I recently described Three Ugly Truths About Photo Gear (see here) and noted that I would soon offer some possible remedies. Well, here goes…
Remedy 1: Invest in You Instead
Will that new lens make you a better photographer? Will the upgraded camera body help you get shots you might otherwise not? I bet the answers to those questions are no and heck no. A comparable investment in you, however, will yield in measurable ways. Some possibilities? Take an online course at lynda.com or Kelby Training. There you can brush up on your composition skills or gain new insights into Adobe Lightroom.
Alternatively, join a local photo club and participate in lectures, contests and photowalks. If you’re itching to burn some serious coin, take a photo workshop and/or jaunt off to some wonderfully photogenic location. Get a good book on photography and actually read it. Better yet, grab one of the ones off your bookshelf you impulsively purchased and actually read it. The more you can feed your brain and sharpen your eye the better you’ll get.
Remedy 2: Stop Going into That Bar
I recall once hearing a speaker talk about the powerful connections that drive our behaviors. Smokers, when they decide the time has come to quit, have to break the associations that compel them to smoke. For example, if a person always takes a break at 10:15 in the morning to smoke, it’s helpful to take a break at 10:20 and read a book in a completely different location instead. If the smoker always associates puffing away with meeting friends in a certain bar, it’s important to simply stop going into that bar.
Equipment forums, rumor websites and numerous podcasts push and push and push the gear stuff. Well, all I have to say is: stop going into that bar.
There are plenty of sites where gear is NOT job 1 (here’s one) and podcasts which focus on the art, not the tool (such as this, previously recommended). Browse the galleries here and get inspired.
In a nutshell: create new habits designed to reorient you toward image-making, creativity, inspiration and vision.
Remedy 3: The 12 Project Project
365 day projects are daunting. The prospect of shooting and posting one decent image every single day for an entire year feels like real work. I’d be worried that I’ll miss a day (no internet connection in Bora Bora, bad flu keeps me in bed, whatever) and then lose the spark to keep going. It’s like a diet: 30 good days followed by an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and then I’m done for.
How about a full year of projects with each month bringing a new one? Your goal is to get through the year having accomplished 12 distinct projects which in total will move your forward as an artist. But here’s the kicker, you end the year with exactly the same gear as you began it with. Some possible monthly projects (don’t copy these; part of the deal is that you come up with your own):
- Portraits – 10 portraits you wouldn’t be afraid to post on-line; at least half have to be people you don’t presently know.
- One focal length – for one month, you keep your zoom at a fixed focal length or use one prime and shoot only with that.
- Black & white – ’nuff said?
- Abstracts – 10 images of everyday objects that, when composed and lit according to your creative vision, result in beautiful abstract art.
- Macro – little things done up big.
- One subject – all month, you tell the story of one thing or person; could be your poodle, your family, your hometown, the everyday walk from the train to work, you name it.
- Beauty in the ordinary – what are some things you would not typically associate with beauty? Now make them beautiful.
- Technique/filter – pick one and master it. Examples: stitched panoramas, HDR, time lapse, miniature/diorama effect, etc.
- Self-portraits – in one month, compose a series of images which together convey something about you that you believe others would be surprised to learn
- Mixed media – prepare a printed book filled with images and stories, poems, random thoughts, favorite quotes…
- Cellphone only – put whatever you’re shooting in the bag for an entire month; shoot only with your phone.
- Abandon your comfort zone – never shot sports? Go for it. Not a big wildlife photog? Do that. Hate landscapes? Only shoot landscapes. Afraid to walk up to strangers? Take portrait shots of complete strangers. This one is hard so work up to it.
Well how do you like that? There are twelve right there.
So, those are three possible remedies to gear obsession dystrophy. Calling all 2 Guys Photo readers… what are some other possible cures? Help me… I’m fading fast!
Volunteer your services for a senior citizen group, a middle school dance, a non profit or NGO you are passionate about. On the job training is a long lasting benefit, a chance to network, and to use many of Rey’s remedies.
Excellent suggestion, Lou. Thanks very much,
As always…good article and on the money. Another idea is to pair up with a local photog friend (you DO have photog friends, right?) and go on a shoot together. “Iron sharpeneth iron”…different people have different insights…you can pick up quite a lot if you just stop, look and listen.
Case in point…I picked up a local photographer buddy and we went shooting the NY skyline and Jersey City waterfront. While there, we met THE NY photographer, Richard Berenholtz, and discovered he is still shooting film…that’s right, FILM. But to look at his work (see it at http://www.photographynewyork.com), you could never tell.
Inspired we took a few shots of the NY skyline, and Jersey City. Below are a couple of the shots from that session.
Better gear didn’t help here…
Some great shots there (as always).
Shooting with a buddy (or brother) is a great idea!
I love the way you guys think. Thanks for this post 🙂
And the wisdom just gets better! I like Lou’s idea too about volunteering your photography services somewhere. I would recommend taking a ‘non’ photographer on a walk and pay attention. Maybe a child? Maybe let them take some photos and ask them why they took it? What were they looking for?
An interesting idea, Rodney. Thanks.
This post is a keeper. I like the monthly idea and I’ll see how I go with that, not just photography but other creative work too. Then at the end of 12 months, if I can see my work has improved I can buy myself a toy related to that effort! Thanks!
Brilliant. Reward yourself for not getting new gear by getting new gear. Love it!
Great post. Lots of inspiration there. I could definitely use some more Lightroom training. The project suggestions are great for getting one out of a rut. That said, traveling with only the Fuji X100 pretty much nails the “one focal length” project.
My mantra on new equipment is, when my current equipment gets in the way of what I want to accomplish, then it is time to look for some better gear. So far my D90 is a better camera than I am a photographer.
“So far my D90 is a better camera than I am a photographer.” Great quote, Prentis.
And for all 2 Guys Photo readers who would like to hear more about Prentis’ “traveling only with the Fuji X100”, stay tuned. More coming (early next week).
Great follow up post …. plenty of good info, and the project ideas are great … you can’t expect us to not steal one or two ideas, since they’re all so good. 🙂
I’d add a suggestion or two for the 12 Project Projects:
— using filters — Graduated, Neutral Density, Circular Polarized… they all give different effects, and require a bit more thought about lighting (you mention some others as well)
— night or low-light photography
— still life: learn about lighting, and that you can take good still life photos without expensive studio lighting, setting something up outside, using natural light and shadows can work just as well, even a lightbulb from a lamp can work. Still life is a good way of not only developing lighting skills, but, also composition skills
Thanks again for the great post — much to think about.
John, steal away. And I love your suggestions. Thank you.
Excellent suggestions. The 365 project is a challenge for film photogs, so I modified it to shoot with whatever camera has film in it, then post something from the previous roll or two.
365 for film photographers… wow. Your suggestion makes a lot of sense. Thanks…
The important thing for me is to do photography every day.