In our previous blog post on the Seven Deadly Sins of Photography, we looked at Gluttony the sin of taking more and more images, sometimes at the expense of other photographers. This time we turn our attention from a desire to have more images to the desire to have more gear. This is the photography sin of Greed.
I don’t care what Michael Douglas’ Gordon Geko character might say – Greed is NOT good.
You have probably heard the story about the photographer who got fed up of friends saying that his photos were fantastic followed by “you must have a really good camera.” At the end of a dinner party at his friends’ house, he turned to the host and proclaimed: “Mmm that was a wonderful meal… you must have a really good oven!”
We can laugh at this and we are all quick to remind people that it is the photographer that makes the photograph, not the camera. But do we really believe it?
Subconsciously, many photographers think – if I had a better camera I could make better photographs. This, in turn, fuels the desire to buy the next lens, the next camera body, the next speedlight and so on. Even if you know that it’s not about equipment, how many of us behave like cats chasing after the latest ‘shiny thing’? Don’t believe me take a look in your camera bag and count up how many photography ‘gadgets’ you have that you haven’t used in the last 12 months? Come to think of it – count up how many photography bags you have!
We all have more photographic equipment than we really need. There is even an acronym for it in the photography world: GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. And there is another phrase that gets used often: “All the gear, no idea.” I once had a photographer introduce himself to me at an event I was running with exactly that phrase, he was in the fortunate position that he had been able to buy a lot of top of the range gear but then he realised that it wasn’t about the equipment and he was the first to admit that he had no idea how to use it.
You will be surprised how often I get asked questions like: “I want to buy a second lens, what should I get?” or “I want to upgrade my camera – what should I buy?” Both are impossible questions to answer without a lot more information and I almost always give the same response. It is the response that I give to any photographer that is suffering from GAS: “What is frustrating you about your photography?”
If you are not frustrated by your gear then you have not yet explored all that it can do. You have not pushed it to its limits. When you start to become frustrated because you can’t create the images you want because your gear is getting in your way then and only then it is time to upgrade. Let me give you a couple of examples from my own photography journey.
In 2003 when I went professional, I purchased my first DSLR – it was a crop sensor camera and it was before the days of EF-S Canon lenses that were designed for crop sensors. It meant that I was not able to create any wide-angle images. On a trip to the Middle East, I discovered that I was missing shot after shot because I couldn’t capture the entire scene before me. This was the trigger to upgrade to a full-frame camera.
More recently, even though I am not a wildlife photographer, I was becoming increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t get in close enough on those occasions I was photographing wildlife. At the same time, I was becoming more frustrated at the need for a wider aperture when doing theatre photography in low light. That was the time to purchase the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (plus a 2x converter for the limited wildlife photography that I do).
So to conclude this discussion on greed in photography: are you suffering from GAS? If you are, try asking yourself this question. What is frustrating me about my photography, what is preventing me from creating the images I want to create? If you can’t answer that question or you can’t say how the bit of gear you want to buy will solve it then, please, be honest with yourself: you don’t need that extra bit of kit. Instead, learn to use what you already have.
Until next time, keep making great photos,
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