Often, I find myself having conversations with friends and colleagues about purchasing and owning gear. Sometimes it’s wishful thinking… musings about owning an Alexa 65 or Panavision DXL, but also, many times it’s more practical. From owning cameras like the a7s 2, the new red weapon, or even an Alexa mini… and the merits of using that to boost ones career.
With that on my mind I’ve been going over some of the recent work I was given because people thought I still owned an a7s. For those that don’t know, I went on a long-winded rant last year about Sony, and long story short, I sold my a7s and bought an Nx1.
I knew then what I know now: the a7s is a more professional system than the Nx1 (for a mirrorless camera), but I was really planning on primarily using the Nx1 for family photos and video. However, in the 6 months I’ve owned it, I’ve used it on more professional sets than I did the entire year I had the a7s.
So that brings me back to my question… was it the camera (that I didn’t even own) that got me the work, or was it primarily my quality of work, and that I just also happened to have an a7s?
Here are my thoughts: Your camera does matter, but who you are matters much more.
Over the past year and a half or so, a few people that I know locally and also follow on social media bought cameras ranging from mirrorless bodies like the a7s/gh4/Nx1, to Black Magic Ursas to RED Dragons (and now Weapons). I’ve been quite interested to see how their camera choices have affect their workload. Would the higher end cameras get work more because of the obvious quality boost, or are things here more geared towards the lower end dslr cameras?
Ultimately, 18 months-ish later, and largely based on conversations with those owners and others in the community, it would seem that the cameras have only occasionally been the deciding factor in who has been working a lot, and those who are working with their gear less. More often the first factor is “who”. Who can shoot what we need shot? Who do we like to work with? That in turn sometimes then leads to “Who of those people have the right camera for the job?”
Even with my all-but-unknown Nx1, people have still readily hired me once they know I no longer have the a7s, because I tell them it can get what they want and it will look great. Of course if someone needed to shoot with virtually no lights at evening or in a really dark room, I would suggest renting an a7s (and I think the key is for me to ALWAYS be able to get one without them having to worry about it).
My friend who upgraded his scarlet to a dragon last year has gotten a ton of work because people that want to hire him already because they like him, also know that he can bundle his dragon (well, now weapon) for a respectable price. It’s true he might not have gotten some jobs without his upgraded RED, but many of his jobs came primarily because hes very personable, professional, and delivers a quality product.
Other friends with dslrs and Ursas that aren’t working as much? It’s their personality… truly. It’s not that they are bad people, but many are abrasive or tactless, and can appear unprofessional. People want to work with people they like, and of course if the person they like also happens to be talented, that bumps them up even more in a queue that’s getting increasingly crowded.
Would me, or you, owning a RED Weapon or Alexa get us more work? Possibly. I think the more likely benefit of owning a higher-end camera right now is being able to get the rental fee from it when you bundle it with yourself. Until you decide owning a higher-end camera is for you, find local rental houses and get to know them. See if you can work out better rates if you frequently bring them business! I shoot on RED all the time because I have good relationships with people and businesses that own them, and can help productions get them for good deals.
What’s the point then? I think my point is that you need to stand out as first talented and then likable and professional. Having a certain camera can also help you stand out, but only occasionally will the one you own be the deciding factor in you being hired (this is excluding people who own ‘specialty’ cameras like phantom 4ks). Also, networking takes time, but your talent and personality (and, yes, sometimes your camera) can help you expand your base to get hired more often.
Disagree? Other thoughts? Leave your comments below!