Stop with the gear lust already – Technology isn’t going to fix your problems

Sep 16, 2016

Eric Kim

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.

Stop with the gear lust already – Technology isn’t going to fix your problems

Sep 16, 2016

Eric Kim

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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We all have problems in life. Some of us are overweight, depressed, or tired all the time. Some of us lack creative inspiration, skills, or outlets for our work. Some of us lack motivation, willpower, and strength to take action in our lives.

Many of us feel that technology is the savior. If we only had that one kitchen appliance, we can finally become a great cook. If we only had that one camera, we could fully realize our potential in photography. If we only had that one lens, we would be more creative with our photography. If we only had that one GoreTex jacket, we could be a more adventurous backpacker. If we only had that one smartphone, laptop, or tool— we could be more productive, happy, and optimized.

I’m totally guilty of this myself. I always blame my tools and technology – never myself.

When I lack the inspiration or focus to write, I think I need a new laptop, iPad with keyboard, or some other writing contraption.

When I lack the motivation to make photos, I tell myself if I had a new camera or lens, I would suddenly become more “motivated” to take photos (never true).

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That one app isn’t going to motivate you to do more work. That laptop won’t make you more creative or productive. That smartphone won’t revolutionize your life (sorry Apple).

Why do we always blame our lack of technology and tools for our inadequacies— and not ourselves?

I think a lot of us (myself included) blame technology— because marketing and advertising tells us so. By not having the newest iPhone or Macbook Pro, advertising tells us that we can’t achieve our potential. All these camera review sites and blogs stir a sense of dissatisfaction in ourselves and our gear— that if we had more megapixels, less noise, and faster autofocus— we would take better photos and be more creative.

I also feel that we are always constantly comparing our technology with others. It sucks not having the newest digital gizmo— when all of your friends have one. Social media doesn’t help— people are always showing off their shit online, as well as celebrities, rappers, and other famous people. We always feel that we don’t have enough, because we’re comparing ourselves to people who have more things than us (rather than realizing that we have a lot more stuff than people poorer than us).

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The mistake we make is that we don’t realize that every 6 months or year, our technology will always become outdated. And whenever we buy the newest whatever, we think it will be new, fast, and sexy forever.

So whenever you buy any new piece of technology, under-estimate its impact in your life. Meaning, realize that whenever you buy the newest iPhone, the first week or two will be awesome, but sooner or later you’ll get “used to it” and revert to normal behavior. The same goes with buying a new digital camera— no matter how exciting your new camera is, you will lose your inspiration/motivation after a few weeks.

The secret is to be grateful for what we have, and only upgrade when we need to upgrade. Does your laptop take a few minutes to boot, constantly crash, and doesn’t run your applications? Time for an upgrade. Does your camera not turn on sometimes, randomly turn off, or perhaps have sensor issues? Time to upgrade or buy something new.

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So I’m not saying never to buy new things or new technology— but don’t buy new things for the sake of buying new things. And furthermore, not to blame our tools or technology for not doing the creative work that we were born for.

Let us also consider— can we do with the old technology or equipment we already have? Some of the most ingenious breakthrough have happened because of the lack of technology people had— rather than the abundance of technology they’ve had.

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Some photographers can only afford an iPhone, and as a result have mastered it and have made beautiful images. I reckon there are more creative smartphone photographers than “pro” photographers with thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Owning an expensive laptop won’t make a better writer or blogger – I reckon someone can write as well on a Chromebook when compared to a MacBook Pro. It is the quality of thoughts that matters, not the tool.

Of course having the right tool and technology does make life easier. But let us learn how to do the best with what we have, and not complain that we don’t have the “best.” Because even if you have the “best” – you will never be satisfied. Let’s aim for “good enough.”

About the Author

Eric Kim is a street photographer and photography teacher currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam.  His life’s mission is to produce as much “Open Source Photography” to make photography education accessible to all.  You can see more of his work on his website, and find him on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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17 responses to “Stop with the gear lust already – Technology isn’t going to fix your problems”

  1. Tweakie Avatar
    Tweakie

    Honestly if you photographing a wedding or any commissioned work…gear is import…

    1. Pascal Etangsale Avatar
      Pascal Etangsale

      I think his point was about general creativity and the barriers we create for ourselves. If you pick a very specific domain, yes it will require a specific need. A sports photographer won’t use his iPhone for sure but does an iPhone photographer need a sports photographer gear?

      1. Myron Moutos Avatar
        Myron Moutos

        Amen to that…Better gear doesn’t make you a better photographer just as a top notch car doesn’t make you a race driver if you don’t know how to drive! Gear does not inspire you or make you an artist if you don’t have it in you…Creativity and inspiration are non dependant to gear. We ‘re being bombed since birth with pro- consumption messages: “buy this…” buy that…” “you need that 500 – 150000mm f/0.2 lens to call your self a photographer, even if you have to sign a contract with the devil, sell your entire family as slaves (mother-in-law included) and sell an eye and a kidney to get it…” We need to take a step back and realise that the most valuable things in life are intangible and the tangible ones do not make us better in any aspect.

  2. Nathan Sixsmith Avatar
    Nathan Sixsmith

    Yes it will

  3. Chris Hutcheson Avatar
    Chris Hutcheson

    I think the trick is to buy what meets your objectives for shooting, and upgrade if whatever will help you better meet those objectives – I shoot a lot of low light performance and event work, and high ISO capability is important for that. Improvements in gear along those lines justify gear acquisition IMHO.

    1. JOhn C Avatar
      JOhn C

      I think your first sentence really sums up the reality. There are always articles about gear envy etc. but the balance is, know what you need and what will truly help you do what you do better. Whether a professional or not you need to look at it as an investment vs. return. Will that thing allow me to take a ‘better enough’ picture to justify the cost.

  4. Laurent Roy Avatar
    Laurent Roy

    Agreed ! The question one has to ask to him(her)self is “what more could I do with what I have” rather than “what can’t I do with what I have”…
    Being creative is finding ways to make more with few technology : look at architecture ! ;-)

  5. Darrin Neuer Avatar
    Darrin Neuer

    If improvements made in sensors, AF tracking, Image Stabilization, etc aren’t going to help the quality of photos produced under extremely low light conditions in some live music venues I shoot, then I guess I should just go back to my original Canon 30D. Coulda saved some money over the years, I guess. Thanks!

  6. Tyler Ingram Avatar
    Tyler Ingram

    A 600mm will get me closer than my 200mm lens ;)

  7. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    I work in a photography store, and to be honest I’m a terrible salesman because I often talk people down.

    My line of reasoning is pretty simple. Many great films were shot with equipment that looks pathetic today, and yet they’re still great. The same goes for great photographs, Yousuf Karsh didn’t have TTL, 5-axis-IS or Pocket Wizards.

    Unless you’ve achieved the level of greats like Orson Welles, or Henri Cartier Bresson, then its not the gear that’s holding you back.

    Hell, 28 Days Later was shot on an XL-1. Psycho was one of Hitchcock’s lowest budget films. Creativity, and dedication is what makes great work, gear is just a tool.

  8. Nick Dunlap Avatar
    Nick Dunlap

    it literally can fix a lot of problems

  9. Adam Frimer Avatar
    Adam Frimer

    Disagree almost fully. But it’s a long conversation. I will say some people just don’t have it.

  10. Jameson Clifton Avatar
    Jameson Clifton

    This is a common topic to which I partially agree with the author. The fact is though photography and videography are dependent on technology and software; more so than ever nowadays. Technological advances have always run parallel and thus influenced photography and film throughout history. There are simply things you can’t do, or would otherwise be much more difficult to achieve without certain items. That said, and this is where I agree with the author, use what you have at your disposal to the best of its ability. Simplicity challenges your creativity! Not having the latest and greatest should never be an excuse, but of course there’s nothing wrong with knowing the limitations and upgrading as it becomes feasible.

  11. Trino Pam Avatar
    Trino Pam

    Buy whatever you want : use it & abuse it! Ignore articles that try to make you feel guilty about it.

  12. Meng Tian Avatar
    Meng Tian

    Stop these articles! We need people who buy lots of shit for R&D and lower prices!

    1. Jingles Avatar
      Jingles

      How about stop releasing new cameras that are barely different from the previous model, and instead use the money saved on advertising for R&D?

  13. 9MW Avatar
    9MW

    Try this: If you use Lightroom go to Library mode and use the metadata filter along the top to get a count of how many of your photos were taken by each lens. Let this help set your priorities. Example -The very latest 70-300mm f2.0 with fantastic image stabilization may whet your gear apetite, but what if the metadata show that 95% of your photos were made with a focal length of 105mm or less wile 2/3 were made with moderately wide lenses? Where should you money go?