How Much Do Imaging Sensors Really Matter Over Lighting?

For many years as a photographer, I’ve had one trick that has made all my product photography shine. Companies lease our product images, and on social platforms or messaging boards our product images are often used to showcase a lens or camera looking sexy. We wrote a while back about how we do product photos, but something that continues to be an issue with many photographers even today is whether or not you should have a new camera, an old camera, a full frame sensor, a Four Thirds sensor or an APS-C Sensor.

And I’m here to show you the absolute truth: with good lighting and a few tweaks of sliders in Lightroom, none of that matters when it comes to image quality. Of course, cameras can have different features that make them more or less attractive depending on the application. But in general, a more experienced photographer can take any camera you hand them and create a fantastic image no matter what.

The lead image of this story involves my one light hack. You take a flash with the wide angle diffuser set on, put it up against a window, and fire. It augments the natural light in the scene.

The following images were all shot at relatively the same exposure setting and had the same boosts applied in Lightroom. We mostly messed with the contrast, whites, blacks, clarity. No other editing was done. A Fujifilm Velvia camera profile was also applied.

We shot with a Pentax K-01 with a 15-30mm f2.8, a Canon 6D with a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, and a Fujifilm X-T2 with a 35mm f1.4.

Can you tell the difference without downloading the images?

Image 1

Image 1

Image 2

Image 2

Image 3

Image 3

All of these images are of roughly the same framing (sort of) and they’ve all had the same edits. So in that case, as you can see, they’re all similar. If you didn’t know a Pentax shot one of these, you wouldn’t care. Same with a Fujifilm APS-C sensor.

My point here? Every sensor is capable of putting out great images. One from years ago can do it, an APS-C sensor can do it, and a new full frame sensor can do it. The key here is lighting. Lighting, more than anything else, is so much easier to work with overall. This knowledge of lighting can also make you stand out more from all those other photographers out there. It’s empowering, and should be treated as such.

And as I showed in a workshop I did this past weekend, lighting with an off-camera flash is far simpler than one really thinks.