December 10

6 comments

In Photography, Good Light Always Trumps Good Gear

By Dan

December 10, 2012

You know all those times when I rant about how photography is not about the gear? Guess what? It’s true. When it comes to shooting, say… just about anything in the entire world, good light always trumps good gear. Still don’t believe me? Here’s another quick example.

Photo above: Shot with the Nikon D700, my top of the line pro body camera choice for years and an 85mm f/1.8 lens. Total cost for the gear used to make this photograph: Around $3,000.

Photo below: Shot a few days earlier with the Fujifilm X10, my fun little compact camera which has a built in zoom lens and only weighs 12 ounces. Total cost of the gear to make this photograph: Around $600, plus a pack of hand warmers.

If I sent both of these photos to a client or photo editor, which one do you think they’d choose? If I told them which camera body each one was shot with, do you think that they’d care? Probably not, unless they needed to make a huge reproduction of the image for professional use. Oh wait, Fuji X10 files are indeed suitable for enlargements that big, as long as you’ve got a sharp image to begin with. In fact, with today’s sensor and image processing technology, just about every camera is capable of producing photos that are suitable for high end repro.

So, whether you’re shooting Alaska snow biking, landscapes, or pictures of your kid, what do you think would matter more when it comes to consistently producing great imagery, having kick ass professional camera gear or getting yourself out there in kick ass light?

Fat tire snow biking, Anchorage, Alaska

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


  • As always, good stuff Dan. I’m always amazed to read on the rumors forums the bantering about which lens has better chromatic aberration than the other. Get out there and shoot already!

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    Terry Bourk

    I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

    Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


    Roger Sinclair

    You have done it again! Another triumph.

    Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

    Thank you, Dan.