The Photography Gear Upgrade: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First

by . November 24th, 2014

Upgrading your photography gear is a tricky business and not to mention a tedious one. This is one reason why many photographers opt to upgrade their gear during the holidays. This is since many retailers offer great discounts during holiday season. But despite of all the bargains and the bundles it’s still you who is at the losing end. More specifically the one losing money at the end more so if you bought unnecessary stuff.

Planning for your gear shopping is one way to avoid the impulse buy, at the same time take advantage of all the discounted prices. Thus giving you more bang for your buck. If you are thinking of upgrading but still unsure about it, we have prepared you a simple 5 question guide. Wherein you should ask yourself first before getting all excited with the bargains that will be coming around. Before we jump to the good stuff let’s get one thing out of the way first:

It’s the archer and never the bow

Remember that in photography it is never about the gear that makes the photographer make really great shots. There are countless proofs that a great photographer can also use less pricey and stellar gear but make great shots. Just have look at DigitalRev’s cheap camera challenge or this article about $800 gear versus $5400 gear. Although it would be fun to see the likes of Steve McCurry or Michael Grecco to use toy cameras. But the point is that great gear can only go so much but never give you amazing shots.

Now the for good stuff!

1. What am I photographing primarily?

Knowing what to photograph or what are you so passionate to photograph is a good start. This is specially the case when planning out the gear you are planning to invest on. Not only that it helps you avoid impulse buying but it also gives you a clear pathway. On how much do you need to cough up to sustain this hobby. If you like documenting your family then investing on a super telephoto lens might not be a great idea. Decide on which genre of photography do you want to immerse yourself into and learn what are the must equipment do you really need.

2.  Do I really need to upgrade or am I just blinded with all the discounted prices?

One of the most important and toughest question is to ask yourself whether you need an upgrade or not. It is also advisable to forget first the sleek features of the newer models when asking yourself this question. This is so you can put your camera on the same playing field with the newer models with sleeker features. If in case you are having a hard time with this question you can frame your question as: “Can my current gear do most of what I want it to do?”.

3. What piece of photography gear do I REALLY need to upgrade?

For most beginners the question is simple, either upgrade their camera bodies to an advance level or a pro level one. They could also get a much better lens to replace their kit lens and stay with their consumer level camera bodies. But for those who have invested quite a bit this question gets a bit tougher. Let’s just say you are a portrait photographer and you notice that your speed light is not doing good enough. It could be high time to get an upgraded version set of speed lights or get the much more powerful studio lights. Another scenario could happen is that you are shooting more often at night and your camera can’t pump enough ISO to shoot faster. Maybe then it is high time to get a faster lens or a better camera body and with that said you should also ask yourself..

4. …What other genres of photography am I branching out to?

You could be a portrait photographer with a 50mm lens, but you recently have taken interest in shooting Football games. In this case, your nifty fifty a poor choice of glass to use in the situation since you are shooting subjects that are so far away. This is different if you are a still life photographer who is planning to do fashion photography. This since most of the equipment needed to do still life and fashion are much the same. But before you jump the gun into buying a new gear to support your better ask yourself…

5. Am I going to do this for long or is it just a passing interest?

If you see yourself working on this genre of photography for a long time then go for it. If not, maybe it’s better to borrow, rent or get a used one rather than blowing over your bank. Rather than using your gear for a couple of months and selling again for a fraction of the price you bought it.

At the end of the day creating great images is what should you aim for. This is regardless if you are a budding pro or a hobbyist who’s extremely passionate about photography. Photography gears and equipment are just tools that you use to capture images.


Patrick Jude Ilagan is a graphic designer/photographer hailing from the vast jungles of urban Manila. Always on the look out for visually appealing stuff he scours the internet and the bustling city in search of inspiration. His tools for mass creation is a Canon 500D along with a wide array of lights and lenses plus a 4 year old (but still fighting) laptop. Check out his work on Tumblr.

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