Do you really need that new gear?
With The Photography Show in full swing over the weekend in the UK and countless photographers probably impulse buying, I thought this would be a good time to write about this nasty affliction that strikes down so many photographers, your's truly included.
We've all been there, a shiny new toy comes on the market and you're sucked in by the marketing. You convince yourself it's a must have tool, a total game changer. Next thing you know you've blown a small fortune on this new toy and within weeks you wonder why and how often you'll actually use it. Trust me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt and a hefty credit card bill to go with it as a nice reminder!
A few years back and maybe even a bit more recent than that I was that bloke, Mola beauty dishes, oh must have, in two sizes, shipped from NYC as they don't do them here, damn the cost! Now my Mola Demi and Mola Euro are both gone, sold along with the dust that accumulated on them through lack of use. I was using a perfectly good Canon 5D Mk2, images from it were fine and yet I snapped up the Mk3 when it came out, to this day I could not tell you why other than it was just the latest and the best. Not 18 months ago I upgraded from the Fuji X-T1 to the X-T2, see my previous post for more on that! I could name countless tools of the trade I've bought and regretted but rather than making this a tale of my purchasing woes and how I've wasted hard earned money, I thought I'd try and save you from making the same grave error by telling you how I've combatted that temptation, and trust me I still get tempted, I just deal with that temptation in a far more level headed and questioning manner.
A common scenario is you see a bts video or see an image, some famous photographer is shooting with some modifier and the results are just the kind of thing you'd like to be shooting or you can see from the catchlight in an image what you think has been used. You study that video or that image relentlessly, slowly convincing yourself this one bit of kit will change your life. Trust me when I tell you, generally it won't!
When I get that itch to buy something, here's how I deal with it now... I start a long weighing up process...
- How often will I use it? On every shoot? Once a week? Once a month? If it's not at least every week then it's ruled out, end of story and I'll put that on the rental list. If I find myself renting a lot then I'll reconsider buying.
- Can I achieve the same look with what I already have? Look over old shoots, you may have already come close with another tool in the past, just adjusting the light position or adding a grid could get you the same or similar result without further spending.
- I weigh up the benefits of what I'm buying against the cost involved. For instance, I want to start shooting more away from the studio environment or in a daylight studio. On location or even in a daylight studio there are times when I could use extra light but don't want to carry around a load of gear like heads and battery packs. Not a speed light fan so rule those out, don't want battery packs so again that's narrowed things down. Profoto A1 looks good but damn it's expensive, alternative is a Godox AD200, much cheaper but mixed reviews always make me wary. So for now the A1 is coming up as the best option for my needs, it's small enough to put in my backpack, it's a subtle, natural looking light from what I've seen but again how often will I honestly use it, at that price it needs to be every shoot and if that is the case then the high outlay is warranted. Can I trust the marketing images that make it look a good option? I'm still deciding but the point is I've not just jumped in and bought it, I've not convinced myself I actually NEED it yet. That's the biggest thing I want to get across, ask yourself, "Do I actually need this thing?" Question yourself before handing over your cash or worse getting in debt for it! If you're lusting after it and think you may need it then don't just take the marketing at it's word, rent it for a day or two, you might find it doesn't work for you and all you've lost is the rental costs and you're not stuck with it.
Hostly these days I drive myself (and probably others) nuts questioning the need for any new gear but 9 times out of 10 I find that I don't actually 100% need something. I have some old cheap soft boxes on their last legs, those I replace with better brands when they can't be used anymore or can't be repaired cheaply. Things I use all the time are necessities so don't require much thought, anything else I know I'll take a week or two to decide but it's saved me a lot of money. I've become a bit of a minimalist when it comes to gear now, I think that's partially down to development of my style and personal taste but really questioning what I absolutely need to get the job done against what would be nice to have has certainly contributed to that.
Now for sure there are some amazing tools out there, the technology in our industry is constantly developing products that if money was no object I would love to have but cost is a real issue for most people, I'm not trying to bash retailers or companies that develop photographic gear, I'm just saying spend wisely, rent instead of buying more.
So next time you get that lust for some shiny new toy, just hold back a bit and weigh it up first. So much can be achieved with very little or no gear other than a camera and lens along with a bit of creativity. I only wish I could go back and tell my younger self, obviously I can't do that but I can pass my experience onto others and hopefully save them some money and regret. If it's the only tool that will give you a certain look for a certain job, rent it instead, it's a damn site cheaper. I still have a list of gear to sell off that I never should have bought in the first place and it's not getting used, don't put yourself in that position, it's not a good feeling losing hundreds of £££ when you sell off gear.