A lesson for those interested in simplicity – start with the basics and choose to end the insanity. It’s easy to write rhymes when you limit your diction. Even easier to limit when you decide what causes you friction – what makes your day harder? What makes you fumble or struggle with your kit? Where do you find yourself slowing WAAY down and thinking too much? These were all questions I began asking myself about 2 years ago as I trimmed my “gear fat” from a luggage cart full of stuff, down to just a small roller bag and occasionally a few light stands. Before we get to where I am now, however, let’s back up just a bit.
Signs and Symptoms of G.A.S.
Let me start off by saying I totally get it. Many of you have ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ (G.A.S.), a constant urge to buy new photography gear and gadgets. I’ve been there, always chasing the latest tool or effect. But I realized this pursuit was stifling my creativity. I noticed that sometimes, my mind was preoccupied with this gear obsession even when working with clients. I wondered why I felt more creative when I was less experienced and had less gear. It dawned on me that focusing too much on having the right equipment was actually hindering my artistic expression and leading to creative burnout.
I was concerning myself so much with having the “right” gear that I lost the art of it and was beginning to get burned out creatively. My G.A.S was taking over and making hard to “breathe” creatively (come on now, that’s funny!).
Early G.A.S. Relief
“I had an amazing art teacher in high school, Mr. Hules, who taught me much more than drawing or painting. He showed me how to truly ‘see’ and understand art. We once spent a month drawing brown paper bags under different lighting conditions. This wasn’t about creating cool art from mundane objects, but a lesson in perception. Later, as a photographer, I realized the value of this lesson. I pared down my equipment, even shooting weddings with just a 50mm lens, learning to see the world differently without relying on gear.”
But then it slowly started to happen – I started to let go of a little of my G.A.S. and sold a lens (my beloved 24-70mm f/2.8 with that GLORIOUS red ring!!). I put that money into a better 50mm and then moved on to the big boy – my 70-200. I can remember buying it early on and feeling SO PROFESSIONAL because it LOOKED so legit. The day I listed it for sale, I had all the questions of “why would you sell this” like there was something terribly wrong with not having this lens as a wedding photographer. It felt so right to me to pull back and so, I happily unloaded it.
A Life Free of G.A.S.
I had to get back to the basics again; start with what drove me back when I was really GROWING as an artist. What were the BASIC reasons I loved photos? I’m a moments guy. The stuff I LOVE to photograph is up close or super far back, so that’s what I kept. My main gear now is a 50mm 1.2 and a 100L. I have two other lenses in my kit along with 3 flash units, but that’s pretty much it. I rent something for special occasions every so often, but for the main gist of ALL I shoot, I have those two lenses.
Is it harder with only having two or three lenses to choose from on a wedding day? Some things are different, although not harder, per se. You definitely think through your positioning in a room differently than when you had unlimited zoom potential. But, I would say that if anything, it’s made me a better photographer. It has allowed my mind to be free of worrying about “which gear” I’m going to use and given me solid, dependable and consistent tools to create memories and works of art with.
The 3-Step G.A.S. Cure
Maybe you are feeling a bit cramped in your creativity or MAYBE you just are tired of lugging all that crap around. Either way, here are 3 easy steps to getting “smaller” in your gear.
1. Try Working With Less
Go ahead, I dare you. Shoot an ENTIRE session with only ONE body and ONE lens. If you’re into flash and contrast, use your lights, but try it with less. Try to think of how you could get your same quality standards with less GEAR. If you’re doing this job for money, maybe you’ll feel less worried about doing a “test session” as practice first, but I would challenge you to try when it ACTUALLY counts. Give it a go, you might surprise yourself with what you’re able to create with so little!
2. Focus On Telling A Story
A LOT of times, we photographers get stuck on the “epic” shots and totally forget the people or thing we are photographing. They become completely replaceable parts of the shot. One thing that helps me immensely is to focus on showing some aspect of a couple’s relationship off through the photos. Or to show a particular little piece of a room or building off through the details I shoot. I try to focus my attention on those stories and details so that my creativity comes a little more naturally and the things I’m photographing get to shine rather than my “skills” as a photographer being the center of attention.
3. Don’t Buy a SINGLE Piece of Gear Without First Considering This
Does what I have limit me? If your gear isn’t limiting your vision or ability to deliver a solid, beautiful product, then there really is no NEED for new gear. I shot with my Canon 5D Mark II for 3 seasons and would still have it as my main body if I hadn’t gotten such a STELLAR deal on a Canon 5D Mark III that was being retired. I have been trying to intentionally hold off on gear until I truly do NEED it, and my G.A.S. has never been better!
I’m still working off of a 2010 MacPro as my main computer actually because it’s still super quick and does everything I need without slowing me down or causing me issues. Having the money and NEEDING something are TOTALLY different and making yourself slow down in this third area is CRUCIAL in getting smaller!
4. Don’t Distract Yourself From Your art
Education is truly your most powerful tool when it comes to progressing and succeeding in this industry, which is why we created our Premium membership to begin with. This obsession we have with having the ‘next best thing’ in camera tech lends to a vicious cycle and will continue to distract us from our work if we don’t find out what it is we really need to focus on.
5. Don’t let Your lack of gear make you feel insecure
Petty arguments online regarding which gear is better breeds an idea of inferiority. If you’ve got a decent camera and lens, that’s all you need to hone your skills as a photographer. Upgrades will always be available, but growth stems from diligence, education, and experience. Incidentally, it’s frequent to find photographers who are getting published, whose work you love, using less and or less expensive gear than you,
4. There is no ‘magic’ gear
There isn’t one lens that will have clients flooding through your doors begging you to photograph them; that’s all dependent on your talent. The one beneficial aspect of G.A.S. is that it helps educate photographers. Buying new gear cultivates your preferences as a shooter, whether that be the type of camera you use or your preferred lens focal length. The symptoms of G.A.S. plague us all at some point, but it needn’t be eternal.
There’s a lot to be said about shooting with just the necessities, but I hope you find yourself happily surprised in what you are able to do with less! Less isn’t ALWAYS better, but it SURE is easier and less expensive; two things I’m always excited to have as part of managing my time and business!