You don’t need good gear. I mean, once you’ve got a decent camera, that’s all you need. I’m interested in stories. I’m interested in about what you can discover and how you can convey that through photography.

It’s with a not-so-subtle sense of irony that we get advice like that given by long-time professional photographer and photojournalist Martin Parr. Many of the people who tell you not to worry about money are precisely those who are in a position where they don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on and putting food on the table. And the photographers who tell you that you don’t need to worry about getting “good gear” are the ones who typically have access to some of the best gear.

The “wrong” tools in the “right” hands can accomplish a lot more than the “right” tools in the “wrong” hands. A great author does not derive his greatness from having a great keyboard (or typewriter, in the case of someone like Stephen King). And a great photographer isn’t great at what he does because he has a great camera. It’s because he is able to convey a great story through pictures. Having great equipment simply boosts what is already there.

That’s how I’ve come to admire individuals like Chase Jarvis and even local favorites like Tomasz Wagner. Very rarely are they ever “just” a photographer, because they have to wear a lot of hats as entrepreneurs, small business owners and independent contractors. And something that you learn very quickly when you’re in business for yourself is you want to simplify where possible, so long as you can maintain a reasonable level of quality.

When asked if he ever uses “P” mode on his camera, which sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically, Martin Parr responded:

Yes, that’s what I mainly use all the time. I look at it to see if it’s doing okay. When I’m photographing at night, I might go into time, because I like the idea of a slow shutter speed combined with flash and what that does. But most of the time, I’m just on P. Manual snobs really get on my nose. Because basically they’re going to spend all this time thinking about the aperture. I mean, why not take advantage of modern technology? “P” pretty much gets it right every time.

As with so many other hobbies and professions, photography has its fair share of snobbery. Many “prosumers” and professionals alike will look down their nose at anyone who doesn’t shoot RAW in full manual mode all the time. You can’t be a “real” photography enthusiast otherwise, right? Martin Parr disagrees.

This goes right back to the original assertion: it’s not about the gear. It’s about capturing a unique perspective and telling a unique story. What’s your story?

Image credit: BurnAway (CC BY 2.0)