By Adrian Klein

It was after a recent showing of my work that this came to the forefront of my mind again. Talking to other photographers and asking them what camera they shoot with is about as common place as every other person talking about how’s the weather or local sports. Without fail almost everyone that commented on my work in person or via email that was into photography asked what I photograph with. Some responded that they hoped to upgrade or get a ‘better’ DSLR. In one case I responded that one of the handful of photos displayed was taken with a Canon 40D (the same camera as this person asking me).

So why I am bringing this up? There are many reasons but the big one that comes to light is a reminder that buying the newest or best camera does not necessarily mean your photography will move to the next level or make you a better photographer. Our digital age has brought us into a period where newer, more mega-pixels, and increased bells & whistles is equated to better and needed NOW. I have seen photographers become sheepish about discussing their gear unless it’s the latest or greatest. We are heavily persuaded to buy new equipment every time it comes out, which is very often if you compare it to only decades ago. Your shooting buddy has the new 89 mega pixel TRM IV (Totally Rocks Model) so you should upgrade right away too?!

Obviously I am not against technology or getting new camera paraphernalia. I am not living in a rustic hut deep in the woods but in a city, and I work in the field of technology which fascinates me. Like most American’s I do have a computer (make that computers), digital media players, smartphone, etc. That said I also don’t change my technology as often as most I know and I have been that way as long as I can remember. My iPod is six years old, my desktop computer close to the same and our only TV is a tube TV from the late 90’s. This also goes for my camera gear. I replace it when it truly ages or when it breaks. I am about to upgrade my DSLR but as I write this I still shoot with two Canon 5D MKI bodies which has been my main choice for the last 4+ years. Even though most of my peers no longer use this camera it has not stopped me from creating great photographs, selling large prints, licensing images and helping others learn photography.

Here are some suggestions to keep a little more in your bank account while still moving on to new and different equipment, along with solid areas to focus on growing your skills in photography sans equipment upgrades.

When To Upgrade

  • Generation Skip: A cost effective way to do this is to skip a model. For example a ways back I went from the Canon 20D to 40D, skipping the 30D. I use to do this with Photoshop until their recent policy change.
  • Used: If you can find a great deal on used equipment this is also time to buy. I have bought a fair percentage of my camera gear used yet in fine shape.
  • Breakage: When your camera is destroyed by that rogue ocean wave, well it might be a good time to move up to the next model. Remember to carry insurance.
  • Gear Junkie: If you have the dispensable income and always desire the newest toys to show off to your peeps or just play with then by all means. This post is not meant to stop you.
  • Homework Complete: Do your homework before a major upgrade. Upgrading a camera body might not be as simple as just getting a new camera. If the MP’s double you will likely need more HD space, more media cards, does it take different media cards, different batteries, and the list goes on.
  • Improvements: Highly justifiable improvements from what you have to what you want to move to has jumped leaps and bounds and you really need the new features, not just a move up in mega-pixels.

Why Wait To Upgrade

  • Business: Treat it as business if you are a business, a business does need to make a profit to survive (or should). Upgrading equipment too frequently or buying too much cuts into your possible income.
  • Continuing Ed: There are numerous low to no cost ways to improve your photography that don’t involve buying new camera gear. Getting a ‘better’ camera to be a better photographer is mostly a fallacy. See the next section for more details.
  • Environmental: As an avid outdoor adventurer I think about the environment. Upgrading less frequently lightens my carbon foot print.

Improve Your Photography – Low to No Cost

  • Composition: Know and understand composition. I feel it’s one of the most important components to a good photograph. (your camera does not know where to place the tripod)
  • Processing: Enhance your processing skills can help take those thousands of RAW files on your drive from hidden gems into final masterpieces (many great videos and articles on this blog for this one!)
  • Buddy System: Spend time in the field with others whether a photo club, casual meet-up or attending a workshop. I have learned a lot about photography from just hanging out with photographers.
  • Practice: It’s an old saying yet it never dies. The more you practice the better you will get and the more you will grow.

Feel free to share your thoughts on upgrading or not upgrading here. Are know there are even more pros and cons and for each of it’s different.


Taken last fall in Kauai with my older and battered 5D MKI. It still captures great clean files.


Photo Cascadia Logo

Keep in touch with

Photo Cascadia

Join the mailing list to receive the latest news, articles, events and workshop updates from our team. We publish one newsletter every two months.

Thanks for subscribing!

Pin It on Pinterest