On Why You Need to Rewire Your Thinking If You Obsess Over Photography Gear

Be honest: when was the last time you drooled over the latest piece of gear? If you're like most of us, it was probably more recently than you'd care to admit. And while there has been a lot said on the subject, I think this rant really cuts to the heart of the matter.

Coming to you from Karl Taylor, this great video rant makes his view on how much gear matters abundantly clear, but it also offers quite a few bits of wisdom along the way, all of which I agree with. While we've all heard it before and all know that yes, there are certain situation where only certain gear can get the shot, by and large, the truth is that we spend way too much time worrying about minutiae of equipment that already provides capabilities so far above and beyond what we need to make the images in our heads that it's borderline ridiculous to discuss it at the lengths we often do. Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with being geeky and having fun talking about gear, but when it starts to detract from cognitive effort that could be spent on making better, more compelling images, then there's a problem. As Taylor says, we need to "start thinking about the way [we] think about photography."

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Fun. This popped up while I was in the middle of scanning yesterday's roll of 35mm film, photographed with the very nice but obsolete Nikon F4. Some frames looked good, others less so - but there was nothing in the good shots that I felt was lacking simply because I didn't take them with the latest digital camera. Now, I'm an amateur - and always will be - so I have that time and no need for the business efficiency that Karl referred to and what I currently do is what provides me with the greatest pleasure. That said, I still drool over lovely cameras and lenses. The difference being that I know if I follow through with a purchase, that, in itself, isn't going to improve my photography one bit.

Alex Cooke's picture

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. That's pretty much how I feel too; I don't mind drooling over gear because I'm a geek and genuinely enjoy the wow factor of these amazing machines and pieces of glass, and I think that's fine as long as I remember that it isn't going to improve my imagery (as opposed to photography).

Anonymous's picture

Your opinion is bad and you are wrong. There is no pleasure in photography other than maximizing image quality.

Stop enjoying yourself!


Anonymous's picture

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” -Ansel Adams

You do you, Richard. Enjoy your journey making something memorable and worthwhile.

Ah no he's not. That quote illustrates the point completely. Perhaps you've misunderstood the quote itself.

Anonymous's picture

Nope. Adams understood that, while technical quality is important, it is one of numerous components that make a good photograph, and a good photographer. Sharp images are nothing without vision; that’s what is meant by his quote. He preferred large format, but also shot 6x6, including Half Dome in 1960.

Anonymous's picture

Read what I wrote more carefully, and try not to let your own bias blind you to it. The technical is important in photography, but as a means to an artistic vision.

Anonymous's picture

Seriously, Bob, enough with the trolling accusations. What did I say that was mimicking you?

And of course I don’t get to say how much one values the technical over the artistic components of photography. It’s a spectrum and an interplay whose levels are determined by the photographer. You're responding to a thread where I commented to Richard to “enjoy his journey making something memorable and worthwhile”, silly goose!

You seem from previous posts to value the technical more so than some other people may. Good for you! I mean that sincerely. I don’t knock you or others for that, try doing the same for others with slightly different priorities.

And also, I hope you find the absursity in calling me childish in a post that you begin with the equivalent of “No I’m not, you are!”

So silly!

I guess it depends on what you mean by 'quality'. If you obsess about 'maximizing image quality' - and it seems that is the be all and end all of your photographic viewpoint - then you are right. I, on the other hand, look for artistry.

I'm not going to argue with you over the technicalities. I have both digital and film cameras - I am well aware of the differences. What you have failed to understand when I wrote "there was nothing in the good shots that I felt was lacking simply because I didn't take them with the latest digital camera" is that the best objective quality is simply irrelevant to me. I could have photographed the scene digitally - I made the artistic choice to shoot film. What is relevant is the artistic worth of the result, and, of course, each of us tends to interpret that differently.

Sorry - you're wrong, Mr. Brady. You have an axe to grind, and good luck with it, but please don't apply your misconceptions to my intentions. Let's leave it at that.

As I said, let's leave it at that.

By the way, Bob, I'd be really interested to see some of your photographs - I notice you don't seem to have any here. Do you have another display site?

Nothing much - or maybe a lot. I won't know until I see them. You do have some?

I don't know! I'm interested but if you don't
want to share that's OK.

I'm an amateur also. What's interesting is that I have two of the three cameras that Karl featured in his video; no, I don't own a Hasselblad. I've been shooting film since 1980 with my Canon A-1. I added a used Canon New F-1 so I could use my Canon FD lenses. What I didn't know was that my wife bought me a Canon 5D III for Christmas 2013. I enjoy photography whether it's film or digital. With the price of the 5D, I'll use that until it breaks.

Anonymous's picture

I'm not a gear geek and don't really care about such things but it does get a bit old hearing this stuff over and over again. Rather than telling people what not to do, I much prefer practical articles on how to improve photography. If there were more of those, I wouldn't be reading articles I don't really care about. Maybe I should get a hobby. I hear photography is therapeutic and not too expensive. ;-)

Alex Cooke's picture

This is an article on how to improve photography; it talks about the right mindset one should have when learning how to be better. You can't learn if you don't know what to learn about.

Anonymous's picture

But I won't watch the video on how to improve photography if you don't mention that and only describe it as a rant against GAS. ;-)

Alex Cooke's picture

“this great video rant makes his view on how much gear matters abundantly clear, *but it also offers quite a few bits of wisdom along the way, all of which I agree with.*”

Anonymous's picture

"Well I wasn't listening then, I was thinking of something else..." Drax the Destroyer


Anonymous's picture

I always appreciate your references, Sam.

Anonymous's picture

Lacking wit of my own, I have to borrow it from better men than myself.

Anonymous's picture

Don’t short change yourself!

Paul Lindqvist's picture

If he actually wanted to teach people something why would he spend the majority of the video ranting about something that can be summarized in a sentence? He could just have moved on telling people his "bits of wisdom"

Alex Cooke's picture

He’s using the anger to emphasize to his followers (particularly those who ask him about gear, which must be exceedingly annoying to a guy who teaches) how much it doesn’t matter to him. It drives home the point.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

I have a hard time taking someone seriously when they go on like he does, if he get's angry so easily maybe he should step away from teaching if gear talk is beneath him. Yet he sits in a pile of it....

"you are no way near as good as you think you are..."

Nice philosophy...

Tony Clark's picture

I understand gear envy, desire or GAS as it’s called, I have DSLR’s that are one and two generations behind but deliver nice images. I think I bought two of my six lenses new but they all deliver the desired results. The two lighting kits I own were purchased used and have operated as needed, no failures to date. It’s nice to have everything paid for and paying my bills. Now go out and shoot a personal project, treat it like you’re getting paid and learn something new. I’ve been doing this for twenty three years and I still love doing this exercise.

Sergio Tello's picture

Some of blame goes to the YouTube gear peddlers disguised as "instructors".

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