Saturday, July 26, 2014

Getting Over Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Gear Acquisition Syndrome can be a Photographer's Dream Turned Nightmare

Gear Acquisition Syndrome, GAS
Before getting into Gear Acquisition Syndrome, lets talk about the process of acquiring gear. To many of us, the art of acquiring camera gear is a balance between need, resources and proper justification. Some of us can easily justify the purchase of new gear because to them, it is their bread and butter. But to many enthusiasts whose photography isn't the deciding factor of whether they have a meal at the end of the day justification can be just a wee little bit harder to come by.

I've been approached by many hobbyists from stamp collectors to BMX enthusiasts who all mention that photography is an expensive hobby.  Expensive, of course  is a relative term. While I believe that sometimes, photography, (The gear especially), can sometimes cost an arm and a leg to obtain, truth be told, you don't have to purchase the newest camera in the market to get great shots anywhere you go. 

I am just one of a bajillion people stating this fact. Some will testify to this, while others will go on a violent rampage defending their newly purchased D800s and 5D Mark IIIs and whatsoever as the be all and end all, but to each, his own. 

Travelling is a good companion of any shutterbug. Nothing broadens ones horizon on opening more picture perfect moments than ones own legs (a car, a bus or a plane ride wouldn't hurt either). To many, travelling has become the quintessential  justification for many of us to purchase new gear. 

Purchasing new gear for a trip is beyond anything that you will call wrong so long as it is justifiable. I myself have justified getting gear because of upcoming trips, some faired well, and some were mere excuses to give in to gear lust. There is a thin line between investing for practicality and Gear Aquisition Syndrome. 

Gear Acquisition Syndrome or GAS, is a term used by musicians, artists and photographers to describe ones urge to acquire,  accumulate, or stock up on gear. a serious case of GAS can be damaging not only to photographers, but to their art in general.

Think Practical 

Dont let your photography get in the way of the experience. Personally, when going on a trip, the experience should be first priority, and the documentation the second. Yes, if budget permits, you can go along that said trip and buy all the lenses and cameras your unlimited credit limit can buy. But think of lugging all that gear around, and you may be too into taking the perfect shot of your trip, that you totally miss the event first hand. 

In one of my latest trips out of the country, I settled for bringing a decent point and shoot camera that provided me with a decent focal length, a fast enough lens and of course, portability. Had I gone with a bulky camera plus battery grip and a ton of lenses, it would have put more burden on the trip by making the photography get in the way of the experience.  

Below are a ways of getting over GAS.

Act Your Wage

act your wage
There are a lot of high-end cameras that would have been a lot more ideal to my choice camera, but given the price factor, I just couldn't bring myself to justify the purchase. If I crapped out golden eggs after breakfast everyday this would be a different story. But in reality, I'm stuck on a budget driven from how much I can spend after working eight-to-five, five days a week. 

This budget, reflects my choice of gear. I have a decent camera to shoot with while still affording to eat three times a day as compared to being a hobo with a Leica.

Beware of Gear Envy

"Pride, envy, avarice - these are the sparks have set on fire the hearts of all men."    - Dante Alighier

gear envy

Envy is one of the catholic church's seven deadly sins and is the main symptom leading to to Gear Acquisition Syndrome. You go out, bring your shiny new camera, proud of your investment and probably nearly breaking the bank for, only to see the guy on the other end sporting the same one but with with a slightly longer extension number on his camera's model name. 

How deep does envy go? According to Dante Alighieri, there is a circle of hell dedicated to these people, and Envy takes on the innermost one.  

Beware the Friends You Keep

power ranger funny
Uhhmmm no...
GAS is an infectious disease and can be transmitted through word of mouth, eye-envy and even the chatter of the keyboard. Growing up in the 90s I had a particular fondness to Power Rangers action figures. I got all five of them, the red, blue, white, pink and yellow ranger. Suddenly, this kid shows up with the new green ranger and all I could think about was having that (To the point of trading all five of mine). When I finally for the green ranger, with his shiny, golden dragonball-esque armor, That same kid shows up with the new white ranger (They're the same guy)! And so the cycle continues. 

The same can be said with cameras. Hanging out with friends that worship gear will eventually lead you down the dark path of GAS. Your brand new camera and gear ages faster when you are with these people because all you talk about are the things you don't have instead of appreciating what you do. 

Weigh Alternatives

There is always a cheaper alternative. Lots of gear today have third party developers that offer a cheaper counterpart to the original manufacturer. (There is a difference between third party developers and say, something made in China). Of course, with a lower price, comes a few quirks, but if you can live with those quirks, or wont affect you too much, then it could be considered as a viable alternative.

Second Opinion

Like any diagnosis, sleep on it, and ask someone for their opinion on your decision to purchase something. (a girlfriend would be handy in this one).

Don't Surf for Justifications

“ [The] variety of opinions being aired [online] can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.”                                              
                                                                                                                                                            - Pope Francis

Pope francis relaxThe internet is a marvellous invention that opened up a stream of information at the tip of our fingers. Many of you can no longer imagine a world not interwoven by information on anything from here to kingdom come (porn included). 

The problem though with this opened book of information is that we can now seek justification for our bias. This idea, came from no other than the Pope himself, warning against the effects of echo chambering. 

The Pope is surely right on on this one. I myself have been guilty of surfing the net to justify possible GAS. Not sure if you are echo chambering? check your search queries. If it starts with "Why I should buy xxx", you probably are. 

Make Due and Let Creativity Take Over

Funny Creativity

Instead of lusting for something that you don't have, why not try and appreciate what you do. Most of us don't take enough time and effort to appreciate the capabilities of the gear that we currently own. Get to know your gear, understand what it can do for you and what it cannot. From there, fill in the gap with with what you can afford. You'd be surprised at what creative means can spur out of ones head when given limitations. 

A physiology student once mentioned to me a study about people's intelligence correlating to their social status, in which he mentioned that people growing up in a lower status, tend to have a higher creativity than those growing up with a silver spoon in their mouth. The reason behind it was because given the limitations, these people had to find ways to make ends meet, as opposed to those who could just afford to by a bridge to close the gap. 

Making due with what you have doesn't hinder you as an artist, It challenges you to think outside the box.

Understand the Law of Obsolete 

Funny technology
Sad story
The law of obsolete is crucial to understanding your GAS. Pet lovers know that most animals (other then tortoises, their awesome) age at a significantly faster pace then us humans. Take dogs for instance. Most owners believe that one human year equals roughly seven dog years. 

Technology is developing at such a rapid pace that it surpasses even dog years in age. Technology and production have become so streamlined that companies churn out new "updated" products in the market faster than the Brady Bunch family. 

Its become so fast, that the newest camera gear, will be deemed old by a matter of months. 

Understanding this trend, and not giving in to what manufacturer's deem as "new" is crucial resisting GAS. Something is obsolete only if you see it as obsolete. Remember that film cameras are still being used to this very day.

Obsolete is a state of mind. Be mindful also that the camera you have with you now, has more capabilities than the camera they brought to the moon. 

You Dont Need Newer Gear to Produce Better Photos

Mini Camera GAS
GAS in a minicam
This is pretty much a staple to all articles about GAS so I just had to put this obligatory tip right here. Newer gear does not make better photos. 

Sure you get better capabilities, more features, more bells and whistles. But without the proper development of skill, your just a teenage kid carrying an AK 47, sprayin and prayin. 

Have a GAS Allowance

Gear Aquisition Syndrome Allowance
Gas... Literally

To many of us gear junkies, GAS may not always be avoidable. In these cases, stick to a budget called a GAS allowance. Set aside a portion of what you make for gear and stick to it. 

When you find something shiny and is within your allowance, feel free to buy it, knowing full well that you aren't breaking the bank. 

Practicality is key to maximize gear. But every once in the while, it doesn't hurt to buy an ice cream sunday. 

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