Buying New Gear Won’t Help the Areas You Suck at In Photography

If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably heard of the term G.A.S. (or GAS). GAS stands for “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”, and is a fun term many photographers like to throw around, whether making fun of themselves, or others. ShutterMuse describes it as a “condition” that some people have which causes them to want to purchase new camera gear, even when their current camera setup is perfectly good. 

So Who Suffers From GAS?

In my experience, most photographers want new gear. It is human nature to want the best thing available to you. However, I’ve noticed that many working professionals usually do not act on the money spending impulses that plague our community. The “photographers” who always seem to have the latest and greatest are not actually working professionals, but hobbyists who work other full time jobs that give them the income to support their hobby. Many times, these hobbyists take to social media, not to show off the beautiful images they have captured with their gear, but to show off their gear purchases instead.

Buying New Gear Can Be Super Beneficial

When done for the right reasons, buying new gear can be a real game changer for your photography. A new camera or lens, while a large and important investment, can be extremely beneficial. Take me for example: In the middle of 2017, I did a complete overhaul of my camera system, lenses, lights, etc. It was something I had been planning for months, and had saved appropriate funds just for those purchases. I was mainly shooting high end corporate events and weddings at the time, so I dealt with a lot of low light shooting. My current setup simply wasn’t cutting it in low light, so I knew I had to upgrade. After I upgraded my camera, I was hitting shots that I had not previously been able to capture, and the investment was worth it. But this was not GAS. This was a calculated business investment that I had been planning for months and months. It’s been almost two years since I did my camera overhaul, and I have not bought another camera, lens, or light since then.

Low Light Image at a Wedding

Low Light Image at a Wedding

But It Can Also Hurt More Than It Helps

Alternatively, let me tell you another story. I used to work at a large photography studio. It was a studio that would rent out space by the hour to local photographers for their sessions. I’ve always been a huge believer in giving back to the photography community, so I tried to make it known to the photographers at the studio, that if they ever wanted any 1 on 1 photography lessons, I would teach them for free as long as they paid the normal hourly studio rental rate. There was one specific photographer who took me up on that offer that this story will be about. Most of the photographers that would come in for the lessons were looking to learn about studio lighting, as that is something that many photographers don’t have the means, or facilities to learn on their own. Most would already have a general knowledge of photography basics. This particular photographer also came in to learn more about studio lighting. However, it became apparent to me very quickly that she did not know even the basics of her gear. She was complaining about how she was having a hard time getting sharp images, and she was blaming it on her gear. She claimed that she needed better gear to create better images. When I asked her what gear she thought would help her, she said, “I need a full frame camera”. This is something that is very popular in the up and coming photographer community. Many amateurs think that full frame cameras are the end all be all, and if they can simply get their hands on one, they will create stunning images that they never could have dreamed of creating with their current gear. This is simply not the case. She told me she ‘needed a full frame camera and a 35mm f1.4 lens because that’s what a specific famous portrait photographer (who I am not going to name) uses and she wants to get images like hers’. I could tell that she had spent far more time trying to acquire the same gear as her idols instead of learning how to actually use the gear she currently owned. I attempted to show her techniques and ways to use her current gear more efficiently. I tried to show her basics, such as shooting in manual mode and using longer focal lengths to get a more pleasing background. But everything I would say would get stonewalled. “I can’t create that shot with this lens because (famous photographer) uses a 35mm so that’s what I need. So and So online said you’re supposed to do it like this.” (While referring to techniques and buzz words that she had heard, but didn’t actually know the meaning of.) After about two hours of listening to her keep making excuses about how she needed $5,000 in new gear to get good images, and getting shut down at every attempt to teach, we called it a day. As she left, I could tell she was frustrated because she felt like I had not taught her anything. I was also frustrated, as I felt that she thought she already knew everything she needed to know, and the only thing left to do was buy new gear. She made the cardinal mistake of thinking the gear would fix her problems as a photographer.

So What Is The Solution?

So we know the problem, that gear in and of itself does not make you a more skilled photographer. So why then do photographers keep buying unnecessary gear when they could use the same money toward educational classes that will be much more beneficial in the long run for their career and skills? I think one of the main things is the tangible reward. When you buy a new camera, lens, light, bag, tripod, etc. you have something physical in your hands that you can hold. You can see and examine what you spent your money on. When buying educational classes or purchasing seats in workshops, you usually don’t get that new goodie that you can hold onto. It feels “less real” if you will. My suggestion would be to make sure to print and frame one or two of your favorite images that you took at a workshop and hang them in your office at home. That way you have the knowledge, but also a physical, tangible reminder of your new skills that you learned.

But the best part about improving your knowledge and skill in photography is that you don’t always have to spend money. There are plenty of free resources that can be found online that will immensely improve your skills as a photographer. There are free resources for just about every facet of photography that you can imagine. Of course, some resources are better than others, but such is the nature of the internet.

I learned the silky water technique from a free online resource.

Mountain River with Sun Setting Over It

In Closing

We all love new gear. And it’s perfectly ok to treat yourself sometimes. But you have to make sure that the gear you’re buying will play a beneficial role in your photography. When I was first starting out, I bought SO MANY lenses that I didn’t use. Almost all of them I ended up selling at a loss. The issue was, I thought I knew what I needed, but I didn’t. So find out what you need before making those purchases that could end up being mistakes.

In closing, here are a few questions I like to ask myself before I make a purchase. Hopefully they can help you as well.

1. What is my current gear not able to accomplish that requires me to make this new purchase?
2. Is this purchase a need or a want?
3. Will the money I make off of this purchase justify its cost?
4. Did I go out looking for this purchase, or is it something I saw that someone else had and that’s what peaked my interest?

Written by Jared Jarvis. All photos were taken by Jared Jarvis. Jared is the owner, lead photographer, and creative director of Jared Jarvis Photography in Johnson City, TN. Jared Jarvis Photography specializes in wedding photography, engagement photography, portraits, and event photography. They service Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, the Tri-Cities area, Asheville, Hendersonville, and more. Our passion is giving you a unique photography experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. To get in touch with our team to schedule your session, click here.