Photography’s Monster: The Gearhead

When I was a high school freshman, I joined Baron Banner and accordingly met the organization’s photography manager, Kennington Cung (I just call him Kenny). He was the first mentor I ever had when took up photography. He showed me some of the tricks, poses, and techniques I know today, such as the concept of rule of thirds, how to work a speedlight, and the ins and outs of food photography. One day, he held a photography session for new incoming Baron Banner photographers where I was the only one to show up. Because of that, he personally coached me on how and when to use different lenses and lights. I remember he brought his entire bag of equipment (as shown above), and the sheer multitude of  gadgets amazed me. I had a tiny DSLR with a lens that was no bigger than my index finger. Looking at the equipment, I dreamed of acquiring as much photography gear as him. As I matured in the realm of photography, I later realized that being a gearhead was stealing my focus away from what really mattered – the picture. 

Almost every photographer reaches this phase early in his/her career – The phase when one thinks that he/she doesn’t have enough equipment and consequently spends almost all of his/her time on bhphotovideo.com or other websites showcasing photo merchandise to look at what can fill the void of “missing” gear. Some people can dwell so much in the hopes of getting more equipment that they spend long hiatuses from photography. Others even quit photography because they feel like they can’t compete with professionals that have tons of gear compared to them.

Why does this happen? I believe it is because one wishes to advance far into the field of photography quickly. We all want to be professionals, and the most conspicuous way to seem like a professional is to carry two cameras on either shoulder and three bags of lights, lenses, tripods to every photo shoot. Trust me, I know. During my first photography gig for a fashion runway event, I brought my equipment as well as my father’s old camera body and lenses that didn’t even work, just so I would be taken seriously as a professional. There were other professionals around me with big camera bodies with fancy, long lenses and multiple filters and accessories attached, and I didn’t want to feel like any other participant. Indeed, it is hard to establish yourself as a seasoned expert when all you have is an entry-level DSLR with a kit lens attached.

Many also think that photography is something that can be mastered fairly easily, and by reading websites and books on camera exposure, composition, lighting, etc. Because of it, you feel that you are ready to buy and use every single piece of camera equipment. My dad often tries to school me on the lessons he learned about camera settings online at digital-photography-school.com (don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of this website). I’d hate to disappoint my dad, but I’ve already learned what he’s learned, and through experience. While he doesn’t have photos to show for his newly-acquired knowledge, I do, and I have half the equipment that he has.

There is also the general misconception that a better camera means better pictures. Sure, this can mean better quality pictures. But if we’re talking about pictures in terms of creativity, composition, exposure, and originality, the camera doesn’t matter. YOU matter. Only you can come up with the idea and have a grand vision in mind. The camera doesn’t do that for you, and a better camera certainly doesn’t come up with better ideas. A question (that needs to be eradicated) most people ask others when they see a great photo is, “What kind of camera did you use?” I hear it all the time, and it’s this kind of thinking that causes photographers to be conscious about their equipment.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t get better equipment. It  is possible to have lots of camera gear and not be a gearhead. More high-quality cameras and lenses are necessary is if you have worn out your old ones, or feel that the camera you have is limiting your creative capabilities. Often times, getting new cameras and accessories is like buying new, bigger shoes when your old ones are too small – if you have truly mastered every function that your old camera has, you need to get a new one and grow into that. Above all, do not let equipment get in the way of your creativity by either being a gearhead or not having the right camera and lens for the job.

If you just realized that you are a gearhead, then don’t fret because this is normal. Like I said, it is a phase, and it will pass. The time it takes will vary with each person. All it takes is for you to recognize that you are currently obsessed with camera gear and to promise that the picture will be your sole priority.

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