I was recently approached by a young lady, who is starting to get her feet wet in the photography world. And she asked me if I thought she should upgrade her camera and lenses. She told me what kind of gear she had and how she had been researching other cameras and lenses.
So, when is it appropriate to upgrade your gear? It's a question that I think about quite often and I have learned a few things in the process. Today, I am happy to share some of these things that have helped shaped my decisions when purchasing new equipment!
1. You have old technology
I bought my first DSLR, a Canon 20D, in 2004. I was 18 years young and I had saved every penny from my job at a local seafood restaurant to purchase it. Buying the 20D on my own made me feel like I had hit the jackpot! Many years later, in 2014, I humbly picked up that old Canon 20D, dusted it off, and started my photography business. I soon realized that over a decade of technology had passed, and I was very behind the times. I was using old technology and an upgrade was in order. It was then that I made the decision to purchase the Canon 6D. The 6D was all I could afford at the time. I then started noticing that most wedding photographers were shooting with the 5D Mark III, the dual slot card readers and bigger sensor appealed to me. So I eventually took the plunge too. Having updated technology is great because in my instance, the 5D Mark III gave me the peace of mind that if something were to fail with one of the card readers, I would still have a back up on the alternate card. And when you are shooting weddings, you want to have as much piece of mind about your gear as you can. Having up-to-date equipment definitely helps!
2. Financially, you have the funds to pay cash.
Starting my business, I was soooo eager to have the same gear as so-and-so down the street. I tended to get carried away with making all sorts of online purchases. After all, clicking the purchase button was just so darn easy, especially when you are fresh and you think that the gear you have will actually make you a better photographer. That mindset soon lead to a little bit of credit card debt. Yikes! Yes, it's true. I know now that the gear doesn't make the photographer. (And I am now debt-free, paying in cash is now my mantra)
Ideally, utilizing what you have now and starting where you are; mastering the tool that you possess, will actually make you better. I wish that I would have realzied that a long time ago.
3. It would be an investment that would make your life easier and/or make you more profitable
If you have the funds, and you have paid out all of your monthly bills and are left with a chunk of change, my advice would be to spend it on something that would be an investment, or something that would make your life easier and/or make you more profitable. Example: I currently rent 100mm Macro for every wedding. It's a lens that gets used (for me) once throughout the wedding day, so it hasn't been a huge priority of mine to purchase one. However, I am noticing that the amount of money that I am spending just to rent one per wedding is starting to add up. It would be wise of me to start thinking about making a purchase soon. After evaluating your finances, you can try to project when would be a good time to buy a piece of gear that you are needing.
4. You are trying to acheive a certain "look" in your portfolio
There are some lenses that, in my opinion, cannot be replicated or swapped out ie: the 70-200mm. With the lens compression at 200mm, you can pull the background in and have a beautiful depth of field, it's one of my favorite lenses! The 85mm 1.8 at f1.8 gives you a completely different look and makes for a gorgeous portrait lens. You can't get that look with a 50mm lens. So there are circumstances when something else just won't cut it.
Once you buy a new lens, play with it.
I can't remember who said this, but I once heard a photographer say that every time they get a new lens, they put it on their camera and shoot with it once a day for a few weeks. In doing so, they train their brain to recognize what look that particular lens will produce. So, when they are on a job and they have a vision in mind for a photograph, they will automatically know which lens would be perfect to use. This is what I call 'mastering the tools you have'.
I hope that this bit of info helps steer you into the direction that is right for you. If anyone has any other advice, I'd love to hear!!