Crop vs. Full Frame: Excuse Me While I Rant

Sep 2, 2013

Jeff Guyer

Jeff Guyer is a commercial/portrait photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Still an avid street photographer and film shooter, Jeff also launched a kids photography class three years ago, where rumor has it he learns more from the kids than they learn from him.

Crop vs. Full Frame: Excuse Me While I Rant

Sep 2, 2013

Jeff Guyer

Jeff Guyer is a commercial/portrait photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Still an avid street photographer and film shooter, Jeff also launched a kids photography class three years ago, where rumor has it he learns more from the kids than they learn from him.

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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….”

full frame vs. crop frame

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.

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Jeff Guyer

Jeff Guyer

Jeff Guyer is a commercial/portrait photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Still an avid street photographer and film shooter, Jeff also launched a kids photography class three years ago, where rumor has it he learns more from the kids than they learn from him.

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109 responses to “Crop vs. Full Frame: Excuse Me While I Rant”

  1. Bob Agens Avatar
    Bob Agens

    It’s stupid not to hire a good photographer because he uses crop sensor, but as a professional you should always try to have the best possible tool. I think it’s legit for client to value the commitment the professional has to the job, and the use of equipment that is not pro-grade doesn’t help to send that message. The “full-frame” thing is bullshit, but is an attempt to separate the trustable pro from the weekend so-called pro, made by someone who is not an expert.

    1. BW Avatar

      By that logic we should all be committed enough to buy Hasselblads or Phase Ones.

      1. Bob Agens Avatar
        Bob Agens

        There are levels of commitment. It’s not all or nothing. Some markets are not good enough to justify such a large investment. And for many types of photography, medium format is actually much worse.

    2. Mike RuggaBugga Moreau Avatar
      Mike RuggaBugga Moreau

      A 7D is a crop sensor camera and is most certainly a “professional” camera. Technique and knowledge is far more important than your gear…unless you’re trying to shoot weddings with a $100 compact camera. I’ve shot stuff with my T3i and 60D using old vintage manual lenses that most people would never know was not shot with a top of the line DSLR and lens combo. I’m more interested in how much of a professional the person is, so long as their gear is at least decent.

  2. Tor Ivan Boine Avatar
    Tor Ivan Boine


  3. NYSToMnd Avatar

    What about the “so-called pro” that can afford the full frame camera? With emerging technology, full-frame prices are dropping. In photography, a client is looking for results, the end product. The tool you use to achieve the desired result should not matter.

  4. Jon Peckham Avatar
    Jon Peckham

    I have sold on Getty images many times with a T3i. You are dealing with a sociopath. You do not want to work with this guy in the first place.

  5. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    On the good side of things, just think about it: probably best not to work for someone looking for a “full-frame for hire”, rather than a photographer. Just shows how little she would make of your work.
    Oooh, I liked the pics your full-frame took on the last job.
    I didn’t like the pics on the last work, perhaps you should buy a Canon 5D Mark III.
    When whoever is on the lead gives no value whatsoever to your skills as a pro, as well as perspective, artistic vision, personal touches and stuff, you become highly expendable. Anyone willing to take less money with the same gear could replace you. It’s not even worth the bother.

  6. spongefinger Avatar

    I.use a d300 .and a d700 for my work and the full Frame beats the crop in low light hands down, in nice light they perform the same.

    1. onnevan Avatar

      I bet the crop beats the full frame for “tele” photographs given the same focal lenghts.

    2. John Avatar

      Isn’t the D700 the OLD model?

      1. Shawn Avatar

        It’s newer than a D300.

  7. Guest Avatar

    You see, you got me thinking about a similar situation here where I live, São Paulo – Brazil. Most of the new photographers here, I mean, the ones that did not begin shooting in the film era, do the same photography classes by the same company and they get the same exact gear: a Canon T3i.
    I still shoot bridge cameras, mostly because I don’t have money to buy a better one, wich I wish to be a Pentax; so here comes another one!

    “Why not a Canon or a Nikon?! They’re so much better!”
    And I’ve tried to discuss the focal range of lenses, the build quality, the sensor-shift, all of the qualities of a Pentax that other cameras do not have for the price range, and that other cameras do have, and sincerely, I gave up.

    The funniest thing of the whole deal is that when I talk to them about lighting, settings, lenses, techniques, they seem to lack the knowledge I adquired by myself, only by love and interest for photography.

  8. Lucas Hoffmann Avatar
    Lucas Hoffmann

    You see, you got me thinking about a similar situation here where I live, São Paulo – Brazil. Most of the new photographers here, I mean, the ones that did not begin shooting in the film era, do the same photography classes by the same company and they get the same exact gear: a Canon T3i.
    I still shoot bridge cameras, mostly because I don’t have money to buy a better one, wich I wish to be a Pentax; so here comes another one!

    “Why not a Canon or a Nikon?! They’re so much better!”
    And I’ve tried to discuss the focal range of lenses, the build quality, the sensor-shift, all of the qualities of a Pentax that other cameras do not have for the price range, and that other cameras do have, and sincerely, I gave up.

    The funniest thing of the whole deal is that when I talk to them about lighting, settings, lenses, techniques, they seem to lack the knowledge I adquired by myself, only by love and interest for photography.

    1. Auto Motive Avatar
      Auto Motive

      I bought a Nikon P500 when the P510 was hitting the shelves. I picked up a red one for a mere $279 with free shipping. I haven’t really had much time in getting to know the camera but from the auto shooting the images are amazing. I have a Canon Pro100 printer and use Picasa to clean my pics if needed and the prints come out that can hang in a gallery. Friends and family think I do amazing things with my photos. If they only knew how easy it is. Best
      Doug S Delmont Pa

  9. Andrew Avatar

    Glad you didn’t take the client it would have sucked I bet!

  10. GroahPhoto Avatar

    I would bring up the question of why not just say something in the realm of “I took these with a cropped APS-* sensor camera however if the terms of me taking this job require me to purchase a full frame camera, I can guarantee my work will meet your needs” and it’s possible that you could even have them afford you the money to purchase the “necessary” gear required for the job. Seems to me that your attempt to get the job was lackluster regardless of how ignorant the client was. This post is just as it is saying, a rant, and a waste of people’s time.

    1. Shizuppy Avatar

      If they’re asking a question like that, it’s more about snobbery and ignorance than anything. Guaranteed they wouldn’t give him an extra few thousand dollars to get a full-frame rig.

  11. Diarmaid Avatar

    The quality of your rant is right there with your photography. Thanks.

  12. Dario Toledo Avatar
    Dario Toledo

    Since no one is capable of doing it on its own, it’s our duty to make them aware of the line that divides our customers’ competences from ours, and ours only.
    Taking an eye on the result of my work is customer’s concern, blabber on my workflow and the tools I’m using is not.

  13. rea5245 Avatar

    I’m a software engineer by trade and I was asked during a job interview what text editor I use. I hadn’t used the one the company was using, and the interviewer seemed to think that was a serious impediment to my doing the job.

    There are idiots in every industry.

    1. Dan Avatar

      I guess it’s good for you to know what kinds of people you will potentially with working with before getting the job as well :P

    2. Shizuppy Avatar

      When a potential employer cares more about your equipment than about your talent, it tells you that they see people as essentially expendable. You then have to decide whether that’s the type of employer you want to work for.

  14. 孟恬 Avatar

    Did you send her this? I hope they’ll get some beginner with rich parents hahaha

    I am no photographer myself, tho, but I hope you can pay your bills.

  15. MJF Images Avatar
    MJF Images

    Haha! So right. But it goes further. There are people who won’t hire you if you shoot anything less than they could afford (Nikon D4 or Canon 1Dx in many cases). They want the best photographer and for them that means the best camera, period. But it will always be this way. Many of us make decisions and organize our thoughts based on what “seems to make sense” to us at the time. We don’t consider what actually IS, only on what in theory makes intuitive sense. It’s a common human failing in reasoning ability, one I’ve been on guard against since taking logic & philosophy classes in school.

  16. James Busse Avatar
    James Busse

    This is very frustrating, I shot weddings in Vegas with a Canon 30d and had a T1i, that I used for my personal stuff. I thought my portfolio looked great and the places I showed it they loved it. Then they asked what my gear was and said no thanks, we’re looking for someone with more professional equipment. I am upgrading soon so it makes no difference anymore. It was just very frustrating for me because I’m just starting into the business, and I was doing awesome work with what I could afford

  17. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Yes, I covet a full-frame camera; actually I own 3 full frame cameras. I would love to have the Canon A-Dx, but a crop sensor camera is more in my budget, like the 7D.

    I belong to a local camera club and I am in the minority! One of the yearly contests is a photojournalism contest; until the last series, there was a three-way tie for first place. The final entry placed first. I placed second. After the judging, the judges offer their critique; one said that this entry was an example where Black and White works. I used Kodak BW400CN film for the local Greek festival.
    My “full frame” cameras? My 33 year old Canon A-1, a Canon New F-1 that I bought used in July, and a Canon T-50 that was given to me.

  18. steve Avatar

    The “Advanced Photo System” was designed for amateurs with just 56% of the already minuscule film area of 135mm. No professional in their right mind would invest in the APS film system, a major sacrifice in quality for savings in cost, weight, size is not the priority of the professional shooter with film or digital.

    1. Tim Avatar

      Yes, because film grain still had the same characteristic radii – FP4+ is still FP4+ and by chopping it smaller all you’re doing is increasing the proportion of the image that is grain.

      Fortunately, with digital, the attainable signal:noise ratio *is* changing over time, for the same sensor-size and ISO.

      (Aside: I really don’t see why people fuss about emulating grain; in film’s heyday, the effort was to minimize it or, theoretically, “choose a film with appropriate grain for the effect you want” as though anyone ever bothered with that.)

    2. Jon Avatar

      That’s a little different. No pro would choose APS, because a “full-frame” 35mm camera that could be used for pro work could be had for little money, as long as you didn’t mind all manual. That is not the same case with full-frame digital cameras; there are no $50-$200 full-frame cameras kicking around photography shows (remember those?) that are more than just parts.

    3. AnthonyD42 Avatar

      I think Steve’s post here is why the comment was even asked. If photographers themselves think full frame is ‘better’ then why wouldn’t the clients? Every camera and every sensor has it’s place. You cannot broadly say full frame is better. It’s not better for me and my work. I like the fact that I have a 1.6x multiplier with no stop loss built into my camera. It’s perfect for MY work. It’s BETTER for my work. I am a professional in my right mind who chose a crop sensor. I see it as NO sacrifice in quality, quite the opposite.

  19. Dave Kai Piper Avatar
    Dave Kai Piper

    Great Article !!! Thank you for sharing !!

    I am HUGE Fuji Fan.. ( X-Pro ) I have been using it since poping the D4 on the shelf for pretty much everything.. Content is King.. that is pretty much all that matters. ….

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      so awesome seeing you here :) I was wondering what camera you’re using. you never mentioned it ;)

    2. Jeffrey Guyer Avatar
      Jeffrey Guyer

      Thanks, Dave! It’s been a few weeks since this ran and I was just scrolling through the comments during some down time. Glad to see you here at DIY,

      I’ve been following your Fuji exploits on FB. Great stuff!

  20. Brandon Kamp Avatar
    Brandon Kamp

    I hope she ends up with a crap photographer who takes cat photos and uses mobile-app filters. Uneducated lackey.

  21. Seth Avatar

    I’m going to weigh in with some hard truth here – photographers are a dime a dozen. Every middle-aged housewife or bored retiree with a giant DSLR they still use on auto and a “business” thinks they are a photographer. My position at my company involves hiring creatives and every time we post a listing, I drown in the resumes of the unqualified with gear they are convinced is “good enough”. Why would I hire one of them when I can hire a skilled photographer who has bothered to invest in his career and his equipment? Sorry, but them’s the facts, folks.

    1. $23041497 Avatar

      Why are you using a gear list to hire people? Why not hire people based on their portfolio instead?

      That is like not hiring a copywriter because of the brand of laptop they use to write.

      1. Martin Avatar

        Because a portfolio will always ONLY contain the persons best work. Any ding dong can take 100,000 pictures and get 100 “Winners” to put in their portfolio. When you have a million people to choose from, you have to find a way to filter people out. Good Portfolio? Yes. Professional Gear? Yes. Looking for someone who is willing to invest in their profession is a good way to weed out “Weekend Warriors”…. and with so many of them out there, you have to find a way to narrow down the applicant pool. Can’t interview everybody.

        1. Shawn Avatar

          So, you’d pick someone with a D4 and a lackluster portfolio over a guy with a D300 who can hand you 100 examples that show that he knows what he’s doing?

          1. Martin Avatar

            No what I am saying is that 1,000 people can send you a “Good” Portfolio…. how do you narrow the list further? Find the 10 people out of those 1000 who have also invested in their gear.

        2. Seth Avatar

          Exactly my point Martin – thank you for some words of wisdom!

        3. Shizuppy Avatar

          So what you’re saying is that your hiring choices are almost completely arbitrary… which says more about today’s economy than about photography.

  22. Nick Springer Avatar
    Nick Springer

    I am not a pro, but even with my advanced amateur photos I hear “Wow! That is a great photo, what camera do you use?” as if that made a difference in the composition and lighting.

    1. Kate Avatar

      News flash – not everyone in the world is a photographer and understands that. Gobsmacking, I know. Maybe next time you could get the chip off your shoulder long enough to be polite and answer the question.

      1. Nick Springer Avatar
        Nick Springer

        Nowhere in my comment did I say I don’t answer the question politely about what camera I use.

      2. $23041497 Avatar

        Wow. That escalated quickly.

        It is not a matter of a chip on our shoulders. It is merely frustration. Everyone wants to be appreciated for what they do. Photographers are no exception.

        1. Guest Avatar

          Say what i say. When someone ask what kind of camera i use, I say “A black one”

      3. Adam Atkinson Avatar
        Adam Atkinson

        When someone ask me what kind of camera I use, just say what i say…”A black one” lol But youre right.

        1. Rich Avatar

          I am using red one… I’ll never be that good :(

      4. Barry Hugg Avatar
        Barry Hugg

        I’m a bit late coming in on this discussion and I agree with Kate! A sensible response to the guy’s question would have been “Glad you like my work. Actually I use a cropped sensor but I will be happy to upgrade. Imagine how great my work will be then!”

        1. Shizuppy Avatar

          Well, if by “sensible” you mean “kiss-ass pandering,” then you’re right!

    2. 孟恬 Avatar

      I had something like that too. A few years back I made some pictures on my trip to Thailand with the Canon my father lend me. When home, I showed pictures to my girlfriend and her flatmates. Two of them are really into photographing, one professional, the other still studying. They wanted to see my gear, I must have good lenses… It was a 1000D with kit lenses ^^

      Of course I am no professional, but it’s funny how they believed “it must be the gear”^^

      Another time I uploaded a picture from my iPhone and was asked how I did that. When I said well I use iPhone and Snapseed, the guy answered, that he will sell his dslr now ;)

      1. Mike RuggaBugga Moreau Avatar
        Mike RuggaBugga Moreau

        I’ve seen incredible images taken by pro photographers who were carrying a little $200-$300 compact camera at the time. Gear only limits you so much, a great artist can still paint awesome pictures without the fanciest brushes and paints.

    3. Maz Avatar

      “Wow! That is a really delicious cake, what oven do you have in your kitchen?”

      …said nobody, ever.

      1. fred Avatar

        We got a new stove/oven and food improved a lot! ‘Course the old one was defective and didn’t have constant heat.

        I’m still wondering why he didn’t just ask them what body they wanted him to use then rent one and bill them for the rental.

      2. destro Avatar

        So funny, the better questions is what ingredients were used…

        1. Shizuppy Avatar

          No, not really, because ingredients are part of the finished product. A camera is only the means by which the finished product is created.

  23. JarFil Avatar

    You don’t say what kind of job this was. Maybe they really did need high resolution, high quality photos. You may have all the skills needed for the job, but if you can’t provide the required results… well, that’s about it.

    And maybe you were not even talking to the person making that decision, but just someone following instructions, who may not realize why there was that requirement in the first place.

  24. Joseph Krivoruk Avatar
    Joseph Krivoruk

    Its sad and yet funny.
    Few years back I got a call for a wedding, Unlike normal questions (1) – how much, (2) how many images will I get…. the conversation went something alone the lines of ‘My fiancé is saying that full frame is better’ this was right after Canon releasing its latest 1dM4, which if I remember correctly is a crop frame camera. So I replied in those terms comparing the full frame vs crop frame. As much as I enjoy capturing weddings, I prefer less stupidity.
    Today, my d300s WITH 50MM 1.4 is my GO TO camera for any portraiture work (in the studio or on location), my d700 with 24-70 is go to for pretty much everything else. Not to say that I can’t use my full frame for portraits, but it is just a style and preference that I developed over the years to use my gear as such.
    One of the things that I’ve done on all of my Nikon gear is taped up the model # and letters NIK… thus leaving it up to the imagination of the user as to which brand I’m using. So far I eliminated stupid questions/remarks and only left the viewers to wonder.

  25. Mark Alan Jones Avatar
    Mark Alan Jones

    If you are a professional photographer, it isn’t ridiculous for paying clients to want you to have professional level gear. Skill level aside. You mention that all the iconic photographs were shot on worse gear than today, which is true. But how many of them were shot on the best available gear at the time??? Camera’s have never been cheaper than today, so really that first statement takes away all your excuses.

    1. $23041497 Avatar

      The point is, how do you define “best”?

      The best available is a medium format…. for some circumstances; Film for other circumstances; 4×5 for others. And that is the real issue. For some instances fx might be the appropriate tool, but the right tool should be determined by the person wielding it, and the results. If the photographer can use a cropped frame camera to the client’s satisfaction, that is obviously the right tool.

      1. Martin Avatar

        i think that even today the glass used for that old photos is still great and expensive.

    2. D Avatar

      Professional level gear is whatever somebody uses to get professional level results.

    3. Mike RuggaBugga Moreau Avatar
      Mike RuggaBugga Moreau

      Ridiculous. Sure, you should have some decent gear, but it should not be a requirement to have “the best” gear available. If that were the case nobody could be a pro without a $50,000 Hasselblad. I’ve seen photos shot on dated Canon crop-sensor bodies with kit lenses that blow away the stuff by folks who have 5Ds with L-series glass and don’t know how to shoot worth a damn.

    4. Shizuppy Avatar

      They’re not paying for gear, they’re paying for photos. If someone could take world-class pictures with a potato then who cares? Would you tell Ansel Adams to take a hike because his camera isn’t a 1D?

  26. IshootThings Avatar

    At the last couple of weddings I went to, the photographers were using 3 cameras between the two of them and in both occasions one of the cameras was a crop (and both were different photography companies). The images I saw that they gave their clients were damn good and you would have never known the difference.

    1. David Peterson Avatar
      David Peterson

      Often having a crop is a great choice as an extra camera for weddings.
      a) is lighter! You’re carrying it around all day…
      b) extra reach!

  27. Jon Peckham Avatar
    Jon Peckham

    Its not what you use, it’s how you use what you’ve got that counts. Only fools believe else wise. . .

    1. Tim Avatar

      What you have affects how you can use it. Fool.

      1. Jonathan Avatar

        If you use an 18 megapixel full frame dslr and I use a rebel T4i with the same 18 mega pixel count, what are my photos going to lose out on aside from me using a 10-20 wide angle lens only getting me as wide as 16mm?

        1. Tim Avatar

          Also, you’ll not get as narrow a DoF for the same aperture and equivalent focal-length.

          Chances are, if you pick a full-frame camera of similar vintage, you’ll get lower noise or higher usable ISO and better colour bit-depth than an APS format.

          The areas in which crop sensors have an advantage are 1) you’re only using the middle of the lens so you won’t suffer the degradation at the edges; 2) you don’t need to stop down so far to get large DoF, so you’ll avoid diffraction and shoot at faster shutter-speed.

          I, for one, have a m4/3rds camera from 3 years ago, deliberately chosen for the ergonomics rather than sensor performance. It doesn’t affect me during the daytime, when I do most of my work, but try and do a night exposure and it suffers hugely from ISO and long-exposure noise.

          Now, what was that about `it’s not what you use but how you use it’ again? :/

          1. Shizuppy Avatar

            Um, chances are they would have told him if they needed a full frame camera for low light or small DOF photography. The author’s point was that their requirement was completely arbitrary. If they’d had a legitimate reason He would not have written this article.

  28. Ron Avatar

    Its not the gear its the knowledge, experience, and talent! You can give any monkey the best camera in the world and he will take ok pictures, but give a low end camera phone to an expert and he will make magic.

  29. Tanja Petri Avatar
    Tanja Petri

    Expectations. Everything is about expectations. Back in 2006, I worked for a photo studio / camera shop combination. I had just bought the Canon EOS 400D (American model designation is probably different.) For the studio, my boss had bought their first digital camera, the EOS 5D (no “Mark Anything”, just plain 5D). We had a customer with a lot of money who wanted to buy a camera. My boss showed him our shiny new studio camera and the guy said, yeah, great, I’ll get one of these. He bought it, and afterwards he kept coming back to get his pictures developed and to ask questions. He was also extremely surprised that he didn’t get the same results we did. (I also want to mention that he was shooting only in full automatic mode.)
    We, meaning myself and our trainee who had just bought a Nikon in pretty much the same class as my Canon, were constantly shaking our heads about this idiot.

    In Germany, if you want to call yourself a professional photographer, you have to go through a three year training period. They teach you all the basic stuff about lighting, composition and technology, and then, hopefully, over the course of your career you develop those skills, and if you have talent along with skill, you might turn out to be a great photographer. Then some idiot with too much money comes along and thinks, hey, money can buy anything, right? And if I have the equipment, I should be able to take professional pictures! Duh.
    I left that job in 2007 and moved away since; I have no idea what became of the guy and his precious 5D. But one thing I’m sure of: Even if he still has it and has been constantly using it, I can take better pictures with my 70 € point-and-shoot than he with his 3000 € equipment.
    In conclusion, I’d like to quote my teacher from the beginning of my trainee period 17 years ago: It’s not the camera that takes the picture. I wish people would remember that.

    1. Auto Motive Avatar
      Auto Motive

      I truly applaud the training period. Back in the film days I bought the RB67 and all the accessories. It was a amazing camera and pictures were gallery quality. That said I missed the opportunity to get true training. My shots were cars, people and the dreaded wedding. Thank goodness for the polaroid back and flash meter along with a great brown line strobe set up. Good luck in a great profession. By the way I spent 41 years in the steel industry and got some great pics of the steel mills around the country.

  30. Cédric Hauteville Avatar
    Cédric Hauteville

    I think the full frame vs crop sensor argument only makes sense to people who are used to shoot film and who already know their frame lines. I started photography with digital, and until I want to make full use of ultra wide lenses, I don’t feel the need to own a full frame camera.

    If we push the logic that “full frame is better” to the extreme, then actually, full frame is crap because there is medium format, and so on.

    1. Tim Avatar

      Well yes. Full frame means 5×4, doesn’t it? Wake me up when sensors that size are affordable. (I’ve been griping about the stupidity of the term “full-frame” for longer than I care to mention; I prefer `FX’ or similar designation if possible.)

      Wide-angle; low noise per ISO; narrower DoF for the same focal length. All 3 change as a function of sensor size.

      What interests me is, if the correspondent had come up with one of the above factors as a requirement (they would be in many photographic genres, such as indoor journalism or gig/concert work), how quickly would the author have done a double-take and accepted it? :P

  31. Jeffrey Friedl Avatar
    Jeffrey Friedl

    I’m surprised nobody has yet pointed out the obvious: full-frame cameras go to 11, man.

    1. William Edstrom Avatar
      William Edstrom

      For $2000, I can build you a camera that goes to 12.

  32. MichaelD Avatar

    This is the modern of “you sent the photos at 72ppi and we need HIGH resolution shots–can you send them at 300ppi?” Sure, what size? “300ppi, like I said”.

  33. Georges Avatar

    When someone asks me “how many megapixels does your camera have?” I sometimes say:
    “I have much more than 2 megapixels. A 1080P HD 50 inches screen is 2 million pixels…”
    And then I look at their face and listen!

    1. GavChap Avatar

      That film you saw at the Cinema, that really cool 3D digitally projected film that looks so awesome on that really expensive 40 foot wide screen, that’s known as 4K, which is only 8 megapixels. My phone has 8 megapixels.

  34. Guest Avatar

    But..but…but…good enough should be good enough.
    Sorry, it is perfectly reasonable to expect a hired professional to use professional tools.The client can set the expectations. Expecting full-frame files is perfectly reasonable. Full-frame glass and sensors sets a higher starting point for quality images.
    Even your example of the brand of hammer used does in-fact matter. A $8 Ace Hardware hammer will not be as consistent and productive as a $80 German-made hammer. Otherwise every construction professional would be using Wal-Mart purchased Black & Decker drills and saws. They know that proper results require correct tools. Visit any commercial job site, you will not find $25 drills, you will find $250 drills. Will the customer be able to tell what drill was used? Hard to say. But the consistency of the results and the productivity will matter. Hiring a professional is reason enough to expect professional tools.
    If you hire a plumber, do you expect him to show up with the correct tools for the project? Would some pipe wrenches and some putty from the trunk be enough or would you prefer they have a fully-stocked commercial truck including video cameras that can inspect the lines? Both could potentially make competent repairs by a skilled plumber.
    If you hire a video production company to produce a commercial for your business, are not not allowed to question why he is shooting with a VHS camcorder? Some VHS camcorders are very advanced, with high-quality optics and many features. Certainly a talented videographer could capture amazing images with a VHS camcorder. After all, Standard Definition produced some historic footage and a high-definition recorder is no guarantee of better results, so why should the client insist on receiving HD video? Would you consider them being unreasonable to want HD?
    If you hire a caterer for your wedding, would you prefer one that has a kitchen properly stocked with commercial-grade equipment or one that has a Magic Chef range and a Target hand mixer in their mom’s kitchen. Both could potentially produce terrific food, are you willing to risk it on this important day or is it reasonable to ask about their kitchen equipment?
    Insisting that a professional use professional-level equipment is a reasonable method of determining the investment a potential hire has made in their business, and full-frame images are understandable starting point for the product being purchased, based upon historical cost differences between crop and full frame glass and bodies.

    1. $23041497 Avatar

      Actually I worked in construction for a long time.

      Professional quality tools just meant they were durable— metal parts instead of plastic, parts that could be repaired, etc.

      By that logic, any camera with a magnesium body and a good service history would qualify.

  35. Paganator Avatar

    This is part of marketing. Better gear is perceived by your clients as having an impact on the quality of service they will receive from you.

    Are they right? Probably not.

    Will you be able to change their mind? Probably not.

    You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to educate them, or you can spend some money to upgrade your equipment. The latter seems to make more business sense to me.

    1. Seth Avatar

      Exactly. Do you want to work/get paid, or do you want to be right?

    2. trompsky Avatar

      The exact same thing happens when I serve wine. I can serve a great, medium-priced wine and a very expensive, yet meh kind of wine. Invariably, once people find out the prices, they always like the expensive bottle more.
      When it comes to cameras, the final product is what matters, but when selling to a client, the presentation matters. If a client sees very expensive equipment, it instills confidence that you have the right equipment. You have the money to buy that equipment (implying that you are successful as a photographer).
      Is it fair? No, of course not. But it is human nature.

  36. Linuxito Avatar

    I have my humble T3i and I’m very happy with the results. I’m in a learning process and I don’t care about FF (besides is far away from my budget). I don’t think that better gear make a better photographer, at all.

    When I’m on vacations I’m worry about asking a stranger that take me a picture with my girl because, in general, a DSLR is a complicated thing for the common guy. In one of my travels I asked a very very old man to take us a picture. Later on I saw a tourist with a Nikon D300 and thought “this guy must be a great photographer, I will ask him a picture” (based on his gear). I have to say that my surprise was big when I realize the photo this guy took us was crappy compared to the one of the old man.

    In conclusion, it’s better spend money on photography courses, books (and spend time reading blogs, watching pictures of great artists, etc.) than wasting money on expensive gear.

  37. mmcduffie1 Avatar

    Take out one of the awesome pencil sketches that look like a BW photo we see circulating everywhere these days. Hand them some really expensive pencils. Ask them to re-create the image. Then looked shocked when they cannot.

    When people ask what I shoot I almost always respond “a black nikon” and then just stare at them. To be honest, most people never ask.

    At the same time, a publisher for a paper I used to write for found out about my photography addiction- liked my work- and wanted me to cover football for the paper. I told him that I was not really set up for that because most of my work had always been up close portraiture type stuff. In other words, I had no fast, long lens and I knew nothing about sports photography at the time so I wanted to avoid it. He responded, “We can get you something from Walmart if you are interested.”

  38. LuciFurr666 Avatar

    If the client is that important &that is what they want then it’s worth it to just buy a full frame camera

  39. Michael Turcotte Avatar
    Michael Turcotte

    Surprised nobody linked to this –

    Hammeruser: I’ve saved up for months and just got my Stiletto TB15SS titanium hammer. At $220 they’re pricey but with the replaceable stainless steel face, ultra light weight handle, and excellent balance I can see myself using this for many years. I’ve had it 3 days now and it’s just wonderful. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good framing nail to use with this hammer?

  40. John_Skinner Avatar

    Jeff…. It probably would not matter if you had the FX or not with someone like this. It would then become a matter of is it D3?. Or a D4.. Because the D3 is…….. OLD and not BETTER. Clients, people standing next to you in a room who THINK they know about photography because they too own a camera with interchangeable lenses… It’s all a game people play with the ‘latest & greatest’ thing.

    You’re better off not working for someone so simple that they make these statements. Next…it would be the brand of jeans you choose.

    I know that easy to say as it’s you that lost the job and income.. But hang in there bud.. There are a few intelligent people left out there. It’s just trying to find one that’s hard.

  41. Jaron Avatar

    Good quality glass is far more important than crop or full frame……

  42. Ads Avatar

    I can understand asking what equipment you’ll use as I have heard of some folks putting other people’s work on their site to get business, then turning up to weddings with point and shoots…

    However, in this case the client didn’t even know what sensor was in a D300, so how on earth could they appreciate the differences between FX and DX in terms of image quality?

  43. Andy Avatar

    Here’s what you do:
    “Oh, you need full frame? Well that’s going to cost you more, but if you really want fantastic pictures, I would suggest spending the extra money and going with our Platinum option…Medium Format.”

    Don’t forget to tell them how much bigger the sensor is, and how bigger MUST mean better.

    Then take the extra money and rent the camera.

  44. ohHenry Avatar

    You’re comparing oranges to apples in many regards on so many of the issues and statements you make in this article. As most that shoot digital these days do, lead by the same comparisons and miss-statements touted on the web as fact.

    1. Shizuppy Avatar

      Winner of the vaguest post ever.

  45. Ilya the Great Avatar
    Ilya the Great

    A friend of mine was hired to photograph at a restaurant. The owner complemented my friend for his work and said you must have a great camera. My friend, in response, complemented the owner for his great food and said you must have a great stove.

  46. Albin Avatar

    The problem you have is that the DSLR fad of a few years ago (I think it’s all over – after spending $5k casual shooters decided they don’t want to lug it all around) too many customers are so savvy about mechanical criteria for “serious photography” that you can’t show up with consumer or even “prosumer” equipment and win their confidence. The DSLR fad made buyers of professional services too equipment-conscious for anybody’s good.

  47. Greg Easton Avatar
    Greg Easton

    Crop frame or full frame… Dynamic Range still sucks regardless.

  48. name Avatar

    People (masses, majorities, etc) are never wrong. Unfortunately they all vote.

  49. fatso Avatar

    Most common question when someone says “What do you do?” I say “Photographer” and guranteed, every time they repond “What camera do you have?”

  50. jvansanten Avatar

    As a matter of professional approach, I generally try to avoid trying to foist my own philosophy into a discussion. Reality is a different matter, and we struggle enough trying to explain that to clients and have them appreciate it. And, even at the end, many don’t.

    If I have a personal preference in a situation like this, I’ll acknowledge that, but I’ll also try to accommodate the client’s request, even if it isn’t my preference. That is, of course, if I can manage it successfully and it won’t add significantly to the cost because that isn’t my typical style of operating.

    There is a distinct difference between what my personal preferences are and how I can serve my client, and I try to maintain a lively awareness of the difference.

  51. James W. Avatar
    James W.

    I looked up the photography of a few of you whiners and found it to be pretty damn laughable. I was doing event photography for a software company, and killing it with every job I did for them. Until they asked me to shoot a keynote speech at their product release rally. One person, softly lit against a black background, no flash aloud. My d7000 is NOT GOOD ENOUGH for a job like that. I was in over my head because my gear that had been “good enough” at so many events was all of a sudden inadequate. Get a clue guys. I wish they had asked me if I had a “Professional” camera before I showed up to that shoot. Go look at James Busse’s photography, or just take my word for that its HORRIBLE. He’s going to go buy a full frame camera, and then what? What will be his new excuse for why he can’t get any professional jobs? Listen up you little babies. If someone said they couldn’t hire because you don’t have the right camera for the job, its probably because they were too chicken shit to tell you that they hated your work. And I know, that hurts right? But not as bad as getting hired for a job based on your photos, and then showing up with gear thats not technologically advanced enough to get the image you need, and your customer expects.

    1. Shizuppy Avatar

      Whoa time to ease off the caffeine there pal. you should always know what kind of event you’ll be photographing and use the appropriate equipment for the job. You could have rented a full frame camera for that one shoot if in fact you really needed one.

  52. Lonny Ivan Meyer Avatar
    Lonny Ivan Meyer

    I Shot for a casino for one full year during 2013. Pictures went up(for the first time in my life) on 4 different huge billboards and they used my work in tons of print and PR stuff. I was shooting with a nikon D300 and still do actually… BOOM! All shots came out great and they could care less what gear I was using, luckily. Goes to show you, you can make great photos with pretty much any gear, it is just a tool, just a tool! I am a heavy believer that it is just a tool especially after seeing some work done recently(2014) with a nikon d40 and d60 that was amazing. Instead of sinking all that money into a full frame take all that money for an upgrade and throw it at some workshops or classes and get down to brass taxes and learn those controls on your camera and art theory, it’ll go further than you imagine(good glass is more important than body personally). I just had my first photography show actually, amazing feeling and experience and all shot with a D300.

    Almost forgot, I’ve been asked the same question about owning full frame when applying for a photography position. I just moved on and passed. Stupid requirement and completely ridiculous. Great article Jeff!!! Thanks!

    1. Shizuppy Avatar

      “Brass tacks”

  53. Paula Avatar

    I think it also depends on what you are photographing. In the end, I think we can all agree the portfolio is the number one thing the clients should focus on when making their choice, yet, if you are photographing say architecture, the glass is so much more efficient and conducive to producing superior results on fx. In any case, I don’t think it is good practice to assume clients don’t understand their needs. So, I kinda fall in the middle on this. I would try and look at comments like this in the future as an opportunity to show your client you are willing to please them. To me, it is always about how you respond, and it sounds as if you did not respond very well IMO. If you would have talked it through with her, perhaps you could have built the relationship, and shot crop. Renting is always an option too. Yet, in the end there should always be “this is not my client” situations as well.

  54. jdizzl Avatar

    I’d be more interested in the lens they use rather than the sensor. Far more important. I’ve ran into same stuff… u saying using a sigma 35 1.4 and a nikon 70-200 vr ii lens on a crop camera not pro enough? Meanwhile u got some person shooting a d600 with kit lens that you will hire? lol…