You might not think so right now, but your gear and G.A.S. are stopping you from becoming a better photographer.
We all go through phases in our photographic lives where we believe that new gear will help us create better images. I need just one more lens then I will be able to create better pictures. I need this new camera because the extra megapixels will make me better. We’re not saying don’t go out and buy new gear; what we are saying is that lots of gear will not make you a better photographer. We’re here to tell you why more gear may be a hindrance, and that less gear can actually make you a better photographer. How? Let’s talk about it after the break.
I’m not preaching from a high horse here. Trust me, I’ve had severe bouts of G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) in my life, and I’m sure you have too. We all fall to it at some point. Pretty quickly, you’ll find that you have more gear than you know what to do with; and honestly, it can be overwhelming. You’ll also quickly realize that a new camera or multiple lenses didn’t help you improve as a photographer. For a short while, we’re going to look at a few reasons why less gear can actually help you become a better photographer.
Less Gear Means Less Weight, Which Means More Smiles
Here’s generally what happens. You buy a new lens. To justify its purchase, you carry it with you everywhere you go. You get board, You buy a new lens. To justify its purchase, you carry it with you everywhere you go. Before you know it, you’ve washed, rinsed, and repeated this step eight times. Now, your load is so heavy, you need a mule to carry your camera bag for you.
This scenario can create multiple problems. Having so much gear with you can actually make you a lazy photographer (we’ll get into that later). However, one of the biggest issues is that all that weight will take away from your enjoyment of photography. Lugging around a huge camera bag that weighs multiple tens of pounds is a happiness killer. If you’re not happy and you’re not enjoying your photography, you’re not going to go out to shoot. Try leaving the house with just one or two lenses next time. Force yourself to use a small camera bag that will only let you carry minimal gear. You’ll find that all the weight off your shoulders will make your trip much more enjoyable. You’ll actually want to be out making images, and that will make you a better photographer.
Using Just a Couple of Lenses Will Make You a Better Photographer
Just a minute ago, we mentioned that carrying too many lenses can make you a lazy photographer, not a better one. That’s absolutely true. You’ll find yourself reaching in your bag for a longer zoom so that you don’t have to walk so far. You’ll find yourself picking the easy composition instead of trying to find something more unique, and the list goes on.
Carrying just a couple of lenses with you will force you to think a lot more. Can I get this shot? Do I need this shot? How can I make this shot work? What’s the best composition? Carrying less gear will make you far more industrious. You’ll look for alternative ways to get the images you want. You’ll be forced to find new, interesting compositions that you would have missed if you had been carrying more lenses that would have encouraged lazy thinking. Being forced to think outside the box will make you grow. Growing means you’ll become a better photographer. Remember, less can be more.
Mastering Your Current Gear Will Make You a Better Photographer
Chances are you have what you need already; you just keep falling for marketing hype that makes you believe you need something new. Now that you’re carrying less gear, you can focus on getting the most out of what you have with you. Go back and think about why you purchased what you did. Have you ever realized the potential that you thought the lenses had? Have you explored everything your camera can do? If not, that’s not the gears’ fault.
Challenge yourself. Pick one lens or camera to play with and understand how it works. Hyperfocus on it, find out its strengths and weaknesses. Push that gear as hard as you can. When you go out and shoot with one lens or one camera body, you’re making yourself become a better photographer by learning how to maximize what you already have. When you have a bag full of glass, you’re never going to give the time to each lens to really see what it can do. The same goes for camera bodies too. Make sure you understand what your current gear can offer you. Mastering the equipment you have will definitely make you a better photographer.
Learning About the Gear You Have Can Help Fight G.A.S.
Now that you’ve taken the time to learn what your current gear has to offer, you can start fighting G.A.S. Gear Acquisition Syndrome is real, and it can become a problem fast. I know because I’ve been there. Once you become comfortable using less gear to create the images you need and want, the desire to burden yourself with more will decrease. You can stop the ‘I need more gear’ cycle dead in its tracks.
Take a look at the metadata in Lightroom and see what focal lengths most of your images are taken at. Look at what apertures you use frequently. Learning these metrics will help you understand how you shoot, and in doing so, you will be able to see what lenses you don’t need. If you have a bulky 70-200mm f2.8 but hardly ever use it, sell it. Have an 85mm f1.8 that sits on a shelf? Sell it. Focus on the gear you use frequently and arm yourself only with the tools that you will put to use. You don’t need to own every focal length out there just because you can. Lose the dead weight, and pocket the cash. You can put that money to use in other places, like booking a photography trip.
Less Gear Means Less Stress
Carrying around a lot of photography gear with you is stressful. Even just owning a lot of gear can cause stress, too, because you always have to keep up with it. Back when I would cram every lens I owned into a bag every time I went out would make me constantly worry. What if my gear gets damaged? What would I do if it was stolen? You’ve been there before, I know it, and it’s not a fun place to be. Then there’s all the cleaning and maintenance of the gear too. You might not think it, but all of these things generate stress. Like the issue of weight above, stress will make photography less enjoyable, so lighten the load both physically and mentally and carry less gear. You’ll become a better photographer when you have a clear mind.
Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you. We know there will be times when you have to carry a lot of gear. If you’re hired to do a job, don’t limit yourself so much that you can’t get the shots your client needs. That would be crazy. However, if you know you can get the job done with just three lenses, just take three and not six, for example. Take only two cameras instead of three. There’s no need to overburden yourself if you don’t have to. Where you can really make a difference, though, is in your playtime.
When you go out on photo walks, practice the steps above. Take one lens out at a time. Lighten the load physically and mentally. Challenge yourself to create images with a specific lens or focal length. Learn how to get the most out of the gear you own so that you can fight G.A.S. Most importantly, have fun. We often forget to have fun with photography because all we focus on is gear. Don’t let your love of gear get in the way of enjoying photography. Remember that less can be more, and you’ll become a better photographer.