Okay, tell you what, if that's not working out for you, do this. YouTube! First, check out YouTube and search for reviews on your camera model. Check out a few of them as YouTubers will often cover cameras differently. They will go over features on your camera that you likely either forgot about or never knew about. Maybe you hate the fact that to change a setting on your camera you always waste time drilling through the menu. But then you find out you can assign a button to that specific setting and WHA-LA! You got yourself a new camera. It's USED, but now it's NEW to YOU!

Do you even NEED a new camera? I've worked in a camera store. My job may have been to sell you a camera, but I worked at B&C Camera They let me prioritize the customer experience over just sell... sell... sell... which is why I still support and promote them now. I'd often get someone who might complain about their camera's autofocus and blurry images. I take a look at it, change a setting, BOOM. New Camera! Sometimes all it takes is a different focus setting. Sometimes it is a matter of changing the diopter setting. This is true and on many occasions, all I did was set the diopter back to zero. BOOM! New Camera! So yeah... Can't upgrade your camera, READ THE MANUAL!

Art Model, Covenant

13 September 2019

Three Reasons to Upgrade Your Gear

Art Model, Panda
There is some really nice new gear out there right now! I mean, well first off... it's about that time of year for it, so many manufacturers are due for upgrade announcements and the holidays are coming up. Nonetheless, there is a ton of stuff already out there. Yeah, I'm looking at you Sony. You too, Fujifilm!

Now I've talked about this before and as a photog, I'm routinely asked about the latest and greatest. Personally, things are a bit different for me as I'm trekking the globe. My priorities aren't solely with the camera anymore. Backpacking comes with its own unique requirements, between expenses dealing directly with travel as well as gear unrelated to photography. Plane tickets, car rentals, accommodations, food... those are all things I need to plan for on a weekly or monthly basis. I recently had to drop a cool grand on cold-weather gear. And it came right at $1,000. I'd much rather spend that on camera gear!

Art Model, Panda
I'm currently back in Peru, but in a few weeks, I will be headed waaay down south to Ushuaia, Argentina. I just saw a video of that city, present-day, and there's a friggin' snowstorm. I know nothing about the place. I have a feeling that everything I've done to research and prepare will not be enough. Which just means I'll have to make adjustments on the spot. Somehow. So my immediate concerns may not be like everyone else's when they are trying to decide when to upgrade.

Back to my point... This is when you upgrade.


Over the years, as I developed my skills and my business, my needs in photography changed. That meant that I had specific standards and requirements that my current line up of camera bodies and/or lenses no longer met. My very first ever set up was with the Canon 40D. It was a very capable system. I paid $1500 for it 2008. Loved it! Why? Because it was the first digital camera system that I felt matched what I was doing in film.

A problem arose when I shot a wedding with the camera in limited lighting capabilities. I had to push the ISO too much and it showed, thereby affecting my standards on the quality of my print jobs. I kept the camera, but I upgraded to the Canon 5DII, arguably one of the most revolutionary cameras ever. No more problems like that! AND... I paired it with a Canon 7D and I rolled like that for years. That set up was great for my business for what I did.

Art Model, Panda
By 2012, I began venturing away from photography as a shooter and more oriented myself with photography as an artist. My standards changed. I was shooting more fine art prints and I wanted to more heavily concentrate on printing and I wanted to only print large images. No more 8x10s for me. The full-frame 5DII did the job... to an extent. It took me a bit to figure out what my frustration was as a photographer. I could still print a 30 x 40, but my work had no depth. I needed resolution! To me, that meant medium format which at the time had a steep barrier to entry with a $25k price tag just to get a camera and a body.

Nikon came out around that same month with a 36mp full-frame system for $3300 that became available a week before I was to head to Nicaragua. If you bought all my Canon gear new, you'd spend over $20K. I sold it ALL for Nikon. I did not care about price. Availability was all that mattered and I got the Nikon D800e and it got me what I needed. But the weight!! Back home, no problem. But when you travel and everything is on your back, it matters! Two years later, I was in Sony which gave me resolution, in a much smaller package and I have not looked back.

Art Model, Panda

This one is easy. After I bought my Sony A7RII, the most significant camera I have ever owned, they eventually came out with another version, the A7RIII. The similarities between the cameras were NOT significant enough for me to upgrade. Yes, I could have used the bigger battery and the two card slots. Other than that, the increases in performance, speed, etc., was negligible. In addition, I shoot with an a6500 crop-sensor camera as well. Had I upgraded, I'd have to pack and deal with two different battery types. Basically, when I DO upgrade my a7RII, I will upgrade the crop-sensor as well. So presently, it made no sense for me to upgrade.

Conversely, if I damaged my a7RII, then it's all a different story. Yes, you COULD buy another duplicate camera. The a7RII is still available for sale, at a much more decent price, at that. But if you have to buy a camera anyway, get the best one available! So in effect, it MAKES SENSE to upgrade your camera. That's perfectly justifiable. And in my case, I'd upgrade both my camera systems.

Art Model, Panda

And finally, I've chosen this option as well. I'm much more streamlined now, mainly because of my traveling. But there was a point in which I had so much friggin' useless gear, it was ridiculous. I'd upgrade for no other reason than it damn well pleased me to do so. And it is primarily for this reason, that I will not hate on you if you chose to do so. Go on, with your bad self. If you got the cash, spend it! Now if you don't have the cash and are using rent money to upgrade, I'm gonna talk about how your Mama didn't raise you with common sense. Other than that, ENJOY!!

I do not need it, but I have my eye on that Sony a7R4 for the end of the year! Can it make my work better? Well, yeah. It's 61MP with pixel shift muli-shooting capabilities to boost resolution even further! Can I still kill with my current gear... yes...

So, that would put me in category 3 if I upgraded. See where I'm going with this? At any given time, you can be in any spot. Hence, No hatin' from me.

Peace! Mo' Power and Mo' Resolution to ya!

Art Model, Panda