Buying New Camera Gear Won’t Make You Better… But This Will


Nicole Hill


5 Actionable Steps That Will Up Your Game as a Photographer

Almost daily, I get questions like this in my DM’s:

“What camera is that?”

“What lens is that?”

“What gear do you shoot with?”

“What camera do you recommend? I need something better.”

Here’s the truth, girl: buying new camera gear is not going to make you a better photographer

There is no magic pill that is going to improve your images, and there’s no amount of money you can spend to suddenly create stunning photography. What will make you a better photographer, though?

Having a solid technical foundation and a complete and total understanding of your camera gear.

As a photographer, it’s your job to understand exactly how your camera, lenses, lighting, and the environment influence the outcome of your images… lonnnnng before you start dropping big cash on a nice camera.I promise. In fact, you don’t necessarily need one at all — and getting started with building your photography business doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. 

The truth? Buying new camera gear is fun and exciting, but it’s nothing without skill, confidence, and mastery.

It’s all about your technical skill, babbyyy.

When I was in photography school in LA, I remember feeling incredibly self conscious about camera gear(Or lack thereof). Everyone around me seemed to have it all, showing off the latest and greatest lenses and carrying around thousands of dollars of camera gear on their backs. I, on the other hand, spent every day in the rental studio. I didn’t even own a professional DSLR camera, much less a $5,000 camera body. I found myself thinking that if only I had better gear — or any at all — I would be a better photographer.

I was wrong.

See, within weeks I figured out really quickly that having the best camera gear meant preeeetty much nothing. When it came down to it, it was all about skill. When I rented gear from my school for my assignments I always tried to rent the best most expensive gear possible, but sometimes I would have to do a shoot super last minute so I’d be stuck with whatever was available. That usually meant using a camera that was YEARS old, that no one wanted to rent because it was scratched, beaten, and abused by all the students who used it before me. But to my surprise…when I’d use the old gear, my images never changed. The way I shot with the expensive gear vs. the cheap gear was the exact same—the only difference being a few extra pixels and some depth of field.

The proof was right there before my eyes. The thing is, a camera is only a teeny tiny tool that we use to create our vision — and it’s nothing without that vision and that skill. As photographers, we have one job: to create art that speaks to others. 

The ability to create that kind of art BEFORE upgrading your camera gear is what will make you an incredible photographer.

5 Actionable Steps That Will Up Your Game as a Photographer

At the end of the day, it’s about your ability to craft your vision with your camera — not about how much that camera cost. Getting to know that camera you’re renting or the one you bought on clearance is way more important to your skill set than buying new camera gear that you don’t understand how to use.

Here’s how to level up, no $10,000 camera necessary:

1. Pay attention to distortion.

Most entry level cameras you’ll buy come with kit lenses, usually somewhere around 18-55 mm. When you have those entry lenses with a really wide focal length (like 18 mm), it’s super easy to experience distortion in your images… especially when you’re shooting people. Instead of getting a beautiful image, you might find exaggerated features. My tip? Back up and zoom at a higher focal length, rather than staying close and wide at 18 mm.

2. Focus on lighting.

George Eastman, the founder of Kodak (casual), said it best: “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” 

Girl, that quote makes me cry. I love light, and if there’s one thing I focus on above all else in my images, it’s light. Light can change absolutely everything about a photo, and it’s absolutely vital to understand light to become an amazing photographer. With light, you can take an average scene and make it absolutely stunning — or you can make it absolutely horrible. Make it your mission to focus on light, see it, watch it, pay attention to it, and become an observer of it. Become obsessed with light, because once you start to see it differently, your life will change — and no amount of new camera gear can do that for you.

3. Shoot in manual mode.

Are you shooting in manual mode? If you’re not, make it your mission right now. Manual is what puts you in complete and total control of your creative vision, and it’s the only way any photographer should shoot. Without shooting in manual, you will never be able to get your images to look the way you want. On another level, the ability to craft your vision by shooting in manual means you understand that camera you’re holding — and without that understanding, you have nothing.

(P.S., we have a killer cheat sheet for learning how to shoot in manual mode. Download it here.)

4. Invest in yourself, before you invest in gear.

I’m a firm believer that you should always, always keep learning as a photographer. The thing is, doing everything by yourself can get really overwhelming… and learning it all can, too. I was there before I decided to go to photography school, and learning from experts was key to helping me build my own photography business. It’s simple, really: buying new camera gear doesn’t matter if you’re not educated in how to use it. 

If you’re ready to stop going it alone, come join us in The Photographer’s Path. The doors open March 10th. Investing in yourself is the best way to show your head how much you truly believe in your heart, and that shift matters so much.

5. Eliminate distractions in your images.

I know that all of the different elements of photography can seem super overwhelming when you first start. When you need to pay attention to lighting, learn how to shoot in manual, adjust your settings, and learn your camera, it feels like a lot. What tends to happen is that we’ll forget to pay attention to the little things in our pictures… and those little things matter. Slow down, pay attention, and focus on eliminating distractions in your images. 

For instance, is there a trashcan in the back of your portrait? Is there a weird building sticking into your scene? If there is, how can you fix it? Can you change your positioning? Can you focus on making your image dynamic without distractions? Learning to pay attention to those small pieces of the puzzle are what builds a beautiful end result, no matter how expensive your camera is.

I want to leave you today with a few important questions. Right now, get really real with yourself, and ask yourself: am I putting in the work? Am I practicing any and every second I have? Do I understand each and every single setting on my camera? Am I proud of myself? 

Those, need to be solid pieces of your life and business way before you start buying new camera gear. When you stop worrying about the gear you’re shooting with and spend more time focusing on your craft, you’ll be able to create stunning art that you’re proud of. After all, isn’t that way more important?

If you’re ready to uncover who you’re meant to be as a photographer (buying new camera gear not necessary), sign up for the waitlist for The Photographer’s Path. The Photographer’s Path is your step-by-step guide to discovering who you’re meant to be as a photographer, mastering the technical skills to prepare you for a lasting professional career, and building your portfolio to win the clients you dream about. Sign up for the waitlist today. Doors open March 10th


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meet the photographer


I've spent the last decade of my life traveling the world as a fashion photographer and I created Horizon Found to give you everything I wish I had when I was starting my career. Here you'll find community, inspiration, and education - to help guide you down the path towards building the photography business of your dreams. My dream is to use this platform to help build a supportive environment in the photography industry.


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The Photographer's Path is currently closed.
Get on the waitlist to get early access and special bonuses not offered anywhere else!

The Photographer's Path is currently closed. Get on the waitlist to get early access and special bonuses not offered anywhere else!