Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Stop buying new gear and learn to master what you already own

Gear Acquisition Syndrome is an ailment. Is it real? Are there some who suffer with it? If so, can it be cured? What will it take to cure those who agonize over the ailment? Judge for yourself whether or not GAS does exist. Below are the 10 phases of GAS that appear in some who have contracted the malady. Here’s to hoping we can assist those in need.

Phase 1: Welcoming-pathy

You vow to yourself that if you do purchase that new camera body, lens, flash, filter or gadget, you’ll go out in the field every day for the next 365 days regardless of the weather, personal commitments or life interferences. You pledge to be in the field for a year straight, every day. After all, this purchase is the one that will make you stick to your vow.

Phase 2: Malcontent-itis

You go through a spell where you’re not happy with your photos. You return from every session hoping to find that winner that pops off the computer screen. But with each subsequent session, you return with the same result. You look at your gear with disdain and blame it for the poor captures. Gear Acquisition Syndrome kicks in and you experience another bout—better buy a new lens or flash so your photos will once again be good.

Phase 3: Waste Not, Want Not

The years go on and your best friend, who’s also a photographer, taps you on your shoulder. Because he’s a good buddy, he suggests you’re buying too much gear and you never give yourself time to learn how to use what you’ve already purchased. He suggests you rent a lens, body or flash to first try it out. He thinks he’s doing you a favor. In his disbelief, you back away and bellow the word, “Rent?!” You wouldn’t be caught dead renting anything. It would be a waste of money because you know you’re going to buy it anyhow.

PHASE 4: Sell-arrhea

You invite your friends to your home to show them the photos on your walls. It’s time to tour your office, and on every shelf and in every closet lives a piece of camera gear. Casually, one of your buddies mentions selling some of the older gear. You immediately ask everyone to leave. After all, how could a real friend suggest you sell any photo gear? The thought has you break out in a cold sweat. You return to your office and talk to everything on your shelves and in your closet comforting them, as if they were pets, that all will be good. “Don’t worry,” you say, “daddy isn’t selling any of you.”

Phase 5: Manual, Manual, Manual

“Now that I own all this photo gear, when will I ever have time to read the manual for each?” you think. You set aside one day a week to attack one at a time, but you find yourself exploring the internet for new gear on that day. You get so lost in your search, the entire day passes, you buy more equipment and another manual gets placed on top of the pile.

Phase 6: Disregard-oholic

Years have passed and you have enlightenment. You admit you show signs of having Gear Acquisition Syndrome, but you’re not quite ready to see the psychologist. You’ve convinced yourself you’ll create an interval of time and not allow yourself to make a new purchase for at least a two-month period. But, while you scroll through Facebook, you see a post of that new 18-500mm f/4 super lens, but it’s only been three weeks since you purchased the newest flash that was just released. You succumb and pull out the credit card.

Phase 7: Must Obtain It

You reconcile in your mind that the only way to improve your photography is if you purchase that new camera bag. This way, all your gear will be more neatly organized and you’ll be able to find all the other gear you’ve acquired. Because if you know where everything is, it will help alleviate your GAS.

Phase 8: Exploration-stenosis

You Google that new piece of photo equipment and every review is positive. You ignore the negative ones because you want the new [insert gear here] so badly. You shrug off the negatives by justifying that those reviewers aren’t experts in the field. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet unless it’s in your favor and supports your opinion—a common symptom of Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Phase 9: Acquisition-alysis

You finish your Google exploration and head to the internet to find the best price. You want to establish a relationship with the local camera store owner, but because you’ve purchased tens of thousands of dollars of gear online, the owner doesn’t even know your face. You decide this is the time to get to know each other. You walk in, introduce yourself and ask the owner to hand you the new body on the shelf. One click of the shutter brings an instant smile across your face. Knowing that you’re going to spend an extra $50 doesn’t prevent you from saying “Sold.” The sound of that shutter click is music to your ears. You walk out of the store feeling good because your affliction has created a working relationship with your local camera store owner.

Phase 10: The Setback

You welcome the new piece of gear as if it were a new family member. It’s precious and it’s going to make a huge difference in the quality of your pictures. But, remember your promise to go out every day for a year when you bought that new [insert gear here]? You never stuck to it and you feel guilty you broke your promise. But, with this piece of equipment, it will be different. You promise, vow, commit and guarantee yourself you’ll honor all the above phases.

GAS: Now you know why it’s called a syndrome. It’s not the camera or lens that takes a great picture. It’s the person behind the camera who makes the picture. If you suffer from GAS, take the above to heart and really get to know every photo item in your arsenal. Once you outgrow the capability of each, let yourself upgrade. Until then, try to alleviate your GAS. Think about all the money you’ll save so you can now take the gear you own on many more photo trips while you learn to master each.

Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.

4 Comments

    To quote the opening: “Gear Acquisition Syndrome is an ailment. Is it real? Are there some who suffer with it? If so, can it be cured? What will it take to cure those who agonize over the ailment?” (GAS: Ugh, another acronym.)

    Good to know there is a Ten Step Cure, Dr. Burden. (Fortunately, I never caught GAS. At least not Photographic GAS.)

    Excellent (and amusing) essay, Russ. Beautiful photos as always. I love the Cheetah (My favorite wild animal)! And is that a young Springbok?

    Some 40+ years ago I got into Photography as a life-long hobby, and luckily, and wisely, chose Outdoor Photographer to nurture my hobby from the beginning and through the years and learned an infinite number of sage tips from the best world-class professional photographers like you.

    Photography is not as much about the equipment as it is about what we see and feel with the heart, and the respect we have for the subject.

    Well done, Russ.

    James – thanks for the fun and supportive comment. For an upcoming Tip, I’ll see if I can come up with a cure for those who base articles on an acronym….. 🙂

    I, too, love the cheetah. It’s sleek and stealthy – quite the big cat.

    The antelope is called a Klipspringer. I came across him when I was in the Northern Serengeti.

    I TOTALLY agree that it’s NOT the gear that makes the photographer. Think about the GREAT images that were made 50 years ago when cameras were “archaic.” It is all about how the person behind the camera sees and feels about his/her subjects. I’m glad you found Outdoor and you don’t suffer from GAS!!!!

    Russ

    Great article Russ; beautiful photos and valid points set fourth in an amusing way. I am still discovering features on my 3 and 4-year-old cameras I didn’t even know about. It pains me to point this out, but your employer and my favorite mag promote GAS each and every month. Just when I think I’ve got my ailment licked, another issue arrives and I salivate over the newest gear ads and reviews. It’s a constant battle, but I’ve managed to control my urges [most] of the time! Your articles about technique help a lot.

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