Crop vs. Full Frame: Excuse Me While I Rant
Consider this-- Every significant photo in the history of the medium was taken with a camera less technologically advanced than the one sitting in your camera bag right now. Every culturally iconic image. Sports. Fashion. War. Politics. The list goes on. Regardless of whether they were shot digitally or on film, the cameras with which they were taken are all yesterday's news, especially when compared side-by-side with the current selection of DSLRs
Why do I bring this up?
Our story begins with an email a while back that went like this: "Dear Jeff: It was a pleasure speaking with you on the phone today about our current job opening for a photographer. We've reviewed your website and portfolio, and we love what we see. We are very excited about the prospect of working together. I do have one question, though. You mentioned on the phone that you shoot with the Nikon D300. Is that a full frame camera? I'm asking because having a full frame camera is a requirement for this job...."
To be honest, I thought about lying. After all, I had bills to pay, and if she had to even ask the question in the first place there was no way she'd ever know the difference, right? Before answering, I replied with an email asking why full frame was so important for this job.
"Well, because they're just better, right?" came the reply.
"Shoot me. Shoot me now," I thought.
Ultimately I came clean and told her that the D300, in fact, does not have a full frame sensor, and that all of the wonderful work she had admired so much on my website-- the work that just five minutes before had been EXACTLY what they were looking for-- had been taken with a crop sensor camera. I figured my honesty would pay off, since my work could and would speak for itself. After all, I was EXACTLY what they were looking for, right?
Wrong. My dirty little secret betrayed me. Sold out by my dreaded crop sensor. And yes, it still pisses me off.
I'd be less bothered by this trend in prerequisites if they had a solid, technology-based reason for it. "Because they're just better," doesn't qualify. Better than what? Better than the years I've spent learning, practicing, and honing my craft? Better than the time dedicated to perfecting my location lighting technique? Better than what, exactly?
I tried explaining to her that the ebay Rebel her daughter uses while shooting for the high school newspaper is a far better camera than those used for the covers of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, National Geographic, etc., as recently as ten years ago. I tried telling her about a friend whose crop-sensor images were featured on billboards. I asked if she required her contactor to use a certain brand of hammer while building her house. I didn't actually ask her that (at least not out loud). But I REALLY wanted to.
What we do-- the results, the images, the feedback-- is so much more important than what we do it with. Is the house going to blow away in a storm? Is the transmission going to fall out of the car when it hits a speed bump? These are the things that matter, right? Yes. Except for when they don't.
Pause for a disclaimer-- I am NOT, under any circumstances, commenting here on the pros or cons of full frame. I don't need the comments flooded with all of the reasons why it is so much better. There is a place for both crop and full frame in what we do and I have integrated both into my workflow.
About six months ago I was working on a new website for Guyer Photography. Like many photographers, I had a page detailing the gear I use. A friend of mine (who just happens to be the editor here at DIYP) told me to get rid of it, telling me that people aren't going to hire me based on the gear, and he was right. Unfortunately, there are some uneducated people out there who WON'T hire you based on the gear you use. In either case, there's no up side in advertising it.
We are all in search of the perfect client. The client who hires us for our work and our vision, giving us the room to do what we do. If you are cynical (or realistic) like I am, maybe you have a mental checklist of red flags identifying the clients you don't want. For me, any potential client who cares more about the camera than what I can do with it is simply not a good fit. I get it. You have bills to pay and a family to take care of. While you may be tempted to invest in full frame just to make sure you "qualify" for every job out there, remember that in the long run the quality of the output is what really matters.
About The Author
Jeff Guyer is a photographer based in Atlanta, GA., specializing in commercial and portrait photography, as well as weddings, sports, and street photography. You can see more of his work at Jeff Guyer Photography, or connect with him on Facebook at Guyer Photography, or Twitter at @guyerphoto.