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Spend on Images Not Gear

Spend on Images, Not Gear

This is a chapter from the book A Lesser Photographer.

“When everyone has access to the same tools, then having a tool isn’t much of an advantage.” — Seth Godin

The lust for gear is pervasive. It’s the fuel that turns any hobby into an industry. In photography, that desire for the latest gadgets has provided the incentive for innovation. There’s no doubt it serves an economic purpose. But it only serves to harm creativity.

We need to decide what is going to consume our time, money and attention: our cameras or our images.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you already own some kind of camera. Inevitably, you’re going to feel the pull from ads, catalogs, eBay, and fellow photographers to upgrade. How much sense that makes depends on your goals as a photographer.

You could buy that new prime lens you’ve been lusting after, or you could buy a plane ticket to a place you’ve never been and have enough left over for a travel guide. Which would add more to your life experience and to the diversity of your image library?

There are plenty of very fashionable photographers with little in their images to show for it.

For the vast majority of photographers—those who don’t rely on their cameras for their income—a simple, usable and pocketable camera is more than enough when you know how to use it properly. Don’t expect to see that notion in your typical photography publication. It may anger an advertiser.

Lesser cameras often get a bad rap, simply because there’s less money involved, but don’t overlook their benefits. They can be used in more places, and without eliciting the reaction of security officials. They’re less obtrusive when shooting candids. They can be stashed and retrieved easily in a pocket or plastic bag during bad weather (perhaps making you more likely to venture out for such photography). They have simpler controls, making them more likely to be used fully. Most importantly, they allow the user to always have a camera ready for unexpected opportunities.

Not every small camera can produce poster-sized prints with tack-sharp detail yet. However, most modern photos will never be printed at any size.

Real output is judged by the reaction it evokes in the viewer. Emotions are not measurable in print size or pixels. Your spending more on pixels may make a camera dealer very happy, but it may not do anything for your viewer.