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The Cure for Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.)

June 25th 2015 10:36 AM

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.

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Signs and Symptoms of G.A.S.

Let me start off by saying I TOTALLY get it. I know a TON of you guys suffer from a similar condition that I lovingly call, “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or G.A.S. If there was a new toy or a cool new “effect” I could add into my pack, B & H was my VERY next stop. I carried it, tried it, worked it and felt cooler and more “professional” doing so.

I’m not going to lie, there will ALWAYS be a constant desire for my creative heart to add something “new” to my photography; a new technique I’m trying to master or some little reflective surface I can put under my lens to add a “flare.” It’s just part of BEING creative, that NEED for “different” and “new.” This was different though. Maybe you’re a bit like me in that I feel like my brain is CONSTANTLY about ¾ of the way full. When I’m working with a client, if I’ve felt stagnant lately, sometimes I unintentionally focus that other ¼ percent of my “free” brain on that issue instead of tapping into that creative center that brings my art to life.

It’s SOO easy to get distracted sometimes. It’s easy to leave a session where you tried super hard to be creative and feel like you have better shots from when you FIRST started shooting…These were some of my first “breakthrough” thoughts in this area. Why did I feel stronger in my creativity when I “didn’t really know what I was doing” than I did now, 5-6 years into my career and knowing volumes more than I used to know about photos, people, gear, posing etc.? What I came up with first was my gear. For me, 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!).

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Early G.A.S. Relief

I had a pretty phenomenal art teacher when I was in high school. He helped me shape so much more than my ability to draw or paint; he gave me a foundation and understanding to build on. Mr. Hules, “taught me how to fish,” instead of just giving me fun art projects to pass the time. We spent an entire MONTH my senior year drawing brown paper bags on a table in black and white. We moved the light to the side…and drew bags. We opened the windows and used natural light…and drew bags. We even crumpled up some paper AROUND them…and drew BAGS! I thought I was going to go insane!!

The entire month was not a lesson in making cool art out of everyday objects; it was a lesson in seeing. How do we take what we see and convey that in a way that is authentic AND interesting? I didn’t really get it then, but it truly taught me how to SEE things differently, and it gave me a reference point for moments like this when I was creatively hitting the wall. So, I did what a lot of people do when they get to a breaking point; I slowed down a bit.

I began to pull back from following every photog under that sun that I liked. I stopped indulging my Google habit of looking for “cool new shots” all the time. I also tried shooting few weddings and sessions with just a 50mm lens. I thought I might die, honestly. I had so much GEAR before that I could just sit in my own little place and get any shot I wanted. I was happy there with all my “tools” (i.e. crutches), and it was HARD to change.

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.

[PRODUCT HIGHLIGHT: Photography 101 – An A-Z Guide to Photography]

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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. If there isn’t enough to think about when you are shooting a session already, what gear you are using and WHERE it all is can DEFINITELY be one you can remove by going smaller.

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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!

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Conclusion

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!

About the Guest Contributor

NYC DiBlasio

Chad DiBlasio

Follow your heart, believe in the possibility of dreams, and watch Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously, I’m not ashamed to admit I like that show. Other than that, I’m yours (if you’re humming that Jason Mraz song now, we’re besties forevs!). What I mean is this: I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give my WHOLE heart and effort to the things I love including photography and teaching. I get giddy like a little kid about learning and will stay up late reading articles and watching boring documentaries about everything from food to technology and how they built Central Park. I’m generally described best by the following adjectives: Believer, husband, daddy (we have four kiddos, so tired should be included in there too!), romantic, lover of peanut butter, artist, compassionate,  lumber=sexual (it’s a new one, google it), designer +  fixer (old things, re-purposed things, broken things, useless things, ugly things).

 

Chad is a central Ohio based wedding/portrait photographer and educator. When he isn’t busy with his 4 kiddos, watching Gray’s Anatomy (with his wife…) or making things, he spends his time pinning home improvement wishes and learning about essential oils – he’s actually a hippie in hiding. He thoroughly enjoys laughing, riding motorcycles and a nicely edged yard. He’s been shooting for a shade over a decade and loves to talk tech and business.

Comments [33]

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  1. Maykell Araica

    Chad, I probably read this article 5 times since it went up.
    I recently upgraded my whole set up and reading this article completely took the anxiety away from the purchase, and the feelings that I need more.
    I think reading this article every now and then makes me happier about what I have rather than sad about what I don’t have.
    Thank you again!

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  2. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Great article Chad!

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  3. Dave Haynie

    I’ve had a little GAS since I was a teenager. Back then, it was money… how many windows did I have to wash in order to buy that new lens? Pretty much prevented any of that MUST HAVE NOW from getting through.

    Today, I’ve been building better discipline, not just on buying things after a long consideration (most of the time), but also not being afraid to get rid of things I’m not using. Particularly when considering the art that goes into the engineering of at least some of this stuff, I think it’s kind of a shame that some of it’s just sitting on a shelf, rather than being used. After I bought my Canon 6D, that got me thinking seriously about the APS stuff I had collected. Eventually, I sold the 60D, gave away the old Rebel Xt, and gave a bunch of lenses to my niece, just starting out in serious photography.

    Then there’s the other thing. It’s not so much separating “need” from “want”, but realizing that’s actually an analog value, not just a bit. Technology moves so fast, I really try to avoid buying anything before it’s really bothering me. And I also like living with smaller kits, particularly when travelling, which changes the creative balance.

    Case in point… I’ve been wanting a better street shooting lens for my OM-D. I had been watching the market, I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t have a real requirement. After all, I had two zooms that cover that range. I bit the bullet right before a trip to Amsterdam recently, where I planned to go with that lens (17mm f/1.8 Zuiko) and one or two other primes, tops. Turns out I spent the whole trip with the 17mm on 95% of the time. It did the job, just what I was looking for, and because of that, I’m about ready to sell off another lens I’m not likely to carry anymore.

    On the other hand, my guitar collections seems to move in only one direction. But I did sell the piano, so hey, more room for guitars!

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    Great article!

    I’ve been photographing since 1980; yes, film was the only thing available. I still use that Canon A-1 that I bought new in 1980; heck, it still works and film is still available.

    I took my A-1 out of an extended hiatus to photograph a 30 year old “bucket list” item, a Space Shuttle launch. I got a ticket to see the final Space Shuttle launch (which was Plan C). Finding Kodak Ektar 100 turned out to be a scavenger hunt in my area. As a result of “Plan A”, I was invited by NASA to be part of their first and only NASA Tweetup for the final Space Shuttle landing. Since the landing was going to happen during the predawn hour, color would have been wasted; I bought Kodak BW400CN (exposed at 1600 w/o pushing) to use for the landing. In using up the 3-pack of film, I rediscovered the classic look of B&W photography.

    I decided that I would photograph the year 2012 exclusively using B&W film. It was a year of experimentation and of growth using the different B&W contrast filters: yellow, orange, and red. It was probably March before I started to visualize in B&W. I’ve been using the gear that I’ve had since 1980: FD 50mm f1.8, 80-200mm f4.5, and 400mm f6.3, along with a handle-mount flash. I did buy a used FD 28mm f2.8 in 2012.

    Photographing in B&W was my “Mr. Hules” project. I gained so much that year. I shot over 60 rolls of B&W film for 2012. Did I have regrets? Sure! Particularly when seeing a stunning sunrise or sunset. But one of my photography projects was photographing the sunrise on the equinoxes and solstices.

    While I was driving back from a trip in 2013, I mentioned to my wife that KEH had a Canon F-1N for sale. She asked “That’s their flagship model?” I said “Yes, for the 80’s”. She said “Buy it”. The A-1 and F-1N share lenses.

    At the end of 2013, my wife showed me a Canon 5D Mk III package and asked what I thought about it. “Heck yea!” I found a similar package at B&H for $500 less and placed the order.

    I still have GAS. I want to buy an FD 50mm f3.5 and FD 100mm f4 macro lens for the A-1 and F-1N to go with the Canon Auto Bellows. For the 5D, I need to get the 70-300 to go beyond the 24-105 and a flash as well.

    The good news is that used gear for film is inexpensive (not considering Leica or Hasselblad).

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  5. William Emmett

    G.A.S. is regulated by the different types of photography a photographer practices. I shoot just about every genre, from wildlife, through to Macro. When taking a group through New Orleans, I may only carry one, or two lenses in my bag. When shooting realestate, I may only have one, or maybe three. If I were to decide to carry my entire lens collection, and camera bodies, I’d need to buy a llama. So, with a wide variety of photographic subjects, the need for specific lenses is a necessary evil of the craft. Adding new interests, and taking advantage of even new opportunities contribute to the G.A.S. Just add video to the mix, this causes a entirely new dimension into the mix, and adding audio to the video is even more equipment.

    WE

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Totally get where you’re coming from with that William and can respect the need for more gear depending on the situation! Thanks for reading and responding! I’m UBER jealous sometimes of the guys I know who have tables full of gear to run thru or play with for their shoots! I have found that personally it’s so much easier for me to limit what’s AVAILABLE to me so I can focus on telling the story in front of me, not fumbling with more gear or wasting money on things I don’t have time to really integrate. I use this same gear to do landscape and architecture stuff and to shoot head shots in a small office. I think you can do incredible things with small amounts of gear… and now I oddly want a llama… :)

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  6. Konrad Sarnowski

    Really good article – ‘been there too ;) As I’m only shooting for fun, I could limit myself just to Fuji’s X100s – street, travel, portraiture… my trusty Canon 50D with a bunch of lenses is covering with dust for two years now. Instead I managed to build a small studio in my room and really push forward with portraits in simple lighting.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      I’m teetering on the edge of pairing down even further to just a few mirrorless bodies with a lens on each for weddings. I have it on my list to experiment with a few this year!

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  7. cherestes janos

    At the beginning i felt that i need more gear to be better , but after 5 years in my photographic journey with almost all the gear I wanted I’m still astonished of my 50mm f1.8 what I can achieve with it. To be a great photographer we do not need a ton of gear, just the basics, we should use our brain more often.

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  8. Paul Tucker

    In a sea of “do more with less” articles, this one stands out. Very fresh and realistic – without telling us how a kit lens looks the same as L glass or how a Rebel body is nearly as good as a 5D series. Inspired – thanks Chad!

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  9. Jay Trotter

    Yeah I totally have to use will power to stay reasonable with my acquisitions. For me what you said about “is my creativity stymied without this purchase” does it for me. So that is what I will continue to ask myself. Do I really need it to get to the next level or can I do it where I’m at? Useful advice. Thanks.

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  10. Stephen Velasquez

    Great article about G.A.S. I think my problem is I shoot everything from Architechture/Macro/Still life/Portrait/Events and Wedding. If I just drop the rest and stick to Portraits and Events I could see myself cutting back. I don’t think you should give up that 70-200 as an event or wedding photographer. That thing never comes off the camera for Weddings.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      I don’t do weddings very often, otherwise I probably would have stuck with the 70-200 .. but I don’t know that for sure till I shoot an upcoming one with just primes. I think the biggest draw I see for primes is that they tend to be higher IQ, smaller, and force you to move about to compose a frame – thus inciting your creativity.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Stephen you should give it a try sometime. Take that lens off and try a prime like a 100 or 135 and see how it changes how you shoot!

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    • Lee G

      Same here I have my main things I like to shoot. Then I always have the random things I shoot that requires different gear. But, I think I’m doing a good job my GAS contained lol.

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  11. Paddy McDougall

    Great article, really enjoyed reading it

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  12. Jesper Ek

    But isnt GAS around for everything one enjoy doing if you are a GAS:er?

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  13. Joram J

    Interesting, With 3 body’s and 12 lenses whoops… uhm….. help!?
    But you got good points, a bit “clean up” wouldn’t hurt, right? right? :|

    Help!?

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Joram, I honestly don’t think I would have such a light kit if I was more of a studio shooter but CARRYING it all over the place gets OLD in a hurry!! :) Good luck my gassy friend ;)

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  14. Anthony McFarlane

    Thank you for a great article. I recently decided I am a 35 and 85 shooter for my d610. I rented a 70-200 just incase for my next ceremony but I am so happy with those lenses all day long!

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  15. Stephen Jennings

    Loved this article, well written and excellent points. I moved toward G.A.S relief about a year ago.. I only use two lenses, a 50mm 1.4 and a 105mm 2.8 (which I thought was awesome we chose the same setup!) I typically bring 1 or maybe 2 lights depending on the scene and I carry around 1 24×24 softbox.

    I did keep my 14-24mm f2.8 because it’s my hobby lens, the lens I use to trek out into the woods and photograph some landscapes. Other than that .. the 24-70 I was always around 50mm anyways. The 70-200 I didn’t feel really helped how my photos looked, I was more prone to stand in one place and just zoom back and forth than get closer, move around etc.

    August will be the first time I shoot a wedding with primes only.. I keep thinking the 105mm will be way to short, especially for ceremony photos…

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    • Martin Cogley

      I had the same concerns about going all prime but it felt so comfortable once I’d worked out quick lens changes. The 35 & 50 account for the majority of my photos but I found the 100 was more than adequate for portraits and informal photos of guests.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Thanks for the kind words and yes on the setup!! :) It’s kind of perfect for me with portraits and details being a macro. I feel like it’s such a versatile lens!!

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  16. Martin Cogley

    I can totally relate to this!

    Often find myself in and out of making decisions about kit. My current one was deciding whether to ditch my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and Canon 20mm 2.8 in favour of the Canon 16-35 f2.8…. but really – it doesn’t matter much in the end so I’ve convinced myself to stick with what I have…… until tomorrow of course! :)

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  17. Raoni Franco

    My GAS is not cured, but forcibly stopped by complete lack of money XD. So I basically have two options: I can keep trying to squeeze all the juice I can get from my current setup, or I just don´t shoot at all.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      being poor in the beginning is what caused me to LEARN how to shoot with less to begin with haha! Squeeze those lemons Raoni! :)

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      That’s the great thing about photography – if you can’t make enough money to buy the gear you want you probably haven’t reached the limit of what can be done with your current kit. ;) I’m unfortunately in the same boat, as are most photographers I think.

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  18. Justin Haugen

    the thirst is real

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  19. Pye

    Love this Chad, I feel like most of us really get stuck in the “NEED” vs “WANT” and have a hard time distinguishing. To the point that many people feel like they can’t even go out and shoot unless they get gear that they “NEED”.

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    • Justin Haugen

      I neeeed profoto b1 and b2 kits. But I want to keep making my mortgage payments on time lol

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      Thanks Pye! I actually love good gear, but I had to pair down so my creative brain could focus!!

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  20. Brandon Dewey

    great article

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