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Although this update's title begins with, "Good News and Bad News..." I'm going to kick off what I have to say about holiday gear with the bad news. Yep. I'm going to get that part out of the way right up front. I'm going to cut to the chase... the bad news chase. So, here it is: Whatever you get for the holidays, whether it's a new camera, lens, lighting gear, grip equipment, processing software, whatever it might be, it's not going to make you a better photographer.
Sorry about that. It sounds so harsh at such a festive time of year. But, if the thought of some new gear has sugar plum faeries singing and dancing in your head, and the words to their songs include something about how you're suddenly going to be a better photographer because of your new (gifted) photography gear, it simply ain't going to happen. Holiday swag isn't going to make you a better photographer no matter what the merry swag happens to be. It just ain't. No way, no how. Leastwise, the gear on its own won't be doing that. The only thing that's going to make you a better photographer in the coming new year is you, yourself, regardless of the toys you receive for the holidays.
Now for the good news...
What those new and exciting holiday gifts can do is make you a photographer with more options, more versatility. A photographer who can then shoot a greater variety of photos and possibly do so more easily than you could before receiving the new swag.
Let's say you only had one light, one single strobe or flash prior to receiving another as a gift. Suddenly, you go from a shooter who only snaps one-light photos to one who snaps two-light photos. Trust me when I tell you, multiple light sources opens up whole new things you can do with lighting. And assuming you take the time to learn how to employ multiple lights in your lighting setups, and you practice doing so, you will become a better photographer.
Let's say, prior to receiving a gift of a new lens, you only had one lens for your camera. And let's say your one lens was a normal lens, say, a 50mm prime lens. Can someone with a 50mm prime lens shoot fantastic photos? You bet they can. Are they limited in what they can shoot? Yep. In terms of focal length they're definitely limited. But what if you receive a new lens as a gift and that new lens is a fast, 70-200mm zoom lens and, suddenly, you can fill your frame from a greater distance? What if you can zoom in at a wide aperture and blur the background so much more so than you could ever do with your 50mm prime lens? Does that open up more opportunities for the sorts and the "looks" of photos you can suddenly begin snapping? You bet it does.
So here's the deal: Don't rely on your new gear to automatically make you a better photographer. It simply ain't going to happen. But do rely on your new gear to open up new avenues, opportunities, and photographic genres and styles for you to pursue. Learn how to use your new photo toys. Practice, practice, practice with them, whatever they might be. In so doing, your new holiday swag will, eventually, make you a better, more multifaceted photographer.
Reminder: Dan Hostettler's photo guides are still on sale at 33% off from now till the end of the year. CLICK HERE to learn more about Dan's guides or to purchase them. Use Discount Code PGS33 to receive 1/3 off at checkout. And have a merry, happy, joyous, incredibly wonderful winter holiday celebration, whatever you're celebrating, doing, or however you decide to have fun for the holidays. I know that's what I'm going to try my best to do!
I dug way back into the JimmyD archives for the pretty girl pic at the top. It's from 2006. The model went by the name Paris. It's not a Yule-time holiday photo per se, but she's wearing the right color for the season even if she's wearing it in a way that doesn't cover a lot... but she's still wearing it nonetheless. I snapped it in my studio (when I still had a studio) in front of a dark grey seamless using a cropped-sensor Canon 20D with an inexpensive Canon 28-135 f/4-f/5.6 kit lens zoomed out to 40mm. Camera was set to ISO 100, f.5.6 at 125th. I lit Paris with my Mola "Euro" beauty dish for my main, a couple of medium strip boxes working from the sidelines for kickers, and a small, rectangular, soft box boomed overhead.