It's a simple question. Is gear more fun than creativity? I came across this topic for a few reasons. Not the least of which is that we all love getting new gear. Even if you aren't lusting after a new lens or camera body, don't you still love it when you get one?
Gear is a good thing.
For some people, it may be the only thing. That isn't necessarily bad.
Decide If You Like Photography for the Gear or the Creativity
Different people have different motivators. There are folks who have really crappy gear and love the creativity that photography offers. A good photo is all the satisfaction they desire, and the camera is just a tool to get it. These folks can get great results with anything from a plastic film camera to a high end DSLR, Mirrorless or Medium format camera.
They just pick the right tool for the job, or what their budget allows.
Others are into photography just for the gear. It's all about having great toys, even if you aren't the best photographer. We see this all the time. People buy fast motorcycles and cars, yet they're never really good enough to race them professionally. That's not why they bought them.
For these folks, the thrill comes from handling professional tools and getting joy from the experience, not the result.
I've been in both camps, and had fun with my photography either from the gear or the photos I created. To me, neither one is better than the other if you aren't in photography to serve others.
Why should anyone tell you that you're doing it the wrong way if you're doing it for yourself?
Budget Makes a Difference
It's much easier to be in the “Gear is More Fun” camp if you have the budget to support your enthusiasm. Let's face it, photography can become a very expensive hobby if you go this route.
Before I was married and had a family, I tossed my spare income into gear. Hanging out on photography forums, you end up lusting after the gear other people owned. It seems that you imagine your photos could be just as nice if only you had that one lens, one camera body, or studio lighting gear. You chase after photography equipment and build up a base of gear.
Then, once you have it, you can proudly display your gear like all of those other photographers before you. You start taking photos to show off your bokeh-making 85mm f/1.4 lens, rather than show off the subject in your photo.
It's bokeh for the sake of bokeh.
I know. I shot this photo just for the sake of seeing the bokeh my lens created.
I'm not proud now, but I was then. I owned the mighty 85mm f/1.4. My bokeh balls were grand. That was before my mind allowed me to see the chromatic aberration with this lens.
So I bought the cool gear. The good news is that it's gear that will last a long time and can deliver wonderful results. You know what they say? The most expensive thing you buy is the thing you buy more than once.
I cannot blame my gear if my photos are poor.
At some point, most of us run out of money to buy gear. Not everyone, but I'd venture most of us have a limit to our budget. Then what do you do?
Well, you start looking at the quality of your photos and how to get the most out of what you bought. Then, without really noticing it, your values shift.
How quickly your value shift may depend upon your budget. That's because you don't need high end gear to make beautiful photos. Sure, there are some circumstances that require specific gear. If you're into sports or wildlife photography, you know that you don't get far without some serious telephoto lenses.
However, you don't need a 1200mm lens to photograph a nice landscape or portrait. Likewise, you don't need a lot of megapixels if you're publishing photos in a magazine. My old Nikon D700 with a measly 12 megapixels did fine at creating magazine covers and 24×36 prints.
What Drives Your Satisfaction?
What makes you happier? Holding a precious piece of gear you just acquired or seeing your finished photo on a magazine cover or hanging on the wall?
I don't think there's a wrong answer, but I do think it's useful to know what is important to you. That can alleviate a lot of frustration and actually direct how you use your gear to get the photos that you want.
Some people would rather spend their money on travel to interesting locations to get landscape or travel photos. They're driven by their results, not the gear that they own.
Others want to play with their toys. I can't blame them, because it really is fun. They get their enjoyment from the experience and having options. The photos are still important, but perhaps not as important as the experience of collecting them.
If you're a working photographer, these issues may seem trivial. Your job is to get a result for a client. You get satisfaction from a job well done and paid. That doesn't mean you don't like new gear or you don't take pride in a great photo. It just means you have a different issue driving your satisfaction from photography that many enthusiasts don't consider.
An Alternative to New Gear
Oddly enough, my alternative to new gear is actually a piece of gear itself.
My Nikon D800 is a great camera. I don't need more megapixels. The 36 mp resolution is more than I need. I don't a faster frame per second rate, as my subjects aren't moving quickly. It works with my lenses and other accessories.
I'm lusting after some features available on new cameras that my D800 lacks. For example, the LCD panel doesn't come out or articulate at all. It's firmly fixed in place. That kind of flexibility is great for getting photos at odd angles where I can't quite get my eye to the viewfinder.
I also miss out on some of the wireless capabilities that transmit a photo from the camera to a smart phone, so you can immediately share it on social media.
While these are nice features, I don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a new camera just to get them. So I truck along with my old Nikon D800. Then I found an alternative solution.
It's called Arsenal, the Smart Camera Assistant.
This showed up on Kickstarter a while ago and I received it some weeks back. It does much more than what I want and it cost e $150 on Kickstarter. It's sold out for that price, but even at the future retail price, it's a bargain compared to buying a new camera.
It allows me to use my smartphone to compose and capture, which is far more flexible than an articulating screen. Just imagine the selfie possibilities. It also transmits photos to my smart phone.
However, that just scratches the surface. Here's the Kickstarter video to show what Arsenal does for time-lapse, photo stacking and long exposure.
Please note that I'm not an affiliate for Arsenal and get nothing from them – not even a pencil. I'm just happy that I found something to get the capabilities that I wanted without having to buy new gear.
So far, it works as advertised. I wanted to pass it along in case this is interesting to you.