Madison Brown and Saydi Zirker, both emerging models of Phoenix Fashion Week caught during a runway practice session:
When we show up to any shoot involving at least one other human being, the equipment we bring to the party reflects on us as photographers. If you care about the impression you make (you may legitimately not, which is a nice situation), then it might be worth considering what you can do to ensure it’s a positive one. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford/justify/rent the highest of the high-end brand kit, then that is one way to achieve this.
However, spending 3x-10x more money solely to impress others is arguably not only vain, but often also in vain, since few people other than fellow photographers will know that your flash generator is worth as much as your car. And why would you even want to impress other photogs? They’re not your market; they (usually) aren’t the ones hiring you, nor generate new business for you.
Another, possibly more effective way to make a solid impression on everyone is to show up with gear that looks well-organized, cohesive, and yours. This can be accomplished very economically by just having your shit together, in a minimal set of bags/cases, all of which are boldly marked with your own brand. I take the extra step of covering up the logos of the manufacturers of my stuff to clean up the look even further. This might seem silly and pedantic, but makes a bit of sense once you think about it: Why provide free advertising for a bunch of miscellaneous brands, when you could be reinforcing your own instead?
Unless these equipment manufacturing companies are actually paying/sponsoring you to use and show their stuff (a common marketing practice I’m not opposed to… *hint, hint* ), then why clutter your own image with their logos all over your gear? Gaff it up, I say!
Again, this does not apply if you always rent your kit, which there’s something to be said for too: You avoid some ownership and logistics headaches (maintenance, storage, traveling with it), in exchange for the rental-related ones (availability, shipping, beat-up condition). Also, if you own a little of the industry-standard rental stuff (e.g. Profoto), you can seamlessly supplement and expand with a few rentals as needed, and charge to your client an equipment fee for the stuff you do own.
I prefer to have full control over how, what, when, and where I can apply my craft, so I lean toward the ownership option (not the flashiest brands, but the best-value ones) and will therefore keep looking like a serious gov’t agency just arrived on the scene