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I noticed that freelance photographers while spending very different amounts for their gears, all tended to charge to same price for their work.

The “professional” gear expenses goes from under $500 to over $10,000. So there seem to be no correlation between the investment and the return. Pro equipment may be more reliable, useful, versatile, and look right to customers, unlike traditional businesses, there seems to be no Return on Investment whatsoever. The logical inference is that to spend more than the absolute minimum is a form of self-sabotage and may be one of the reasons why so many photo businesses fail.

Is there any evidence that investing in professional gear is worth it?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Philip Kendall, inkista, Itai, scottbb, Caleb Sep 13 '16 at 1:42

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    "similar rate for a wedding" is this the only source of income? "Wedding photographers on the other hands have jobs in the dozens per year if they are very successful" where does that number come from? "fashion or studio photographers sure, they are trigger happy and can fill the shutter-count life expectancy of a pro camera in 6 months" weddings tend to be events and by the run & gun nature of events I would suspect the average wedding photographer to hit the maximum shutter count before the average fashion or studio photographer. – null Sep 10 '16 at 10:49
  • i estimated up the number of weddings, hence the shutter count based on saturday weddings, which is what seem to be demanded, adn why most wedding photographers have a day job. 52 saturday a year is the maximum, remove a dozen for winter, you end up with a maximum of 40 weddings a year. – Reed Sep 10 '16 at 10:57
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    What I couldn’t figure was customer repeat. I don't know what the divorce rate is where you are, but I doubt wedding photographers anywhere depend on repeat customers. – Caleb Sep 11 '16 at 6:16
  • Yes they do, for portraits, pregnancy and baby pics, renewals.., without speaking about word-of-mouth and referrals. Customer satisfaction is one of the only ways to become established and is absolutely essential...now that doesn't mean you can't satisfy the customer with a point & shoot. As photographers, we all always want the best equipment we can get, and can easily go overboard. Big initial overlay is one of the reason photo businesses fail.. I saw a video from a “star” wedding he had over 100K worth of digital gear, just 35mm not MF, and 2 assistants at his heels, but he could afford it, – Reed Sep 11 '16 at 10:34
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TL/DR If you need the features of 'professional' gear it's worth the expenditure.

After wading through the question body I think that your actual question is: 'Why spend the money on 'professional' gear. If you're not going to charge extra for having professional gear'.

There's a saying along the lines of (if anyone can find the actual saying, please comment or edit).

'The gear you have is fine. Till it isn't.'

Lets explain this in more detail. You're shooting a wedding in a church with an entry level camera. You find that the inbuilt flash is awful. It's very strong and you can't direct it. Thus you buy an off camera flash. You can change the power and direction.

The next wedding you're in you're not allowed to use flash and it's dimly lit, so you have to crank the ISO up, but the noise is terrible. To avoid this in the future you buy a body with better low light capability. You choose to go full frame. But now your old lenses for you entry level camera don't work so you have to buy some new lenses.

The next wedding. Still allowed to use flash, but you're not allowed to get close to the bride and groom. You're at the back of the church. So you buy a zoom lens.

Next wedding you find you're outside and it's raining. You really need equipment with weather sealing. There's motion blur, you need more light so get lens with a wider aperture. Your camera breaks before the shoot. You need a second one whilst it's in repair etc etc etc.

In time you build up your gear as you need it. In the end I expect for wedding photography you will find you probably need 3 FF bodies (2 to use, 1 as a backup), mid range zoom, long range zoom, flashes and anything else you've accumulated such as primes, UWA.

Wedding photography however I would strongly advise not taking this approach if something goes wrong and you muck up a brides big day (and her mothers!) because you were inadequately prepared and all the photos are grainy/motion blurred. On your head be it.

  • I know you are right. I guess what I am afraid of is failure as I am just starting. I don’t want to invest $5000 just to give up 3 month later due to a lack of customers and a failed business. Particularly when $500 worth of gear would have been enough for my personal use and over 90% of wedding situations. I am old enough to have learned my lessons, 20 years ago, I spent about $3000 in photo gear and $3000 in art supplies having delusions of artistry, neither expenditure ever made me a cent and most of my gear ended up at the bottom of a drawer. – Reed Sep 10 '16 at 11:40
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    @Reed I'm about to be brutally honest. Don't. Deciding one day "i'm going to be a wedding photographer" is a terrible idea. It's an incredibly oversaturated market. It's one thing going full time if you have experience and a portfolio, however just going out and buying a big shiny camera will probably result in it going in the drawer like the same one 20years ago. If you are serious about the profession, speak to local wedding photographers and see if you can get some experience as a second shooter. – Crazy Dino Sep 10 '16 at 14:28
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    @Reed The equipment you invest in are only the tools. They will not shoot pictures for you, not help you compose the shots. Just like a builder needs professional tools, they are just that, tools. It's not the price of the gear, it's the capability it gives you. Most importantly, as in any business, the gear is only a portion of the expenses. Your question "Is there any evidence that investing in professional gear is worth it?" is a ridiculous question for any serious pro - and not just in photography. – Gmck Sep 10 '16 at 16:04
  • I understand that the advice you give is general. in my case, i think i understand the market's reality. i already have most tools, some experience, building a portfolio, a pro friend, plan to shoot as 2d a few times, and mostly i know how to build and manage a business. The Q was about gear expense as i can be fully operational, just less "capable" and limited, by just spending $500, my expenses are not tax deductible, if i spend too much that can sink me. i plan a test run of a year, if i have no income within 3month, i'll quit, else i will do the year and evaluate where to go from there. – Reed Sep 10 '16 at 18:30
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    Three months is nowhere near enough time to build up a wedding photography business, especially if you start now at the tail end of the 2016 season that is 6 months away from the beginning of the Spring 2017 season. Weddings depend on word of mouth advertising from potential clients more than almost every other form of for-hire photography. – Michael C Sep 11 '16 at 8:41

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