November 20, 2010

Slimming Down

Those who know me might think this about me going on a diet – which would be a great idea except it would interfere with my job as President of the Horizontally Challenged Photographers of America. But one place I am slimming down is in the gear department.

I’m not necessarily getting rid of any of my gear, but I am considerably more choosy these days about what I bring into the field. Depending on the kind of work I am doing, I may bring more than I need to the general location as backup. But in the field, actually shooting, I am approaching things much differently than I used to.

I have all the cool cameras, lenses, bags and gadgets. I have TOO much of that stuff and I’m starting to realize it can be a distraction. Carrying TOO much can almost be as bad as not enough. If trying to manage all the gear and accessories becomes a distraction, then what good is it?

Part of my new approach is simply based on necessity. I am not as young and strong as I used to be. Carrying a bunch of gear around all day can be tiring enough that I can’t shoot as long as I need to. I also have been enjoying the nuances of shooting with limited gear so that I can force myself to be more creative.

Sometimes this just isn’t possible. If I were still shooting weddings I’d at least have all my gear on site. I might not be carrying it all around at once, but it would be there. You need backups for critical work like that.

But on a short trip to New York for Photo Plus Expo, I only brought one camera body and one lens. And I got all the shots I wanted to get. I could have always used one more lens, but that’s not the point. The point is to remember all the great iconic photographs from the 50s, 60s and 70s and that they were made with far less gear than we typically carry around these days.

I’m not advocating anyone else take my approach. I am merely suggesting that for me, I’ve noticed that the gear has started to get in the way. Take video for instance. I shoot a great deal of video. I have all the cool video accessories known to man. But lately, I’m going out with a more bare bones set up (not giving up the O’Connor tripod and fluid head though…) and making great stuff.

It used to take me an hour to set up my gear. Now it takes about 15 min. That’s 45 minutes more shooting time. I can shoot more if I bring less.

I’m still experimenting with this. I’m using smaller bags, carrying fewer lenses, using fewer accessories and for the most part, I don’t think my photography has suffered.

Send me a tweet on Twitter ( to let me know what you think about this. Has too much gear gotten in the way of a good photo for you?

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store