How Photography Can Actually Make You Unhappy

It seems counterintuitive; after all, we're all here because we love photography for one reason or another. But one common habit that almost all of us fall prey to at one time or another can lead a vicious circle of unhappiness stemming from what should be a satisfying hobby or profession.

Coming to you from Jamie Windsor, this great video discusses the cycle of using gear for gratification and how this can distract from the true reasons for pursuing photography and place one in an unending cycle of spending money for short-term satisfaction. I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with being a gear geek — that is, in the sense of enjoying the marvels of modern technology and using them. After all, cameras and lenses are pretty cool tech. However, when that begins to overtake the pursuit of photography and the gratification one derives from it shifts toward the acquisition of new gear, then photography can become a lot less fun. As Windsor wisely suggests, if you find yourself in this sort of rut (and almost all of us have or will at some point), it might be time to recalibrate by remembering what first drew you to photography before you knew enough to care about the technical side and return to pursuing that. Check out the video above for more. 

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Timothy Turner's picture

It's about having realistic expectations, if some one is starting out, it is best to become proficient with what you have now, buying the next new thing will not make you better.

Marius Pettersen's picture

I'm more focused on everything besides the camera system; lights, modifiers, and grips.
I've come to terms with a decent full-frame camera with a 35mm and an 85mm is basically all I need.
My case of non-electric gear is growing though.

Austin Williams's picture

Same here. 35mm 85mm full frame. Perfect

user-187388's picture

I agree with Jamie. This does not only apply to photography but life.“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”( Henry David Thoreau). Solomon said it better in Ecclesiastes. "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun." You really need to read the whole book and the last conclusion to find solomon's happy conclusion.
I have that many cameras that it is a chore to work out what outfit to take on a holiday. None of them are the latest and greatest but all more than adequate to serve my love of photography.

There are two common cognitive issues:

1. People have been conditioned, by the marketing machine, to view the acquisition of gear as being essential.

This may be avoided by only purchasing gear if it fulfills a specific requirement that your current gear will not fill. And (in the case of a professional) will the new gear increase your revenue?

2. Stop comparing yourself to other photographers.

The you of yesterday is the person you are competing against.

All that said, it has been demonstrated that photography has a net positive impact upon certain psychological disorders.

David Moore's picture

Trying to set up photo shoots is what makes me endlessly miserable. But I use old beat up photo stuff so the GAS thing wore off from me years ago.

Looking at featured image it is something about shooting film Pentax? :)

David Pavlich's picture

I look at G.A.S. differently. If it's within one's budget to buy stuff and it's what you like, why not? It's their money and we do like to see the camera companies making money to continue research on new stuff. :-)

But, those individuals need to understand that new stuff doesn't make you a better shooter. The new stuff might make their job easier, but the new stuff doesn't care about the Rule of Thirds or where the light is coming from.

Where I don't agree is when someone buys stuff and goes into debt over it. Not good.