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A Crazy Idea
Once in a while I get a notion to stir things up. I do so first for myself, usually only later does it occur to me to share the idea. But this is not that time. I’m too busy with doing other things and sadly it’s a reality that being a working photographer often means more work and less photographering. Right now it’s one of those times. I am in Ontario right now and I’ve shot 12 frames – all of the family cat. These are not my proudest hours.
Months ago I published TEN, Ten Ways To Improve Your Craft, None of Them Involve Buying Gear. It was, and still is a best-seller. But I should have done two things. 1. I should have come up with a shorter subtitle. 2. I should have prefaced it with an even shorter eBook. I here present the proposed content.
Proposed Title: ONE, One Way To Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear.
Proposed Content: Stop buying gear.
That’s it. And as I don’t know anyone willing to shell out $5 for this advice, I’m just giving it away. Want more? Here’s the expanded content:
The single best thing you can do for your photography in the broadest strokes, is to stop buying gear.
Stop it. Stop looking at the catalogs. Stop reading the reviews.
Just, for the love of Diane Arbus, stop it.
Now grab the nearest camera. And the lens that’s on it. And go make some photographs. Now do it again. And again. And again. Do this for a month, a year if you can manage to stay away from the addiction that long. Do it so long that you don’t even know – or care – about the specs of the newest offering from Canon or Nikon. Do it so long that you no longer care that a faster lens would be sexier and convince your friends that you’re serious about your craft. Do it so long that you care more for the image than you do for the chatter about gear. Do it so long that you fall in love with photographing, not just the gear.
Then, if you must, pick up the catalogs again, and re-subscribe to your favourite magazines. The gear is good, so lest anyone comment about me hating gear or being gearophobic (hey, some of my best friends are gear!) let me re-iterate that there’s nothing wrong with the gear. Nothing wrong with poppies either but an opium addiction will probably sideline you pretty good. Hear me on this rare soapbox (rare because it’s shortish, not because it’s a soapbox): all the new gear and fancy tutorials, all the books and exotic workshops, all of it can be helpful. But it can also be a counterfeit for the real deal; the act of going out and making image after image after image, for the love of it, and with a critical eye and teachable spirit. Getting discouraged? Chuck it all and go make some photographs. Purge the voices from your head, close the magazines, and go make some photographs. Just you, one camera, one lens, and your muse. Don’t show it to others, don’t post it on Flick or blog about it. Just you. Your camera. Your muse. Once you love the images more than the feedback, and the “wow, great shot!”s and the new-gear smell, and the site of the UPS man on your porch, then you’re back where you started: in love with creating actual photographs. And I guarantee two things – you’ll enjoy your photographs more, and the images will be better.