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  • Writer's pictureJeff

Out with the New in with the Old

There is a terrible, debilitating disease, common among photographers. It strikes photographers of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, and pro and amateur alike. It's known as "Gear Acquisition Syndrome" or "GAS" for short. Most artistic endeavors have a certain amount of equipment that lures the practitioner, like a siren drawing the artist ever closer to the rocks until their gear, almost literally, comes crashing down on them from the over-abundance they've collected.

A musician might acquire more instruments then they'll ever need to play. A painter too many brushes, easels, and canvases then they have room for. For us photographers it's especially troubling because our art is so equipment dependent. If photography were rock music you'd be forced to change guitars every time you wanted to play a song a little differently, If it was painting you'd be forced to set aside all your brushes when deciding to paint an image of a flower instead of a field of them. Of course you might do that as a painter. Certainly different types of brush hair or shapes will be preferred depending on what you are painting. A big difference with photography however is adding a new "brush" (lens) might cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and lenses are just the beginning.

Depending on what type of photography you practice you might collect multiple camera bodies, numerous lenses, various sources of light (both on camera and external), reflectors, stands, backgrounds, and on and on. Photographers also get inundated with much more marketing than many other arts. There are ads on tv and online, you see photographic equipment in most major electronics stores and even big box retailers. There are photo clubs, meetup groups, and classes galore, and everyone has an opinion and favorite pieces of equipment they love to convince themselves and their friends is the best. I can be as guilty as anyone at wanting new gear. It's so much fun to learn how new equipment works and how it can add to my art, and it's exciting to share that information with others. Unfortunately, however, all this focus on gear is really missing the point of the art.

All that equipment that photographers long to have and use is often more than they will ever need to perform their art. Just like the guitarist doesn't need thirty different guitars to play a song the photographer doesn't need thirty lens, ten tripods, five camera bodies, and more, to create a beautiful image. We may still want them but it certain isn't necessary. Getting a new camera as soon as it comes out may help overcome certain obstacles but outside of extreme circumstances you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an image created with the latest top of the line camera from one made five years ago.

In our modern era of doing nearly everything online, including viewing their photos, most photographers don't print photographs and when they do they don't print them very large, probably no bigger then a 4x6 with an occasional 8x10 thrown in for the really special ones. 8x10 is tiny, it's like a spec on the wall.

So here's a few suggestions to those photographers (like me) suffering from an extreme case of GAS. First, slow down and think about how much you really need that new piece of equipment, what will it really help you do that you can't already do. Will it really make a difference to the quality of your image when you never look at it on anything larger than a phone and never print it or post it to anything better than instagram or facebook? If the answer is still yes, it will really help, then consider if you need the newest version of it. Digital camera's have been pretty amazing for years and sometimes older cameras are actually better in certain conditions than new ones. So if you really want a new camera try buying an old one. Have fun searching your local camera shop if you are lucky enough to still have one. Estate sales, garage sales, thrift stores; these can all be great for easing your suffering without spending more than you really need. Of course there is always the big sources like Amazon and eBay. There are some great deals to be found. A fantastic camera that based on it's current pricing is very undervalued is the Fujifilm X-E1. Although Fuji lenses can be a bit expensive don't let that deter you. This mirrorless camera works great with lens adapters so you can happily shoot with all kinds of lenses (manually) and create some wonderful images.

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