Defending GAS - The Overrated Photographer

Defending GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)


Introduction

I've seen people complain about GAS, about those with GAS, with a general reference to anyone who buys "too much gear''. I'm not quite sure what too much gear is to be honest. To the spouse of a photographer, more than one body might be too much gear, maybe it's the 7th lens, there is no formal definition of GAS. There is however a general perception that if you buy too much gear, you're wasting your time. I'm in a slightly different space, and I tend to look at GAS from an affordability perspective. I.e. if you can afford it, why not?  

Let's be clear, I'm not saying that buying more gear makes you better photographer. It doesn't. It just makes you a collector. On the converse, buying more gear doesn't make you a worse photographer. Buying more gear does open the door to experimenting and that is ultimately what it's about. The more you take photos, the more opportunity you have to learn, the more you improve.

So where does GAS become a problem?  

1. When the obsession lies in the technology rather than the pictures. If you're more obsessed with getting the gear and taking photos of walls to pixel peep, check distortion and sharpness, you've now moved from being a photographer to being a photographic analyst. There is nothing wrong with this in principal, just don't kid yourself that you're a photographer unless you're actually trying to take photos of more than a focus chart. Some people will pass this off as a photographer (an angry person on youtube), but this is untrue.  

2. When there is a distorted perception that more gear will make you a better photographer. Buying a book on photography doesn't make you a better photography, reading a book on photography doesn't make you a photographer. Applying that knowledge does. I read heaps of spy novels when I was a child, last time I checked the CIA wasn't looking to hire me as a result.  

3. When you try to pretend that you are buying it because you "need" it. There is very little equipment you actually need, but there is a lot you want. There is nothing wrong with wanting it. There are lots of things I want, some I accept I can't have, but very little I need.

4. Your spouse threatens you with divorce, death or torture, depending on the severity of your problem and the likelihood of them actually following through with the threat (most likely of the four for people who are married)

Accepting the above won't solve your GAS problem, sadly I'm not here to give you a solution and a psychologist is better qualified. Everyone has different wants and obsessions. I know people who will stand in a queue to be the first to get a new iPhone. Some people will laugh at them and call them idiots, and yet these same people who are laughing will stand in queues, or spend hours waiting on the phone for sports grand final tickets, concert tickets, or to get into a sale.  

That’s consumerism for you. Partners may not understand, my wife can’t understand how I can spend so much on photography gear and yet I have a fraction of the clothing and shoes she has. I spend $40 on a hair cut, she spends $150 and I still can’t tell the difference (but I politely tell her she looks amazing). She probably can’t see the difference between my $500 Lens and $1000 Lens and politely does the same. Everyone has different priorities based on where they are in life, their income, whether they have kids or whether they just have something else they love to do. The key is not to have too many expensive hobbies when you have limited access to disposable income.

Conclusion

So go ahead, buy what you want. Don't listen to the whiners and complainers, they’re jealous, hell, so am I when I see your pictures of a camera bodies and lenses. If you can afford a GFX to take photos of your toenail clippings collection, and if you can balance all the elements in your life (including your spouse) whilst spending $15,000 on camera gear, go for it. There are far worse ways you could be spending your money, so it isn’t the worst obsession in the world.

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