I've recently read a very interesting blog article Less Gear, More Character? by Bert Stephani and I have to credit him for giving me the idea on the following article. I completely agree with Bert's opinion that gear can stand in a way between a photographer and a subject, especially when too much gear is used or the focus of a photographer is on the gear and not on the subject.
We photographers often get excited with the releases of new equipment, not to mention buying new gear - we are like kids who just got the most awesome and the most awaited Christmas gift - getting excited, sometimes even screaming or jumping up and down (having said that, our wives, girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends should be all given Nobel Peace Prizes for accepting our behavior but that's a completely different story). This enthusiasm can often lead to focusing too much on the equipment and not enough on the subject during a photo shoot. Don't get me wrong, being able to use the equipment, the tools and the light sources during a photo shoot is important but it is a client, a person and a subject who should we focus on. Gear and equipment are just tools that help us in capturing the subject.
This topic is much broader and deeper than I actually thought it was when I started writing this article. Another important aspect about focusing on a subject (we are talking all the time about a person) and not gear is the significance of establishing certain relationship with a person, of course on the level photographer-subject/customer. Don't forget that quite often, the photographed person is nervous and doesn't know what to expect from a photo shoot. It is in your best interest to establish and create a friendly atmosphere and make the person feel comfortable. It helps in capturing great portraits or similar type of pictures, which otherwise could come out really bad, especially when the person is nervous, tense and doesn't show his/her true face and behavior.
Another point is that it's also in your best interest to focus on the subject and see it as a customer, a returning customer in the future as well as a 'live' walking advertisement of your services, who could refer their friends to you. I think it goes without saying that all your efforts should concentrate on making this person welcomed and special during a photo session but if you don't know what I'm saying.... treat him/her like a new lens, a new lighting setup or a new camera :)
When you focus your attention on the gear and not your subject and customer, then you might create an unfriendly environment, which will not only prohibit you from taking great shots but also might cause you to lose that customer in the future and his/her recommendation of your services. I'm not saying that equipment is not important, it's a tool (just like your camera) that helps you in getting great shots but it's your subject that should be the main focus. It's up to you to find that right balance between the two.
Pictures: This was my first photo shoot in 2011, where I tried to unleash my creativity. A friend visiting Brussels was very kind to model for me and it was actually her idea to do a bit of a retro photo session. Strobist info: I used one speedlight SB-900 from Nikon in the manual mode triggered with Cactus Wireless Flash Trigger Set V4 mounted to a big shoot through umbrella (110cm/43'').