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BUDGET Photography Gear SHOOTOUT | ft. Peter Hurley | Ep 11

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BUDGET Photography Gear

In the world of photography, there's an ongoing debate about whether it's the camera or the photographer that makes a great image. To put this argument to the test, I recently participated in a budget photography gear shootout with renowned photographer Peter Hurley. In this blog post, I'll take you through my experience and share the insights gained from using entry-level or outdated equipment. Sponsored by Canon and Canon Printers, this shootout aimed to showcase the potential of affordable gear in the hands of skilled photographers.

Setting the Stage

Peter Hurley, a Canon Explorer of Light and a fellow photography enthusiast joined me for the shootout. We decided to shoot headshot-style portraits using the Canon EOS M50 Mark II, a camera that offers excellent performance without breaking the bank. Paired with a slightly more expensive lens, the 32mm 1.4 EFM mount, we were ready to put our skills to the test.

The Rules

Our mission was simple: each photographer would shoot to their heart's content, capturing the essence of the subject in headshot portraits. After the shoot, it was time for editing and printing. The final decision on the best photo would be left to the viewers.

Behind the Scenes

As we began the shoot, I could feel the excitement building up. Peter instructed me to stand up straight, with my forehead pushed forward and chin slightly lowered. The focus was on capturing genuine expressions and creating a connection with the lens. Throughout the shoot, Peter encouraged me to be myself, to forget about the camera, and let my natural emotions shine through.

With each click of the shutter, Peter's expertise was evident. He effortlessly guided me through various poses and expressions, aiming to capture authentic moments. From playful laughter to subtle gazes, he knew how to evoke the desired emotions and ensure camera invisibility—a sense that the subject was looking at a person rather than a lens.

My Turn

After Peter's captivating session, it was my turn to take the reins. Inspired by Peter's approach, I decided to add a budget twist to the shoot. I grabbed a quick prop—a buddy named Phil, who I intended to use for some creative shots. As I proceeded to shoot, I improvised and made the most of the available resources, showcasing the potential of affordable gear in capturing compelling moments.

Post-Shoot Reflections

Once the shoot concluded, it was time to review and compare the images. Peter and I sat down, eagerly scrolling through the shots we had taken. The joy of photography lies in capturing genuine moments, and reviewing those images reminded me of the importance of building trust with subjects to elicit their best expressions.

Peter's shots exhibited a level of expertise and a keen eye for capturing human emotions. His emphasis on camera invisibility and building rapport with the subject resulted in stunning and natural-looking portraits. On the other hand, my shots, though reflecting my unique style and approach, had their own charm and showcased the potential of budget equipment when combined with creativity and resourcefulness.

Editing and Printing

To complete the process, we turned to the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 printer, which offered high-quality printing at an affordable price point. Selecting suitable Canon papers, we printed the images to bring them to life. We opted for a smaller final image size by combining both Peter's and my shots on the same piece of paper, creating a visually appealing comparison.


The budget photography gear shootout was an enlightening experience that challenged the notion that great photography requires top-of-the-line equipment. It reinforced the idea that skill, creativity, and the ability to connect with the subject are paramount in creating compelling images.

Whether using budget-friendly gear or high-end equipment, it's essential to focus on capturing genuine moments and conveying emotions. The tools we use are just facilitators in bringing our artistic vision to life. So, the next time you're holding a camera, remember that it's your unique perspective and skill that truly make the difference.

Thank you to Peter Hurley and Canon for making this shootout possible, and to all the viewers for joining us on this journey. Keep exploring, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries of photography, no matter the gear in your hands.

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Vanessa has been photographing weddings, events, portraits and lifestyle for over 20 years.

She's a Canon Explorer of Light, an honor given to only 5 photographers in the United States, and her work has been published by Yahoo! News, Grace Ormonde, Style Me Pretty, Rangefinder and more.

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