What I’ve Learned So Far: Seven; Gear Envy Sucks

Dec 9, 2014

Don Giannatti

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What I’ve Learned So Far: Seven; Gear Envy Sucks

Dec 9, 2014

Don Giannatti

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Gear envy takes two major forms;

  1. “I can’t do what I want with this crummy gear.”
  2. “I can’t believe that guy/gal has such great equipment when their work sucks so bad.”

Actually envying someone by what their gear collection is – “I so wish I was him, I would be so awesome with that gear” – is more a sign of needing some professional help. Please see someone straight away.

So let’s look at number one first, the thought that you cannot shoot with your current crummy gear.

I have absolutely no sympathy for you at all. Crummy gear is better than NO gear, and it is probably better than a lot of photographers who are smoking your butt daily. Why? Because they are shooting instead of worrying that their edges are too soft if the image was blown up to the side of a house, or that awful purple fringe that no one can see anyway, or how there is a chromatic aberration when the lens is pointed at a 36 – 46 degree angle to the sun in the afternoon on alternating Tuesdays!

Give it a rest. You can make great shots on an entry level camera. You can make great shots on P&S cameras if you know how to make a good photograph. And understand the nature of the tools. And have spent anytime actually MAKING images instead of talking about them incessantly.

Think about this:

  1. If you cannot take a good photograph with an entry level camera and a kit lens, what makes you think your work will be better with a shiny new D760D-X NiKanon?
  2. If your pictures suck with what you have, they will most likely suck with a new camera, but now have the added fun of sucking after spending a boat load of cash.
  3. Your results may vary. Listening to some photograph blather on about how the new camera from —- simply sucks the suck out of suck means only that he/she lives in a bubble somewhere since there are thousands of photographers doing amazing work with every kind of camera on the face of the earth.
  4. Perhaps it isn’t your camera, maybe you suck at making photographs.
  5. If your camera is not working ‘correctly’, it could be “user error”… just sayin’.
  6. Bigger file sizes means bigger file sizes. That’s it.
  7. Focus is not a substitute for connecting with the viewer. (Neither is pixel counts or dynamic range, but we don’t want to get too crazy.)
  8. Yes, yes… that guru on all the awesome YouTubes shoots with some terribly expensive gear, and his pictures are awesomer than yours. Here is something to think about – give them your camera and watch them make the same awesomer shots.
  9. Camera manufacturers pay extraordinarily big money to make you think that their new wizbang will turn your pathetic throw aways into gallery ready pix. You let that crap take hold and you will never have enough gear… ever.

Worrying about gear is a form of resistance. It’s an excuse. I ‘need’ this or I ‘need’ that, and without this or that I am in no shape to make a photograph. The gear won’t let me.

The gear doesn’t care. The gear is simply that… gear.

What matters is that you take that gear and make images that move people, and express emotion, or tell a story, or show us something we have never seen before… THAT is all that matters.

I shot a Rebel on the first CreativeLIVE I taught. The same Rebel I used for a lot of my workshops. I wanted to always be the lowest tech guy in the room. It was part of my teaching that no one in my workshops thought the quality of the image was something that came along with a great camera. Making an image is light and composition and heart.

As to the second form of Gear Envy – the one where you wonder how someone so terrible can have great equipment?

That’s easy.

They have a credit card.

{EDIT: I want to make sure we do not confuse GAS – “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” with Gear Envy. GAS is an out of control urge to collect and own vast amounts of gear for no clear reason other than it is cool. “Gear Envy” is when you think that another photographers awesome gear makes them superior photographers while your slightly dated pro-sumer is pulling you down. There is, as they say, a difference.}

Photography is indeed an art form that depends on some form of gear to create our final work. And that gear can be extravagant and expensive or simple and inexpensive. The resulting image doesn’t care where it was created, only that it WAS created.

Now before you go off thinking I don’t like great gear, well… nothing of the sort. I LOVE great equipment, and work quite hard to keep my gear in excellent condition. They are my tools, and therefor they are an extension of my own hands. And eyes.

But I don’t give gear as much power as the manufacturers think I should. I give the power to the photographer who can make images, good images with most anything you give them because they ARE photographers.

About The Author

Don Giannatti is a photographer and author based in Phoenix, Arizona. He runs the Project 52 Pros workshop for aspiring commercial and editorial photographers. You can visit his website here, online portfolio here, and his wonderful lighting essentials here. This article originally appeared here, and is a part of a broader “What I’ve Learned So Far” series which you can start reading here.

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12 responses to “What I’ve Learned So Far: Seven; Gear Envy Sucks”

  1. Stefan Kohler Avatar
    Stefan Kohler

    Great one!
    here’s my story:
    1) think “i need better equipment”
    2) buy that better equipment
    3) see no improvement and lost excuse No.1
    4) start to learn
    5) expensive gear gets stolen
    6) work with cheap stuff

    274) finally start taking advantage of good (and sometimes) expensive gear.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      Ahh… that is a journey many of us recognize.
      Thanks for reading, Stefan.

  2. Simon Ellingworth Avatar
    Simon Ellingworth

    Wonderful post – I think more internet-tographers should read this!

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      Thanks, Simon.

  3. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Until last year, I was the sole member of the local camera club that hadn’t switched to digital. Even with last year’s purchase of a DLSR, I still shoot film along with digital. Why? Because my 34 year old Canon A-1 still works; I did fall into gear envy in 2013 with the purchase of a used Canon F-1N.

    1. Donald Giannatti Avatar
      Donald Giannatti

      I still use my 1977 era F2… and love it. I am not sure when my Deardorff was constructed, it looks early 30’s – but I still love shooting with it. Images are all that matter to me. Thanks for reading.

    2. gs_790 Avatar

      Fun fact: several years back I remember seeing a vignette about one of the photographers for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. He shot with… wait for it… a fun-saver disposable camera.

  4. Ahmet Avatar

    Every word is true, but it’s only known to people, who shoot for years. Remember the beginning. When youu switch from a point and shoot to an slr, your photos become soooo much better, just because it has smaller depth of field and it is sharp where you want is to be. So the experience says, hey, better camera -> better pictures. And when you look at the real good photos, those are made with (99% of the time) even better cameras. At the end, you have to learn yourself, by your own folly, that this article is true.

  5. Me Avatar

    There’s a little bullsh** to what you are saying. Yes, equipment doesn’t make your compositional skills, use of light or subject posing better, but I think it is disingenuous to say to developing photographers that more advanced cameras don’t open certain creative options. As a landscape photographer I was very pleased to move from APS-C to full frame. Suddenly I was dealing with better dynamic ranges and higher ISO/noise options. Yes, I could have used certain techniques to enhance my dynamic range with my older camera, but having to work so hard to get the picture took my attention away from more important compositional decisions and in some cases limited what the compositional decisions were. I know you are trying to save newbies from making expensive purchases before they learn photography basics or find out if they even like photography. At the same time some equipment is what makes or breaks the shot. At the end of the day the real camera envy is professionals that can’t afford high end equipment and resent noobs they can. I am sure professional drivers shake their heads at some CEO that owns a Bugatti Veyron but can’t get it over 150 mph without dumping in their pants. That’s life. Get over it at do your thing as best you can.

  6. Taduri Venkata Srinivas Avatar
    Taduri Venkata Srinivas

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  7. winblozTenpin Avatar

    The theme of this article is true. No doubt.
    But here is the real thing. So many photographers, and I’ll use @donaldgiannatti:disqus as a prime example here, are just pathetic at writing. Honestly this article is one of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever read, and not because of it’s content, but because of the presentation to the end-reader.

    Just as some photographers need to stay away from high end gear, or competitions because they are not yet well trained in the skill, some photographers need to stop writing because evidently you just sound like a complete arse!

    @DIYP should be embarrassed for publishing crap like this. Just like in my current job, I’d tell kids like this to go away and think about their audience before they ask me/us to publish this trash

  8. Jim Johnson Avatar
    Jim Johnson

    Improved gear can only improve the technical side of your photos… or at least make the technical side easier. But technically great photos are not great photos. Technicality, beyond basics like focus, is usually only noticed by photographers, as well.

    Also, there is the danger of becoming a one trick pony. Sure you can get a fast prime and full sensor and get better bokeh, but that will be the only improvement you will see, and it will be where you focus without paying attention to everything else in your arsenal.