Guest post by Scott Wyden Kivowitz
If you've never considered a mirrorless camera, I'm going to give you two experiences that completely caught me off guard with shocking stereotypes. Some may surprise you and some may not.
I recently hosted a photographer Q&A session at a coffee shop near my home. During the small and intimate event, a group of photographers had the chance to ask a professional wedding photography team a variety of questions.
During the event there were tons of fantastic questions asked and one of them was regarding the trend of mirrorless and compact DSLR cameras.
These cameras are compact but can still accept a variety of lenses. There are advantages like transportability, less weight during long events, jobs and photowalks. I’m not going to go into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of smaller cameras because it has been talked about to death everywhere.
What I do want to talk about is how the conversation changed paths during the Q&A session. It went from talking about if switching is worth it to how customers might react to a mirrorless camera.
The Wedding Customer’s Reaction
The scenario below is written about a story shared during the Q&A session.
A photographer is hired to photograph a wedding, and the day of the ceremony the photographer walks in to greet the couple and family.
The photographer walks in carrying a mirrorless camera…one of those super tiny ones. These cameras might handle themselves perfectly well and the image quality might be amazing. For the photographer, all that matters is the camera can do its job based on the photographers’ creativity and mind.
To the customer, that vision of a tiny camera can immediately place a stigma on the day. The customer will see a camera that can fit into anyone’s pocket or one that Uncle Bob might also be using.
For the couple getting married, they might have doubts about the photographer now.
As much as I cringe to type that, it can happen and it does happen. Every day photographers are losing respect from their customers based on certain circumstances. A tiny mirrorless camera instead of a big bulky camera is one of those circumstances.
As I said, we as photographers know that it’s not the camera that makes the photograph but the photographer. The client doesn’t always see it that way.
But sometimes they do…
In the end, the couple in this story was extremely satisfied with the final products they received. The photographer used the room light and his own lights to add that stunning depth and dimension to the photographs. The photographer knew how to find light, use light and make photographs even with a mirrorless camera.
The Executive Customer
I was hired to photograph over ten executive headshots at a major corporation. Because I do not currently have my own physical studio space, I have to set up shop at client locations or rent a studio. So when I got the job I asked about the size of the space I’d be working in. I then made my checklist of what lighting equipment and backgrounds I needed to bring.
For almost a year I was using a Leica M9 and at that point in time I was trying to use it as much as I could for client work. Being that the M9 is a mirrorless rangefinder with only manual focus, it made using it difficult for when I photographed karate sparring for a book, but for headshots it was perfect. I used a 90mm lens for the beautiful compression and framing for the headshot. (I use a 85mm lens for headshots using my Nikon D800.)
So I got to the offices the day of the job and set up my equipment. When I was ready, I called in the first subject. He sat down and looked at me, and then noticed the Leica M9 on top of my tripod.
I could see him staring at it and then he said, “You’re using that today? A Leica? These are going to come out amazing.”
As if the camera was the only factor in the quality of the work. Not the lighting or the framing or the photographer.
The craziest part of this was that he was not alone. Eight other executives made similar comments about me using a Leica to photograph them.
So it did not matter that the camera was mirrorless or compact. It did not even matter than the camera looked like a film camera. It mattered that it said Leica. To the customer, the look, make and model actually mattered.
Would that reaction have been the same if I were using another compact DSLR or mirrorless camera? Most likely not. Most likely the reaction would have been more like the wedding photography reaction in story one, or no reaction at all.
The point of me sharing these stories is to create some additional thoughts about the equipment you are using and what your customers might think about it.
If you photograph using a compact camera keep these stories in mind and prepare your replies as a “just in case.”
Derrick Story wrote an article about this, and how small mirrorless cameras used to get the stereotype of not being “professional enough,” but he says that no longer happens with his work.
Come prepared with a response
In closing, let me restate, it's not the gear you use that makes you a good photographer. It's you.
However, it is your reasoning for using whatever gear that makes you a confident photographer and business person. Know your equipment’s what, how and why. That way if you are ever faced with a situation where a client questions your camera (or any equipment for that matter), you can reply to impress.
For me, I still use a Nikon D800 for the majority of my work. However, I look forward to picking up a full frame mirrorless camera in the future. I’m just waiting on the perfect one for my needs.