Essential habit no. 4 Keep it simple, stupid.

Equipment is essential, and good equipment can make things easier and allow you to do more. Despite what I’m about to say, I should confess that as a professional I own over £45 000 worth of kit!

However, equipment can get in way of the image you’re trying to take. You may find yourself spending more time concentrating on what the lights are doing, or how to work things, or carrying stuff around and setting it all up, meanwhile you’re missing the picture happening in front of you. Keeping it simple allows you to react to what’s happening, and direct what’s happening in front of the camera easier.

Never forget the “Best Camera” principle. The “best” camera is the one you have with you. You buy a big, expensive camera, and a very heavy tripod, head off on holiday, and leave it all in the boot of the car because it’s too much of a hassle to carry around. Meanwhile, you end up using your cameraphone, because it’s the one you’ve got with you. If you’d kept your kit simple, you’d probably be using it.

It can be easy to chase the next piece of kit and think it contains the answer – I know, I’ve done it far too many times! Very rarely, I’ll admit, a new piece of kit will give you a big boost, or allow you to shoot things that previously were beyond you, but generally it will only offer an incremental advantage, if that. Instead, if you spent the same amount of time/money on your feedback mechanism, studying or taking courses, thinking through what you’re shooting or planning shoots better, your results will improve far faster. Plus, you’ll have more cash to spare!

Action steps:

  • Get in the mindset of only replacing your equipment when a) it’s been damaged beyond repair, or b) it’s limitations are genuinely holding you back. Otherwise keep using it, and don’t be sucked into the sweet temptation of buying something to make your photography better. Your money is better spent on courses, or more esoterically on the time it takes to get better – including your feedback system, going to more exhibitions and the rest.
  • It sounds a vague step to recommend, but learn to recognise that little urge you get when a new toy is announced, and question it each time. I’m currently (as of 2019) using one camera body that’s 2 generations behind the top range ones, and I’m doing just fine thanks. Sure, the latest and greatest will offer me a few incremental advantages, but the upgrade isn’t significant enough to warrant the extra cash. If you really must throw money at things, invest in lenses, as whilst they don’t actually last forever, they’ll last much longer than camera bodies, and won’t be superceded anywhere near as quickly. I’m still using lenses I bought more than a decade ago, whilst I’ve been through 3 main bodies in that time.

30 second summary:

Don’t get swayed by the latest and greatest. Equipment is essential, but it’s a rabbit hole down from which you may never emerge. Try and keep things simple on a shoot, and don’t employ every tool in the box, just because you own them all.

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