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I’m sure you’ve heard of “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” or GAS for short. Photographers usually consider GAS to be negative; frivolously spending money that you don’t need on equipment that won’t make your photography better. However, I’m here to tell you that sometimes a new piece of kit is exactly what you need to inspire you to do something different with your photography.
It’s easy to become complacent with the equipment that you already own. You’ll get to the point where you know it inside out, and you’re completely comfortable using it to create the kind of images that you love. Many photographers have gone for years always using the same system, the same set of lenses, and just upgrading to a new camera body every once in a while to keep pace with new technology.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. Sticking with what you already know produces results that can be a wise use of your limited time and funds. However, sometimes a piece of new gear can push you outside of your comfort zone, forcing you to experiment with new techniques and styles.
For me, it was a combination of a new Fujifilm mirrorless camera and a 50mm equivalent lens that forced me into trying new styles. Lugging my dSLR camera around with me always felt like a chore; it was so big and heavy. The Fujifilm X-T20, on the other hand, is small and lightweight. It feels much more like the small Yashica rangefinder that my Grandfather used to bring with him on every family holiday. I found that I would shoot much more spontaneous and joyful images with my new little camera, rather than the “serious” images I shot on my larger dSLR.
But what really changed my photography, and could change yours too, was the investment in a new lens. I didn’t spend a fortune – a secondhand Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 lens found its way into my possession. It is a 50mm equivalent lens (on the Fujifilm X-T20 crop-sensor body), so it’s the classic length for many styles of photography. It’s a great focal length for portraits, street photography, food, and still life. So as soon as it arrived, I began to test it extensively. I should point out that I shot every image in this article with the new lens.
I get it; not everyone has the money to go out and pick up a new lens or camera just to see if it helps them be more creative. And maybe it wasn’t even the lens or the camera that inspired me to change the way I photograph. Plenty of people manage to change up their style without spending any money at all.
So with that in mind, I have a few suggestions for breaking out of your comfort zone before you break out your credit card.
I don’t just mean on social media. Get out and about in the real world. Take yourself off to an exhibition of photography or an art gallery with a photographic collection. If you live anywhere near a major city, photography exhibitions shouldn’t be too hard to find. Have an open mind about the kind of work you could see. Try to remember that you’re looking for something to inspire a new way of working!
Take a notebook with you too. Make notes in it while you’re walking around the gallery looking at images. Think about how the works of art make you feel or if there’s a particular detail you love. Perhaps there’s a subject you hadn’t thought about photographing before. Or maybe a new use of color that you hadn’t considered for your own work.
Don’t forget to look up the work when you get home too! Many photographers now have a social media presence so that you can keep up to date with their current projects. Historical photographers often have lots written about them on museum and gallery websites for you to read.
Pick something you’ve never done before in photography. Do a bit of research online and then go out and try shooting it. Be brave – what’s the worst that can happen?
For me, it was street photography. I read some tutorials, talked to a few friends, checked out some images on social media and then went out for the day and just had a go. If the images were rubbish, I’d still had a nice day out photographing!
It’s too easy to become very conservative with your approach to photography. Staying with what you know works well is an easy approach, but you might miss out on a new kind of photography that you absolutely adore. Becoming more fearless and trying new things is something that can benefit all photographers – from beginners to professionals! We all need a kickstart every now and again with our work.
Of course, we’d all like to be trendsetters rather than followers. But every once in a while it’s good to experiment with something that is clearly capturing the imagination of lots of other photographers!
Instagram is great for checking out what’s fashionable in the world of photography right now. That could be portraits with out-of-focus fairy lights that create bokeh, or beautiful doors and pretty houses. Even if you don’t love the images that you create, each trend will give you the opportunity to experiment with a new technique. You might learn more about the technical aspects of photography, about composition, or even about styling. The key is to take these new things that you’ve learned and use them in your own authentic way.
If there’s one thing I’m certain about, it’s that if you never try anything new in your photographic practice, then you’ll come to regret it. So take a leap of faith and try something new.
Start by working out what you’d like to try photographically. See if you can try it without investing in any new gear. However, don’t be afraid to think about if a new piece of gear might bring you a new way of working. A lens, a flashgun, or a new lighting modifier. Perhaps even a new camera.
Also, don’t forget to let us know in the comments what you’re planning on trying out. Or if you’ve changed things up in the past let us know what you did to try and reinvigorate your photography and how well it worked for you!