I’ve been a big fan of the “Strobist” flickr forum, been following it pretty much since David Hobby started up his little blog It was always a great place to pick the brains of some great photographers about lighting concepts, techniques, and yes even gear (although the slogan used to be “*less* gear, *more* brain…” hmmm). Recently though, it seems the focus of the group has shifted from discussions on controlling speculars and bright field lighting to “hey I have an xti and a 430ex and I want to do strobist stuff (whatever *that* means) what should I buy?”
To opine on the topic in a more general fashion, I would like to propose the following answer to most any “what should I buy” question.
when I look back at the evolution of my own skills as a photographer I cannot think of *any* instance were a particular piece of gear made a quantifiable difference in the quality of my photos. I can, however, directly attribute each and every improvement in my photography to *learning* or *understanding* something new.
To that end, the money I have spent on photo classes/seminars or even just having out watching more experienced photographers work has been exponentially more beneficial to me than any piece of gear. Sure the whole “it’s not the camera it’s the photographer” is cliched, but just look through flickr at the amount of absolute crap coming out of cameras like the d3 or 1ds… Folks are dropping 10k on gear who would make exponentially better images with an xti and spending the other 9k on a semester of photography classes at uni.
The bottom line is if you have a camera, you can make a picture. if you have a light you can light it (whether it’s a 20 year old vivitar or a profoto 7b). But you have to *know what* you want to make and *know how* to light it first. Once you do that, you will *know* what gear you need. Believe me, spending a weekend at a seminar with a serious photographer will improve you images so far beyond buying a 1D or set of profotos, it’s amazing. It may not be as sexy as the latest toy, but when it comes down to it you just have to ask yourself – is it the gadgets, or is it the images? (and don’t get me wrong, I’m as much of a gadget-head as the next guy!)
If you *think* you need more gear to make better images, you don’t – you need more knowledge. If you *know* you need a specific piece of gear for a specific application, well then by all means go crazy