I love gear. I always have. When I was in high school I got deeply into cycling. A bicycle is gear. The helmet, gloves, spandex, shoes, are all gear. You research. You calculate. You weight the options–literally in the case of cycling. I once bought and used a super light crankset for my bicycle that actually completely broke as I was powering up a hill. Apparently it was a little too light.
One of the rewards of being a photographer and videographer, if you love gear (and I think we all do), is that we get to buy gear as part of our work. I take great pleasure in being able to own and use state of the art visual imaging equipment. Apart from working in this field the thousands of dollars that this gear costs would be hard to justify. But when your drone pays for itself many times over you can easily justify that upgrade (which is tax deductible).
Which really makes me wonder which is a stronger urge in the average (if such a thing exists) imaging professional– the love of beautiful and meaningful images, or a desire to own the latest and greatest imaging tools. They are both motivations, and I know I get dopamine or some other good “well being” chemical from getting new gear. Making a great image or video is also very rewarding, but clicking the “Checkout” button on some new gear triggers the reward response too, for sure.
Using the well chosen gear is also a thrill. When you show up to meet a client’s request with the right tools, and you use your well chosen instruments to make exactly what is requested, it is very satisfying. And really this process is itself an interesting kind of beauty. The maker of the tool, whether it’s a camera, a lens, a light stand, or a microphone has worked hard to create a tool that does just what is needed. They have build, and used, and listened to feedback and improved, and redesigned, and finally have produced the latest and the greatest. The iterative improvements are not trivial. I’ve seen an advance from a $600 solution would provide you with a simple radio signal to synchronize triggering between your camera and one remote light. And that doesn’t count the cost of the light, or stand, or modifier, to $250 or less solution that includes a remote trigger and three flashes that can be controlled and triggered from the remote that will not only provide a dumb synchronized trigger at normal sync speeds, but will also allow for high speed sync and other advanced strobing functions.
And using the right gear does yield better results. Especially as the rate of innovation increases the relative benefits to your work and your client’s projects also increase if you can stay on top of the latest innovations in the tech. A new lens, gimbal, or microphone can directly effect what you deliver to the client.
So, if you love gear, you might want to look for a way to justify that habit with freelance work, and if you want to do freelance work, I hope you like gear, because finding it and buying is part of your job. It can really make a difference, and it’s worth paying attention to. The right gear in the right place at the right time is routinely raising the bar. So buy some gear, make stuff for clients, rinse, repeat, and do it again. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.