5 Ways To Stop Buying Photography Gear And Enjoy What You Already Have

These days I’m a recovering gearoholic, and whilst I was never caught up with the upgrade parade, I did go through a few years of buying far more used cameras and lenses than I had the time or inclination to use.

With my buying pretty much in check these days, I thought I’d share five ways that have helped me arrive here –

1. Stop reading gear blogs/sites.

Whether you’re more into the latest new gear, or like me a fan of older cameras – film or digital – there are a wealth of blogs and websites bursting full of temptation. It’s far easier to just stop viewing these sites, than let them keep encouraging new additions to your camera wish list, which then fuel endless debate about which wholly unnecessary kit to buy next.

2. Stay away from eBay and any other gear shops.

Similar to the above, but for me even worse, is eBay, where you can almost instantly find any camera on your wish list (see above!) with a quick search, and potentially have it on your doorstep a few days later. I tried many times to be disciplined with my eBay usage, but always found myself with yet another relatively impulsive purchase in my hands before I knew it. Again, like the above, much easier to go cold turkey and avoid entirely, or in other words, remain in blissful ignorance of what else you could buy – because there will always be something!

3. Put all your cameras except a couple in boxes out of sight.

Even though my total cameras now is only just in double figures (from its peak of perhaps 60 for a couple of years), I still often find this too much choice. There are cameras I still want to own and use now and then, but not week in and week out. So by having a single book shelf to home the current two or three cameras I’m using regularly, and putting the others in a box under the bed, it makes the decision on which camera to pick for a photo shoot much easier. Which in turns means I spend less time choosing and more time using a camera.


4. Realise you don’t have to test, sell or donate every camera you have in the next week.

When I had far too many cameras, I felt like even though I desperately wanted to downsize, I couldn’t see how I could test, then sell or donate dozens of cameras in a week or two. The shortcut is to put the majority in a box and donate to a charity shop, which you can do almost instantly. But I wasn’t feeling quite altruistic enough to give so much away that over time I’d paid hundreds of pounds for. So we need to first accept that to sell each camera or lens separately after testing, will take weeks, months, even years. Then decide whether we’re happy with that timescale and want to continue, or instead want to bite the bullet, donate most (or all) of the collection in one go and move on.

5. Try a One Month One Camera project. 

Instead of taking out a different camera every time you go on a photo walk, commit to one month with just one camera. The benefits are myriad, as you may have read before here from my own one month one camera experiments this year. Not least of all that instead of asking which camera you’ll take with you today – and potentially wasting hours a month on these deliberations – you just grab your one camera and go. So liberating!

I hope one or more of these ideas help you just get down to enjoying your favourite  cameras you already own, rather than constantly accumulating more.

Do you have any related tips you can share with us? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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23 thoughts on “5 Ways To Stop Buying Photography Gear And Enjoy What You Already Have”

  1. Hi Dan,
    You make some great points! This comes at the right moment for me. In a few hours yet another package with 7 cameras I don’t really need will arrive at my doorstep. And will add a little bit more to the growing collection and with that increase feelings of anxiousness. So many cameras so little time. By the time one realises one doesn’t need all those cameras one is neck deep.

    I think your first to points are spot on. So easy you almost forget. If you don’t want to buy stop shipping. But the allure of reading about cameras is that you think that by reading you can just experience another camera. Not true. If the review is really nice you can’t help but check out prices on the net. Can I get that? For how much? And it begins…

    (I’m a first time poster long time lurker. Thanks for making these posts. I really enjoy them. Have learned a lot in the posts and love all the discussions that follow.)

    1. Hi Anna, thanks for coming out of the shadows and commenting, I hope not for the last time.

      The problem is like you say, these cameras are just so readily available, for such low cost, it’s really hard not to. Especially when you buy in job lots – even if a few are duds, you can still pick up a few others that are well worth the price of the overall lot.

      The best way I think is just to stay away from temptation. If you wanted to give up fast food, you wouldn’t go and sit outside McDonalds every day! Out of sight is out of mind…

  2. Get out of my head, Dan lol! I’m up to near 80, currently have 15-20 of then film-loaded “being tested” on the “active” shelf. Dumb thing is, some of those being tested are reshoots – I liked them so much that after the first roll they were reloaded w a different type of film to test the “versatility” of the lens *groan*. Good news is that the majority of the balance have already been tested over the last three years. Have just started collecting delivery boxes and packaging, with an eye to put some back on the market – to go to a film-newbie’s loving home (or swept up by a fellow addict lol). A timely article.

    1. Gorpalm, thanks for your thoughts – I empathise entirely!

      One thing I always did with great discipline is only have one camera loaded with film at once. Then I had to at least finish the roll in it before moving on to another. I found it tricky enough tracking the rolls I had developed with this approach, trying to track what was in 15-20 different cameras sounds horrendous, I just couldn’t do it!

      Hope this post is of some help.

  3. This is a sort of anti-reponse; I have no tips on controlling the beast.

    I have been thinking about this for years. I made my first photos at age 10, in 1957, but not until the late nineties did I begin to actively consider: what is a camera, that I should want this one or that so badly?

    It is a device for making images; images as record, and images as art. In this way, it is immediately and directly analogous to a pencil.

    As a record-making device, any camera of whatever technical generation is capable, but neither a camera or pencil are devices that make art.

    Making art requires something else: talent. Talent makes art, and is innate, born, and is so rare in any degree that if it were a requisite for owning a camera or a pencil, then only a very few would be sold each year.

    So what is the motivation for buying them? What is the appeal of cameras that sustains the continuous churn of buying and selling, as well as the constant technical development and introduction of newer and newer models?

    Beyond simple record-making, it is this – that art, all art, creates a certain powerful resonance in nearly all persons. It is part of what defines us, makes humans human. And the corollary is that seeing art and having the inner bell ring, we are then motivated to make it ourselves. Our response drives the desire.

    And they are appealing in and of themselves, as objects that excite and engender collection, acquisition, and no one has ever even begun to fully explain the collecting impulse, the need to simply possess, to acquire beyond simple need and utility.

    Moreover, they are electromechanical devices that are constantly improved and re-improved to new capabilities and new subtleties, and we are enthralled by thoughts of making pictures in almost total darkness, and of a sharpness and accutance even beyond what human eye and brain can resolve.

    These … ineffabilities … should not become occasions of guilt. If it pleases you to acquire, to buy and sell, to collect, why, they are so cool in and of themselves, in handling and manipulating and using, in plain possession that you should do so, short of bankruptcy or divorce, and be glad of heart.

    As to art, I am not nor ever will be Paul Strand or Salgado or Boubat or Avedon or Fred Herzog, yet, yet, I wish to be, and so keep shooting, and rarely, very rarely, in a happy rarish sometimes, will produce a sort of rhyme of that sort of talent. And meanwhile, I have all these cool objects pleasingly aligned in a glass fronted cabinet, and aren’t they just great?

    The occasions of joy and content are few enough in our often sere lives and parlous times: this is your license; why the hell not?

    1. William, thank you as always for your in-depth and thought provoking response.

      I agree almost entirely about cameras and being devices capable of create art – in the right person’s hands. And yes this is why they do hold great appeal for many of us.

      But… I think there’s a whole other category that I would guess makes up the majority of camera sales, especially today. And that is the people who just like to have the latest gadget or technology. Whether it’s a camera, smartphone, car, TV, computer, it’s much the same driving motivation. Partly I think it’s about being a status symbol – look at me, I’m well off enough to be able to afford this and “cool” enough to know what the latest and great tech looks like to be able to purchase it.

      Another part I think is just people like having a new “toy”, which of course doesn’t have to be brand new to them. Perhaps part of this is the challenge of finding a way to operate in harmony with this new device well enough to create something meaningful and beautiful (this is/was true for me with cameras, especially with cameras that were particularly basic and/or old and/or tricky to use). Perhaps partly it’s just having something new to play with, to focus one’s attention and energy on, to while away the hours, and as distraction from troubles or worries?

      I think these kinds of motivations are wider reaching and stronger than the one to make art. What proportion of cameras sold have never made a single image that could be even vaguely considered “art” – and with no intention from their owner to make art? I would say the vast majority!

      1. “What proportion of cameras sold have never made a single image that could be even vaguely considered “art” – and with no intention from their owner to make art? I would say the vast majority!”

        Yet “art” for many means simply to make a picture recognized as “good”; well-exposed, well-composed. Not hugely original or necessarily of gallery- or exhibition-grade but competently done. Even with family record and family-based environmental portraits. And solid composition with interesting content (now that autoexposure and autofocus have relieved the burden of technical understanding) seems beyond many.

        Witness the oceans of sheer haplessness and its daily tidal flow into the Internet estuaries, whether on social media or in websites about photography (to which I have added a pint or two); even there the entropy in expenditure of pixels and emulsion with faint result is staggering. Among photo-based websites, where the jousters are definitely shooting for ‘art’, the ah, Emperor is often nude but no one is the gemeinschaft will say so, out of fellowship and simple kindness. A decent picture is a hard thing to make, whether with junk-store bargain or high-dollar neck-bling.

      2. William, first of all, great name!

        This is the trouble with art, it is highly subjective, and one person’s art is another’s junk or mediocrity, and vice versa.

        This is drifting into another topic, but I wonder I kind of see photographs as art only once they’re printed and well framed and hung on a wall. This does not mean of course that anything printed and framed is art, but the pictures that are worthwhile in the first place are fully elevated to “art” status by this final physical presentation of them.

        Interesting point about the Emperor and the gemeinschaft. Some years back I ran an artist’s community, and I always had two hats available to wear, metaphorically speaking. The first was the coach in me, (I described myself as a creativity coach in my role there) who always praised people for creating what they loved, which is a massive achievement in itself with so much distraction these days, let alone inner critics, and so on.

        But the other hat was that of the art critic, and very little of what I saw would take my breath away and I would consider genuinely artistic and beautiful.

        So my voice on the whole was that of the encouraging and motivating creativity coach, and my critic kept his own counsel.

        Sometimes people want to be praised for the effort part of the creative efforts, not whether the final work is any good.

        The trouble with this is, if everyone is sharing everything they create, with no critical editing either from themselves or from people whose opinions they trust, we find ourselves in this position where stand and “Witness the oceans of sheer haplessness and its daily tidal flow into the Internet estuaries”… Which feeds itself in an ever downward spiral because others see this mediocre work and think it’s the yardstick and they can create and share something almost as good, and so the standards tumble…

      3. Subjectivity. Why yesssss…of course. With qualifications.

        Maybe, to make clearer what I’m getting at (moi? obfuscatory?), an example, here to hand: the little shots you’ve made, interspersed here and there throughout the posts; art, are they not? *I* certainly think so; and damned successful as such, too.

        And yet, mostly unprinted and unhung, yes?

        Soooo…while most folks are not looking to be nailed-up at the Tate Modern or to cause great queues at MOMA, they do modesty seek to make something of clear esthetic value. And they largely, usually fall a bit short.

      4. Yeh absolutely, I imagine most people who take a photo of a close relative or the lakeside view they’re enjoying want that photo to do the subject justice and be aesthetically satisfying, and not out of focus, blurred, and so on. I don’t think anyone sets out to make bad photos. Well, except perhaps some of the Lomo crowd!

        Yes mine are mostly unprinted and unhung, I appreciate my previous comments are contradictory! And thanks for the compliments, much appreciated.

      5. (Thank you, Dan – and sheepish apologies to all – for suffering my propensity to go off-topic as usual – even I cannot say how I dragged the OP so far afield.)

      6. No apologies necessary at all, quite the contrary, I love your comments. I’m one of the worst for going off at tangents, but that’s one of the beauties of a blog with open comments as opposed to a static, historical text.

  4. Dan: interesting thoughts and many of us have this disease. I somewhat like you am in recovering phase. I have only 4 cameras and 3 of them will plan on ebay but may donate. William is suggesting don’t worry about it since these cheap cameras are plentiful and just enjoy. Both parties have validity…

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I think it’s absolutely fine to buy as many cameras as you wish, especially if it’s something you love. The problems start when we’ve lost track of why we’re still buying, and don’t enjoy it anymore. I was at this point and it was impacting my whole enjoyment of photography. Not a good place to be.

      Glad to hear you’re recovering too!

  5. Excellent tips Dan. I wish I had some advice, but I really don’t. I’m in the process of drastically downsizing my life long collection, and have just accepted that it is going to take several years. There does seem to be something about cameras in particular that encourages accumulation. Even my Great Uncle who lived in an otherwise austere, even sparse seaside cottage had way too many cameras. He used them all too, but they were strictly confined to his studio.

    1. Jon, I think accepting how long it will take to whittle down a collection is crucial. If you’re not prepared to sell or donate the whole lot in one go, then it will take a long time to list and sell each individual camera. I kind of ended up doing half and half when I had way too many cameras. Sold the ones that were worth more, and then gathered up the rest and donated to charity shops, cutting my losses. Easier in the long term than constantly selling for months and months!

      Cameras – well, many of them – are very attractive and alluring objects, not just to look at and hold and use, but because they all hold within the promise of making beautiful, memorable photographs.

    1. Thanks Pavel. Have you every thought about getting a second camera, or just not felt the need? In a way I wish I was still like this – I was for a while when I just had my good old Nikon Coolpix P300 in 2011 and used nothing else.

  6. I’m not being critical of the ideas presented here but I believe that at least for some people they are wrong, just plain irrelevant. I see unnecessary buying as a compulsion, not an error in judgment or the result of being tempted by too many new models or the like. A psychological problem cannot be solved by saying “hey, you really only need two cameras and four lenses”. The confusion in the analysis most people use when writing about this issue is to see the compulsive buyer as being over-influenced by articles, advice from good photographers, and the like. I believe that is only the scaffolding for acting out a problem that has nothing to do with errors of judgment about what gear one needs to be a better photographer. Not being a qualified, I cannot propose how gear aquisition syndrome on the psychological level can be cured. But certainly if one’s finances are being threatened by it one should probably seek professional medical help — not just financial advice like getting rid of credit cards (impossible anyway)! If one can afford all these gadgets then the issue is whether one is bothered by his buying nonetheless, in which case we’re back to medical help.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Harry. There’s a slogan over here on gambling websites, shops etc, “when the fun stops, stop”, and I think that applies the same here. If you enjoy trying out different gear and it’s not causing any harm to anyone, then go ahead. But if it starts to be an almost mindless act where the main drive is to have more, without considering much beyond that, and that “fun” of owning and using the gear stops, then perhaps it’s time to step back and reconsider. And for some yes that may involve outside help.

      I do think our society (certainly in the UK) is heavily geared towards consumption across a whole range of products. I think many people are far too easily sucked in. I bought a bottle of shower gel the other day and a sticker on the front proclaimed “new size!” like anything new is better. Surely people realise that the new size of 450ml is less than the old size of 500ml, but as it’s the same price we’re paying more per unit of volume!!

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