The Christmas season has come and gone like it always does, and the new year is arriving soon once again. The craziness of life is hopefully settling down, and you, as a photographer, can have some time to shoot again. If you’re one of the lucky people who’s family or significant other knows what to buy you, you received something that may help you in your photography. It’s also possible that you just bought yourself some as a gift to yourself. Maybe you’re trying to slim down your photography or videography life a little, and passed on any new photography gear this holiday season.

I’ve found that people usually fall into different schools of thought when it comes to photography gear. One side loves gear, researches it, and cherishes the cameras, lenses, lighting, and accessories in their kit. The second side of the gear spectrum likes to say that the other side has G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome), and typically does not think about gear that often. I personally fall a little more into the first camp than the second one. A photographer should not think all about gear though, and forget things like composition and creativity.

While I agree with both sides, I’m going to make a bold statement. New gear can make you a better photographer. This is just my personal opinion, but here is why I think this.

New gear can inspire you for the first time

Photographers of every skill set can relate. The first time you ditched your kit lens and picked up a prime, you began to understand the possibility of bokeh. Or the time you bought your first studio light, and realized that you too could create something beautiful. Maybe your first professional lens inspired you. Having the ability to create ideal sharpness. Or possibly shooting 10 fps inspired you to shoot more sports. Whatever that gear may be, it opened up your mind to another realm of possibilities when it can to the craft that you love.

New gear can make you fall in love again

Just as that first piece of new photography gear opened up your mind and inspired you, a new piece for your kit can make you fall in love again with photography or videography. A new focal length in a lens, a new light to add more dimension, or an editing tool like a Wacom tablet can give you an added boost in your creativity that you didn’t think you had.

New gear can make shooting easier

This point answers the question of “does the gear make the photographer”? The short answer is NO. The longer answer is, it can help. No the gear doesn’t make the photographer, but maybe that full frame sensor can help you render portrait backgrounds more out of focus. Maybe that 70-200mm 2.8 lens helps your create sharper images at a wide open aperture, or possibly a dual camera strap now allows you to carry two cameras and lenses, thus cutting down on time switching lenses. This gear doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer, but it may make your life easier, and that saved energy can be used to create better and more creative images. Not having to worry about your gear failing is also a big issue. I’m also a firm believer in purchasing high quality gear. Take your computer for instance. You can purchase one that will last for three or four years, or buy a cheap model, and end up buying one every year. The same rings true for photography equipment in my opinion. Buy quality gear that helps you create great images, but gear that can also take a tumble, get splashed with water, and that simply lasts. Don’t skimp on equipment.

I know that many of you reading this may think that I am wrong, and that is ok. I understand your reasoning. For the most artistic and creative person out there, they will probably be able to create something from the photography gear that they have had for decades. That is completely fine. I’m not here to knock them at all.

So if you received a piece of gear for Christmas that can help you in your creative endeavors, I’m happy for you. I do have one challenge for you regarding that piece of gear, and that is to use it. Use it often. Don’t let it sit on the shelf and collect dust. Maybe you’ve done that with another piece of equipment. If so, I challenge you to get that piece out and use it too. Use it in a new way that you haven’t before. Light a different way. Compose a shot from a different angle. Put more time into developing your Photoshop skills. Get excited to use what you have, and to create something beautiful with it.

Here’s a short list of gear that has either opened my mind to new creative possibilities, or inspired me in some way.

HoldFast Gear Money Maker

This dual camera strap has changed the lives of photographers the world over. It makes carrying two cameras a pleasure, is very durable, and its style can’t be beat. Matt over at HoldFast has built an amazing American Made brand, and I can promise you that if you are thinking about carrying two cameras, buy the Money Maker. I love strapping on a 50L and 135L, allowing me to shoot at different focal lengths.

Canon 5DS

Oh boy, the resolution. If you shoot studio images, commercial, or portraits, the information it resolved is mind boggling. It’s inspired me to work on projects that require me to print larger. Check out the 5DS on Amazon

Paul C Buff Einstein E640 Studio Strobes

These lights opened up new possibilities for me, and are seriously my favorite way to shoot. From portraits to fitness images to product photography, these lights are awesome. They are durable, and relatively inexpensive too. Shop the Einstein.

Fuji X100S

This little mirrorless camera has inspired me to be more creative with my family photos. It’s light, has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens, is super sharp, and is fun to use. Check out the X100S on Amazon

Canon 135mm f/2L

I love this lens. I also use the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, but when I can I reach for the 135L. It is light, tack sharp, and the bokeh that it creates is plain gorgeous. It focuses very quickly, and is one of those legendary primes that you have to use in order to truly appreciate. Check out the 135L on Amazon