I would be the first to agree that the actual camera or lenses and the kit that you can buy or borrow is not the first thing you should think about in photography. The ability to see and to compose is the most important thing to get right.
To do that you need to take your time and practice, practice, practice. However there is a limit to the separation between creating great images and having pro level kit and kit that will enable you to outdo the snappers and phonocracy of people who just want to be on Instagram (which I am on and I love). To be a successful working photographer you have to be able to capture the best images in the field that you want to work in.
For me the first thing will always be the optics. If the lenses aren’t the best or aren’t up to the job you need them to do then you’ll not get the work and you’ll be disappointing yourself and clients on quality.
That’s why I have built up over the years a range of high quality lenses, running from 24mm focal length to 300mm and a range of both prime and telephoto lenses.
Good lenses are a quality investment. Looked after well and serviced when needed, they can give you years of life. The lens I recently used for the charity Colour Run - see that blog - is 10 years old and counting. It has been serviced when needed and last year had a major rebuild at Canon Professional Services. It remains a stalwart of my team and of course is an L-series lens.
I have primes for macro, portrait, street and architectural photography. The importance of a good tilt-and-shift lens for buildings cannot be understated. I know that you can get the verticals right in software but they will always look better out of camera without being digitally “stretched”.
Bodies are for me one of the more difficult issues because of the advances that have been made over recent years. I am on my 5th Canon DSLR in about 12 years and that represents an enormous leap forward in that technology. With Dual Pixel RAW, my current lead body captures more data and detail that I could ever want.
There are many things that a full-frame pro level DSLR can do that aren’t replicated to quite the same standard yet in any other technology but I have recently spent a lot of time looking at mirrorless cameras and after a period of testing have acquired one from Olympus. This will now be my first backup camera and the lead camera on certain kinds of work where it can defeat the capabilities of the DSLR.
The killer feature for me is frame rate. Of course this is irrelevant in many situations but for active subjects such as running or playing dogs, sport, flying birds etc… being able to work at 18fps (which is the ‘low’ setting) is fantastic. In fact the camera is capable of 60fps but cannot refocus between those frames.
This has been backed up by excellent optics in the Zuiko Pro lens family, which of course floats my boat, and also a high resolution mode which can achieve 80mp images - although I should emphasise that the option is only possible with a fixed stationary camera and a not-fast-moving subject. Great for my landscape and architectural work.
There are no gimmicks that will improve your photography. Getting the best images requires an eye for image and composition, understanding of how to manage light whether natural or created, perseverance and fortitude. And yes, you need good quality kit to do it the best you can.