In our podcast- Camera, Chat and Coffee, myself and Gavin Hardy discuss a photography subject each week. The most recent episode discussed photography equipment. This is always a hot topic in the photography world. My opinion is rather than improving our photographs through upgrading the gear we have, we are better off upgrading our bookshelf and investing in photo books. For the purpose of this piece, by 'photo book' I don't mean an instructional book, but rather a more visual book that showcases a photographer's best work or long term projects.
We live in a 'fast food' world where instant gratification is a necessity. This relates to photography too. The shear amount of photographs available to look at has never been higher meaning attention spans are at an all time low. So taking your time with photo books slows you down and most importantly allows you to actually look at the photos. I don't mean glancing at an image and deciding within a milisecond whether you tap the like button or scroll on. I mean looking at the composition, the use of light, what emotion the photo illicits and the story that's being told.
I would argue that by asking these questions when looking at world class photographs- it accelerates your learning massively. If time is taken to study the masters, your photos will be improved just by taking influence from them. Another benefit of photo books is the physical experience. By physically touching the pages it makes the process more immersive and as a viewer you are more connected to the photos. It's no longer pixels on a screen, it's a photograph in the truest sense of the word.To improve as a photographer, we don't need more expensive equipment, we need to feed our brains with world class images and absorb as much as we can. From here, our style evolves and grows.
Equipment is, and always will be a huge part of photography so it would be ridiculous for me to discount it. And I love buying photography gear just as much as the next! However, if you want to take your photography to the next level, I suggest that you invest in some quality photo books that will inspire, excite and propel your photography. For a further discussion on this subject and to hear my photo book recommendations, listen to episode 5 of my podcast- Camera, Chat and Coffee. Just click 'Podcast' on the site.