Never Work for Free: I was adamant about this. It was the number one thing I would tell students or enthusiasts who were ready to take it to the next level when they'd ask my advice on the subject. I've changed my mind and even have considered working for free on a few projects this year myself as I expand my photography portfolio. I don't know if it was the word "never" or the word "free'" that I was focusing on. I always thought of free in pure monetary terms, but in reality, there are opportunities and experiences out there where you can gain much more than a standard day rate.
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that you allow yourself to be taken advantage of, it only means that you focus more on the word "never" and if in the end there is a benefit for you, then take it. Benefit can be access, a personal project, a cause, or all three. However, I would be wary of promises of future paid work unless one of the previous benefits also apply.
Maybe I'm older now with a steady income and that is why I've changed my mind, but perhaps if I had come to this realization years ago, I'd have a stronger portfolio or more diverse clients now.
It's Not the Camera: This was my standard answer to anyone who would look at one of my photos and immediately ask "what camera did I use?" Were they implying that without professional gear, or a certain camera, I was incapable of taking a professional image? This is right up there with the comment that the photos I took "looks like they were taken by a professional photographer." More on that in a future post, but back to the camera question.
Reality is that the capabilities and flexibility of today's professional digital cameras have allowed me to capture images that I would never have been able to previously. And let's face it, the ability to preview or "chimp" as you shoot means you make fewer mistakes and limit surprises following the assignment.
So while it is not the camera alone, having quality gear and knowing how to use it, does mean that I produce better images faster, and more consistently, than I did even ten years ago. So I now answer that question a different way and honestly explain how I am able to make photographs today that just weren't possible years ago. This doesn't diminish my skills or make me less of a professional, but it is being truthful. I also realize that most people asking these questions do not mean it in the way it comes across.
With that said, I've decided to challenge myself and make at least one image I'm happy with this year using my most recent camera purchase shown above. Wish me luck and I look forward to sharing updates along the way.