Sufficiency

Enjoy the tools you have and get away from the fear of missing out

Instead of looking for tomorrow's big thing, slow down and master shooting with the gear you have today.

Back in the day, the craft of photography was a lot harder. All the controls were manual. You focused by hand (following focus on a moving subject was an art in and of itself), you used a handheld light meter to take an exposure reading, and you reset the ƒ-stop and shutter speed every time the light changed. Allowing for inflation, the cost of equipment was generally higher, and you had to buy far more lenses as good zooms hadn't been invented. Don't get me started; it was just harder.

All that difficulty imbued me with a deep sense of lack. My hands were never facile enough, I never had enough knowledge, I never had the right amount of the right equipment, and I never ever had enough FILM. Ever!

Ah, yes, film, that was the biggest lack of all. A roll of 36 cost 5 or 6 bucks and maybe 10 to process it, so you spent roughly 50¢ every time you clicked the shutter. "How many good ones do you get in a roll of 36?" was a question used to separate the amateurs from the pros. Pros still took great photos (and amateurs spent a lot of money taking bad ones), but there was definitely a scarcity mentality in photography.

How that has changed! Today's cameras come with autofocus and autostabilization, and they have staggeringly accurate metering systems and a setting called "P" that stands for "Perfect" 90% of the time. They're lighter and smaller and, for the most part, vastly cheaper. And there's no FILM! You can shoot 10,000 images in an hour and it costs you nothing!

Add to this all the possibilities that Photoshop and Nik and Topaz, etc., give you. Oh, and did I mention the iPhone and the hundreds of apps you can purchase to tweak your photos?

Abundance. Flat-out abundance. More gear than you could play with in 20 lifetimes all designed to make it easier for you to be creative.

Ah, but what happens when we approach today's abundance with yesterday's mentality of scarcity? It's overwhelming. How can I ever keep up? I buy one thing and instantly there's a newer model or a new upgrade. I just begin to get Lightroom down when someone tells me about the new PhotoTools. Wait, I don't yet have one of my camera bodies converted to IR! Always, I'm behind the curve!

There's a new word in our lexicon to describe what I'm suffering from; it's FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out.


When we hit abundance with a scarcity mentality, that's what we all slam into. There's more around us than we could ever use, yet we keep on grasping, grabbing, fearful that we'll miss the next new thing.

A long time ago, I wrote a column called "Focus Yourself Before You Focus The Camera." Maybe it's time to revisit that idea. I think we need a new focus. I don't think we can comfortably live in the photographic abundance we're surrounded by until we can let go of scarcity and zero in on a new focus: sufficiency.

Sufficiency. Lynne Twist describes it in her wonderful book, The Soul of Money: "Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don't mean the quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn't two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn't a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn't an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough."

Knowing that there is enough and that we are enough. That's not just how I'd like to approach my photography, it's how I'd like to approach my life. If I could settle in sufficiency, then I wouldn't suffer from FOMO.

Maybe I could even turn FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) into JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out—to be content with what I have and where I am and who I am, knowing there was more (more technology, more gear, more images, more love, more gratitude) always out there waiting.

Now, that would be a lovely focus. As Lynne says, "Sufficiency resides inside each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way that we think about our circumstances."

Okay, I choose...sufficiency over either scarcity or abundance, and JOMO over FOMO. How about you?

Please come and post your own Daily Celebrations on www.facebook.com/celebratewhatsright, or visit Dewitt Jones' new celebration website at www.celebratewhatsright.com.

13 Comments

    I have often valued the fact that even though I have few lens, I can still get get photos. Yes there’s one or two lens I wouldn’t mind having. But the more you have the more complications you also have. Keeping it simple works best for me. Once again you’ve written an article thats simple, straight to the point and super good. Thanks Dewitt!!

    Thanks for this reminder that more is not always better and can sometimes be just more complicating. I am, at this moment, struggling with this exact thing. Thank you for helping me see this correctly!!

    Dewitt, you have the same clarity of vision in your writing that you do in your photographs. Great writers have this in common: they observe their own thoughts and emotions as tangible objects that can be grasped and studied and turned over, dissected and discussed. They articulate what may be only a dim awareness in others, who read the well-crafted words and respond, ???Exactly!?۝

    Good point!

    It’s beginning to depress me when I get my issue of OP and see all the stuff that I don’t have and can’t afford or feel I can’t justify affording, and my meager equipment keeps getting farther and farther behind every month. I feel especially lost when it comes to software; I’m not good with computers and really not interested. I guess I’ve just got to suck it up and appreciate what I have. I can, after all, take decent photos with my equipment, and I’m not trying to make a living with photography. I guess the challenge should be to take the best possible photos that your equipment will allow rather than trying to afford all the latest stuff.

    Thanks, Dewitt, for your insight.

    I always get something out of your articles, and for that I say “thank you.” There is an old saying in the world of archery, which is -“keep it simple stupid,” otherwise said as KISS! Sometimes sports and hobbies get too suffisticated and complex. For me photography has gone there, mainly in the computer post area. I’m struggling with the electronics of photography much more so than the art of the shot. Maybe some day I’ll get good enough to call myself a Photographer, but first it seems I have to become a computer/photoshop wizard. I’m not really complaining, I’m just stuck in yesterday, trying to find today. But the good news is I’M SLOWLY LEARNING the art of photoshop. Maybe if The Good Lord gives me a few more years I’ll get dr’ done. In the meantime I’ll keep following you and the others, and that gives me in ouragement for today. Thanks my good man!

    Dewitt, your columns are a breath of fresh air in a world where it seems every photography website and magazine is trying to entice you to buy this, or get the latest version of that. Thanks for your insights and spiritual approach to an art form that otherwise often becomes more about what gear and software you use and less about your vision. Keep it up.

    Great article. Its not the amount of equipment or the expense of the equipment but the photographic result of using the tools at hand. Thank you for your insite.

    Well written and right on point. But isn’t it nice to live in an age where this type of comment is relevant? I have a Nikon D-800 and I am constantly amazed at the low light, noise free results that it produces. The best tool is the tool that is in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.

    Just bought a Nikon D70 at an auction for (believe it or not $5 with 35-70 AF lens. After years of equipment envy and thousands of dollars spent, this septugenarian now has 1 camera and 2 lenses. What I find is that I now focus on subject and not equipment. Its Great!

    Thank you for this article! It’s the story of my life (not just in photography)! I’ve been thinking of simplifying my amateur life and selling off my Nikon D7000 and all the lenses, filters, etc, and just enjoying my travel more with less hassle. Looking for a really good point and shoot. My favorite so far won’t be released until September – Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70.

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