Camera Perception

Assume you're a client. You want me to photograph your wedding/factory/product/fashion show/conference etc. Would you assume I would do a good job, be professional and knew what I was doing if I turned up with the camera on the left or the camera on the right? (Lets also assume that you're not a photography enthusiast who spends every waking hour on photographic forums)



How about these two.


Or these.


Finally these.

All images above taken with a Leica X1 at ISO 3200.

It wont come as a great revelation or insight for me to reveal that clients who employ you as a photographer expect to see what they consider as "professional gear". As a part of this perception of what constitutes a "professional photographer" an element of "size matters" comes into play. There is an assumption that the larger your camera, the more expensive it must be therefore the more proficient you must be. This is not a logical progression but certainly one that many people would make. Photographers go on about Leicas but to most people its Grandads camera from the attic. And red, who uses a red camera!!

Of course it shouldn't be like this and photographers and photography should be judged on the results rather than the means of production. But we all know that isn't the case. To a large extent peoples perception of what makes a "professional photographer" is determined by the media and images of the press pack and photographers at sporting events. They use big cameras and lenses right? Is "We're paying a photographer so we expect big cameras and lenses too" an inappropriate response?

This perception is not likely to go away anytime soon and that is why Canon and Nikon will continue to rule the roost for the foreseeable future. Its why 90% of photographers who take their cameras to trade shows will have a DSLR round their neck. Its why those of us who earn our living via photography will always have a "pro camera" or something that looks like one, despite the fact that some of us hate using them.

My piece on Pimped my Panny may seem somewhat ludicrous but its something I felt obliged to do. Turning up to a meeting with a client without something like that would be difficult, and to a large extent I understand why. If I'm going to employ somebody to work for me I want some reassurance that they know what they are doing. If I've never met them before I'll look for visual clues as to inform my decision. One of those clues is the equipment that they use. So it is with photographers. What camera they use by no means guarantees that they will produce the goods but it at least shows that they might be able to complete the job and have the means at their disposal to complete the job well. Whether they know how to use it is anybodies guess, but it does indicate a certain level of competence - doesn't it ??

The Ownership of good equipment = Competence equation is flawed and as we all know by no means always true. However in the minds of many people it does make sense. In the current UK economic climate, many wedding photographers are experiencing a downturn in business and the idea that somehow a relative or friend who owns a decent DSLR can do the job is happening more and more. Consequently its not unusual to see cries of Help! in the photographic forums from those who treat photography as a hobby pressed into service as cut price (or free) wedding photographers. Many of us have been through the process of the more we know about photography, the more we know how difficult some of it is & what can go wrong. However this doesn't stop the idea that an expensive (looking) camera somehow guarantees success. Who amongst us hasn't been told "Thats a great picture, you must have a really good camera." My stock answer of "If I give you a good set of paint brushes can you make my ceiling look like the Sistine Chapel?" usually doesn't go down too well. I'm afraid we probably have to live with it. Good pictures = Ownership of a good camera.

This post was inspired by a thread on and illustrates some of the dilemmas that photographers face. At the moment I can use what gear I want, but if some prestige job turns up in the future I have no faith in my ability to withstand the instinct to get on the phone and order the biggest Canon or Nikon DSLR that I can afford. We all want to be taken seriously at what we do, particularly if its a creative profession and how we earn a living, so compromise is a necessity. I'd rather eat than not eat, live in a decent house rather than a rat infested slum, so I do whatever I think is necessary to make those things continue to happen. 

I've never had a problem with attempting to fulfill a clients expectations, indeed, as indicated before, I would expect the same from someone who I was looking to employ. My solution at the moment is to have a minimum investment in a camera that gives the appearance of a "pro DSLR" with the option to re-equip should the need, and suitable fee, surface in the future. This makes more sense to me than having a selection of expensive cameras and lenses sitting unused just on the off chance.