PREMIUM
Documentary Project | Module 3 – Equipment: Choosing the right gear for your project

In this module I will address the options that I usually make regarding the equipment used to develop my personal projects.

The quick answer is that it does not exist such a thing as the right equipment for the job. What works for one person may not work for another. So, I will describe my preferences, what works for me, and I’ll explain why. The opinions here expressed reflect my personal experience and should not be considered as a rule for the success of your project.

Note: Please make sure you have read the previous modules.

I believe everyone will agree with me if I say that what makes a good photograph is the combination of:

  • A main subject, be it a single person or a group of people, an object, a building or something with relevance;
  • A background, a place that gives a context to the main subject;
  • The relationship between the main subject and the background;
  • Facial/body language (if applicable);
  • The historical/political/social relevance of the event;
  • The light and all its variables as intensity, diffusion, direction or colour;
  • The right timing of the capture;
  • The framing of the scene;
  • And finally the settings, like focal length, aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

As you can see, the role of the equipment when it comes to obtain a good and meaningful image is rather secondary. So, do I mean that any camera will do, just pick up whatever you have at home and start using it? Well, ultimately, yes. But a wise choice of equipment definitely can help.

Now I will describe what works for me but, before that, I would like to highlight that in every assignment we should use as much equipment as we need, but as little as possible. Ideally we should use just one camera and one lens. It allows us to move more freely, faster and interact more with people. It also saves time. In the past I tried to take all my gear everywhere I went, to be sure that I wouldn’t miss anything and have all the possibilities covered. But in the end, while the events were happening in front of me, I was too busy deciding what to use and missed many potentially good photos. It’s understandable why people want to take everything with them, like the old saying “Just in case…”. We must overcome that sense of “being ready” by having everything that we may eventually need and force ourselves to be as minimalist as possible. It will allow us to focus on the subject instead of the gear, leading to the capture of more photographs and a higher keeper rate.

A simple setup sometimes leads us to be more productive and creative. Removing variables such as the choice of multiple cameras and lenses, our minds are more focused on obtaining images instead of making decisions related to gear. Being bound to a single focal length, we are forced to move and seek creative solutions to compensate for this limitation.

 

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