Your eye is on a new piece of kit, but your partner, accountant, or guilt won't let you make another acquisition before you sell off some deadwood. Well, here's a (very) quick way to help with that decision.
My relationship with lenses is a bit odd. My most beloved are seldom my most used, and the ones I don't think to sell are often the least used. Over the past few years, I've looked to combat that with a more utilitarian approach to my lenses. As they are investments, particularly to somebody working in the industry like I am, I need to assess their return. There are lots of ways I can do that, but I find only two to be helpful: how many shots I've taken with that lens and how many of my flagship images were taken with it. (By "flagship," I simply mean either the best images in any delivered gallery to a client or images that are featured in my portfolio.) If I only went by how many images I'd taken with a lens, it could justify a lens that could be replaced with something different and better. If I only kept lenses that take portfolio shots, I might lose a workhorse that I lean on for the less shiny shots. This applies to camera bodies as well as lenses.
So, how do you see the sort of metrics I'm after? There's a couple of ways, but the easiest for me is Lightroom. So, open it up and select your master folder for your image library. If your body of work is split across multiple drives and locations (as mine is, so the below image is only a selection of my work), you may need to repeat this step on each drive and do some math.
With that selected, select the Library module, and then click "Metadata."
You'll then be presented with a number of columns with all the data you need to wheedle out that piece of kit that's freeloading.
The two middle columns are what we care about: how many times each camera and lens was used in the select library's images.
This is a reading of a very messy backup drive where I've dumped shoots freely without much order before they get slotted into my proper filing system neatly, so don't read too much into what's used here. However, what we can see is which lenses and camera bodies are doing the bulk of my work and which aren't being used. By narrowing down the folder selected from the master to specific years, you can then work out if in recent years certain gear has fallen away or risen. For me, my trusty old Canon 6D has been deadweight for about four years and is up for the chopping block, for instance.
Surprisingly to me, my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS has seen just a couple of days out in the last two years, and I realized just how expendable it is in my arsenal. I had always seen it as fundamental and indispensable, but apparently not. That's a lot of money to be collecting dust, and the magic of this method is it calls you out in your biases. That said, it can be a little prone to oddities.
It's important here to remember the second half of this advice: evaluate the least used lenses on what they deliver. There have been years, for example, where my Canon 135mm f/2 L was one of my least used lenses, but it still helped me to create shots I was proud of and either used in my portfolio or were selected by a client in an important job. Therefore, it dodges the scythe, for now.
How do you decide what equipment to sell? Do you have advice on how to make a good decision when culling? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.