The “All I Need” Illusion (And How To Shatter It)

In the West we’re bombarded with advertising and selling messages at what sometimes feels like a thousand times a second.

Combined with this, many of us are old enough to remember simpler, quieter times, when our parents and grandparents had just one camera, one tv, one car, if that. Instead of at least one of each of these (and a dozen other devices) for every member of the household, which seems the norm today.

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So we end up torn between the endearing appeal of what seemed to work for “folks back then”, and the mantras we’re force fed today about how we can never be happy unless we have more, and more, and more.

Back to photography, and the vast availability of vintage cameras is mind boggling.

I’d now include “vintage” digital cameras too – a quick browse on eBay for digital cameras under £25 tonight shows 5500 matches. Extend this to under £100 and you have the pick of over 12000 items!

We have an almost infinite choice for our photographic arsenal, and all at super irresistible affordable prices.

Which, combined with the waves of attack of buy buy buy brainwashing, makes it very difficult not to get drawn in and indulge.

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But I like to think about this as the “All I Need” illusion.

We tells ourselves –  “All I need is that Super Takumar 50/1.4 to perfect my lens collection”.

“All I need is that new Sony A7 mirrorless and all that photographic potential that’s laying dormant in me can finally explode”.

“All I need is that 60 year old Leica M3 to finally be able to make pictures like the greats”.

With this mentality, we believe that one final piece of kit in our photography puzzle can at last stop the buying compulsions, end our ridiculously overextended adventure as a camera tester extraordinaire, and allow us at last to get on with making beautiful photographs with a camera we love.

The problem is, if we get sucked into this way of thinking, there’s no end to it.

There’s always one more Takumar lens, one more new Sony mirrorless or one more vintage German machine with the mythical red dot that promises even more.

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Instead we need to stop, and realise the reality. Quite simply, we need to tell ourselves – “I already have “all I need”, both to enjoy myself and to make beautiful photos…”

Go right now to wherever it is you keep your cameras and have a good look around.

Now I bet you can’t look yourself in the mirror and say “I don’t have all I need to make great photographs”.

Take back control, and shatter the All I Need Illusion.

Get out there and and love using what you already have, to practice, practice and practice becoming the very best photographer you can be.

What are your thoughts on the All I Need illusion?

Please share with us in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

16 thoughts on “The “All I Need” Illusion (And How To Shatter It)”

  1. Wish I could get out with my camera at the moment. Snowed in here in Yorkshire! The beast from the East they call it. I have been able to get some shots from close by in my village, but unable to get in the car to get to my favourite stops unfortunately!

    1. Just started snowing again down here (in Sussex). Been bitterly cold recently, I think today with the wind it’s the coldest day yet this year. I wrapped up and ventured out for a while across a snowy graveyard, but it wasn’t too long before my fingers and toes starting numbing. Still managed to get a few shots and some exercise.

      By the way, why the iBase name/link? Your comments read like a fellow photographer, ie an individual, but the name/link seems like you’re promoting a business?

  2. Experiencing new gear is fun.

    But in this modern age, even if all you shoot is digital, so many digital cameras can do so much for you now that, really, getting a new one probably won’t let you take *that* many photos you couldn’t before.

    1. Well yeh, the same is arguably even more true for film cameras of a certain type. For example an SLR with a 50mm lens. You’re not going to get drastically different results whether it’s a Pentax, Olympus, Konica, whatever. It then comes down to those little details that make one camera somehow more endearing and a better fit than another.

      I completely agree about the fun, and for me for a long time it was. But like that gambling motto we have on betting shops and there advertising over here – when the fun stops, stop! So I kind of have.

  3. Your post reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s brilliant quote: “If you can’t be happy with what you have, how can you be happy with more?” Great food for thought, especially for this serial camera buyer. Thank you, Dan!

    1. Thanks Heide, great quote! Being an ex-serial camera buyer, I know where you’re at. I’m not against camera collecting if it’s something people love and enjoy. The trouble is when it gets in the way of being a photographer, and getting to know and love your core, favourite kit. I want to be a better photographer more than I want to be a better collector (or have a bigger collection) so I had to make some changes. This outlook (All I Need) greatly helps.

  4. Great post again Dan!

    All I took with me on a recent trip to Harrogate was my Nikon Coolpix S9900. I wrestled hard not to take a film camera as well, knowing that it would open the floodgates of indecision about what to shoot and when. In the interests of full disclosure, I also had my iPhone SE as I always do, but it is used for far more than just a camera.

    For more intentional photography, it was only the Nikon that was used. I really, really liked the freedom that came with fewer decisions to make. I pretty much left it in “high contrast B&W” mode as well, further narrowing my choices. And I shot some (to me) pretty nice photos as well.

    On paper at least, it’s not the best camera in the world (I’d live one with a larger sensor, etc. etc.) but that’s all just GAS. I like it and am beginning to get the feel of it too. It’s definitely becoming a beloved part of my camera arsenal. Maybe even the only single camera I have that could replace all of the others.

    To be honest, the thing that has stopped me from spending time with it as I did with my smaller Nikon, is that I accumulated so many 35mm cameras at the same time as I bought it. I’ve been spoilt for choice, but that has prevented me from spending time with, and mastering, this one.

    So I’m going to shoot with it exclusively for a little while longer and see how I get along.

    Thanks for the push in the right direction!

    1. Richard thanks for your comments, great to hear how you’re enjoying your photography.

      As someone who’s also enjoying a small sensor compact (well, two, the Pentax Q and Ricoh GRD) and considering selling my DSLRs, why do you think you need a larger sensor?

      1. Missed this one Dan, sorry! Other than “because the internet tells me I do” which is a terrible answer, I would like to be able to shoot at better quality in low light. I suppose a faster lens and/or larger sensor would help. But honestly, it’s probably just GAS! Isn’t the Ricoh APS-C sized?

  5. 100% agree with this, and in fact I’ve been thinking about this so much lately, it’s kind of driving me crazy. I finally listed the cameras I never use on eBay this weekend, but I have also been looking at my Nikon cameras (F80 and D300) and asking myself WHY DO I STILL HAVE THESE?! I don’t particularly enjoy using them. They are great cameras, but I pick up my Canon SLRs a lot more, even though they’re manual focus and have only centre-weighted metering. I think I still keep them partly out of guilt. The Nikkor lenses cost me quite a bit, and I had coveted a D300 for so long, but now they don’t really suit my style of shooting. I prefer manual focus, I prefer cameras which are light and easy to pop into my bag. Not that the F80 is a heavy cameras… but its autofocus drives me up the wall, and I can’t manual focus with it to save my damn life because the focusing screen was just not made for that. When I use my D300, I just think about all the features missing compared to my Lumix, and how much lighter the Lumix is as well! I’m on the verge of selling them and just keeping all my Canon film gear + my Lumix for digital. All I need is a tripod 😀 and a macro lens for the Lumix!

    1. I’d be really interested in your thoughts on the post below, though you’ve kind of answered it already –

      https://35hunter.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/camera-collection-reboot-which-three-would-you-choose/

      Re the guilt at the expense of lenses, try thinking of it this way – What would you rather have, a bunch of expensive kit you never use and makes you feel guilty every time you think/look about/at it, or a chunk of that money back to consolidate the core cameras you do use (like a macro lens for your Lumix), or to spend on something related like some photo books, or a photo exhibition? If the kit’s not being used it’s just a dead investment, as I see it. Let it go!

  6. […] I always write about my adventures in finding beauty and balance, and the main point of this whole post (and indeed my complete tech overhaul and reboot described above) is that if we think a little harder and from a few different angles, we usually already have all we need. […]

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