3 Tips On How To Cure Gear Acquisition Syndrome aka G.A.S.

Do you spend more time researching photography gear than shooting? Do you believe that you can’t achieve a particular look without buying the latest shiny product? Then you might be suffering from G.A.S., also known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Step into my office and let me share some prescriptions that can help you cure this debilitating disease! 

In all seriousness, G.A.S. can be devastating for your business and passion in photography. I’ve known many photographers that have been paralyzed and stifled, blaming their lack of gear for their creation of lackluster images. One of my good friends, a self-professed gear junkie, is constantly switching between camera systems, different lighting, lenses, and everything else in their search to create better images. Four years into their photography business and they are still in this pattern, struggling to figure out how to “make it” in terms of their art and career.

I have to be honest and upfront with you all. I too have suffered from this. My own case of G.A.S. centered around having lots of strobes. Starting out I ordered two studio strobes in the search of magazine-quality portraits, and when I saw I wasn’t able to create that level of imagery I resorted to spending more money to buy additional strobes. Before too long I ended up with 12 strobes and was farther than ever to realizing my goals (not to mention several thousand dollars poorer). So how did I kick this terrible habit? Here’s my prescription.

Take A 30-Day Challenge

Realizing that I had way too many studio strobes and flashes, I decided to scale things back to the basics and shoot with just a single light and modifier for 30 days. This would allow me to really understand what this single light could and couldn’t do based on the power of the strobe, size of the modifier, distance to the subject, etc. It was an eye opening experience that quickly turned into a three month, six month, and then a yearlong challenge. As a matter of fact, to this very day the majority of my work is shot with just one light! Not only did my image quality and consistency improve, but I was able to reallocate several thousands of dollars in unused gear to spend on other aspects of my business and life. For you the challenge may be using one lens or camera body. Try it and you’ll find your creativity, consistency and quality soar to new levels.

My One-Light Work Today

Sell Your Unused Equipment

If you have some photography product that’s been sitting around collecting dust, get rid of it! I’ve found that the more gear I would see around me the more likely I was to horde gear. There was some kind of inexplicable joy I found in seeing my collection grow, thinking that this somehow made me more “legit” in the eyes of fellow photographers and my clients. Taking all of my unused gear and selling it forced me to be more creative in using the things that I decided to keep.

BTS Photo by Thomas Roesner

Spend More Time Shooting

In almost every case of G.A.S. I’ve seen photographers spend countless hours browsing websites doing research on lenses, cameras, stands, and everything else rather than actually going out and shooting. The simple fix is that every time you feel the need to do this grab your camera and go shoot! Set up test shoots during your free time and keep yourself busy shooting. You’ll find that at the very least you’ll increase your creativity and resourcefulness. It will also help you have a better understanding of what you actually need as opposed to what you think you need. 

These are just a few tips that I've found worked great for me to kick the habit. What are some ways you've found that work for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!



Miguel Quiles's picture

Miguel Quiles is a commercial portrait photographer based out of Orlando, Florida. He's appeared on platforms such as Creative Live, WPPI, CES, Imaging USA & PPE. Miguel is a Sony Artisan Of Imagery and releases educational tutorials and videos on his YouTube channel as well as Sony's Alpha Universe.

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I have G.A.S bad!! Thanks for this. It reminded me I have a 70-300 that I don't use, which is a $450 value-added. I just bought a new bag and this will cover that.

lol Glad that we could help relieve your G.A.S.

I don't have the GAS gene, so I don't have any tips to kick the habit, but a friend does, and I'm gonna send him this URI for sure... Thanks for the article, I liked it. The rest that follows is just nonsense...

I also don't have the gene that enables me to watch an entire baseball game in one sitting either, but my Dad sure does. I do have the gene that allows me to eat half a bag of Doritos in a single setting though.

This article is great on so many levels, but it really makes me wonder why so many ppl get caught up in the gear race. Maybe it's just how we are taught? Or maybe it's a combination of how we are taught and our respective personalities combined that determine the GAS syndrome? I certainly don't know....

I loosely recall that Keeping Up With The Jones's is an actual thing, a marketing and/or consumer purchasing behavior, and that some folks can't actually keep up with them and reside to poor credit decisions, heavier debt, etc.. The further down this photography hole I go, it sometimes seems a lot like Keeping Up With The Jones's. But the article mentions something very interesting in that more and/or different equipment would make you almost better somehow, or at the very least get you where in your mind you wanted to be, but ultimately didn't. And, THAT makes me think about just how good Marketing is in certain instances (marketing being blogs, comments, all the traditional marketing channels, modern day hype, etc.. all of it boiling down to marketing).

In the tiny way of things put in perspective, sometimes I think the book, Tulips And The Madness of Krauts was spot on in many modern day photography gear purchasing decisions. But that's just me and I certainly don't claim to understand the GAS syndrome, but this article will help me remember what's important to me next time I purchase gear.

Boring! Instead of getting rid of stuff and then regretting it later, why not just USE the stuff? I may have 20 lenses, but I try to take no more than 4 on any assignment, but WHICH 4 does vary. I did sell some lenses, and then regretted the sale. So just use what you have and don't keep buying things, but rent instead.

Anyway, this just my own personal perspective. Everyone should find their own path...

"Instead of getting rid of stuff and then regretting it later, why not just USE the stuff?" there is a reason you're not using it. (Whatever that may be). If its collecting dust in vest that value into something else.

I spent my money on fancy equipment for years, When I finally got robbed at home...
Insurance money was spent on a camera, a prime lense, and a computer, I've never been so happy or so productive...(after crying a lot when thinking of all the gear lost and the sacrifice to fund it)
Now all my digital and analog systems got the same focal length equivalence...I don't focus on the gear but on my ideas
If I could tell this to the younger me...

I cant afford to have G.A.S :-(

Haha, that's why 24-70 are so popular, just one lens :)) (at least at studio, not outdoor photosesions).

Not being able to paid work anymore cures your pretty quickly. I have some pain issues that have forced me to focus on my day job 100%, so the gear I have, which is great, will have to last for quite some.

I used to be one of those people that believed that "this new thing would solve all my problems". But last year I decided to make life simple and gave my wife full veto power over all gear purchases. She runs the business so she literally knows what we can and can't afford.

Its works great because it solves two big things with GAS. 1) Impulse buys, if I want something I literally write out a "request for equipment. Sure on occasion I come across a "too good to pass up" deal (like a mint 50mm 1.2L for $800 which I totally snapped up, use the crap out of, and love) but I know full well that if I can not justify it after the fact she can veto and I have to return it. 2) by writing out how I will use something, what problem it will solve, how it can improve the work, and how having this thing will increase revenue I more than half the time talk myself out of wanting it. No piece of equipment will ever "make you a better photographer" or "make you money"... but they can on occasion make the job easier, for a price.

Hello, I'm Ralph and I have G.A.S.

Okay, photography is not my vocation. I still shoot film with my Canon A-1 that I bought new in 1980. It came with kit FD 50mm f1.8; I added a 80-205mm f4.5 and a 400mm f6.3. The Spiratone 400m f6.3 is my least used lens because it is a PIA to use having to use stopped-down metering and also manually closing the aperture. In December 2011, I talked my wife out of buying a DSLR when I found her budget was a Canon T3i; as a consolation, she bought me a used Canon FD 28m f2.8 which became my favorite lens. Early on, I bought a "potato masher" style flash.

Flash forward to July 2013,driving back from Charleston, I mention to my wife that KEH has a used Canon F-1N for sale, with the AE Finder FN and AE Motor Drive FN, and two metering screens (spot and partial), the total was about $400. She asked "That's their flagship?" I said "Yes, for the 80's." She said "Buy it." Both the A-1 and F-1N share the same lenses, so investment in new lenses wasn't needed.

My wife has been pushing me to consider switching to digital, so I created a spreadsheet of features comparing the A-1 and F-1N with their respective motor drives with Canon APS-C and full frame; the closest match was the 5D Mk III, full frame and 6 FPS.

I didn't know that my wife would be surfing Amazon in December 2013 for DSLRs. She asked me about what I thought about the package deal. "You're buying me a 5D MK III?" She said "Yes". and I said "Go for it", but I wanted to check B&H. I found a better package deal for $500 less. Right now, I have the kit EF 24-105 f4L lens, but I need to extend the range. I rented the EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L for a golf practice round, but that lens is too long to get into some college sports venues, so the 70-300mm f4-5-5.6L is better suited for that.

For an NCAA women's basketball regional, I shot the first came with my F-1N and 80-205; we were behind the ESPN camera row. I found that I rarely shot longer than 100, so for the next night, I brought the 5D with the 24-105.

For my Canon FD mount cameras, I added the Canon Auto Bellows unit for macro photography, Later, I saw a used Canon Macro Photo Lens 20mm f/3.5 for $180. That lens is rare to find on eBay or anywhere else, but this was on a reputable camera store.

I've found a prime I really really like I'm going to test using just it and a 70-300.