Why I believe in photographic gear minimalism

less photography gear


[L]et's not fool ourselves, cameras and good glass are s-e-x-y and they create gear lust. But I believe in gear love and minimalism to free you creatively and make gear lust irrelevant.




Love thy camera

A lot of people nowadays make you feel bad that you even think about loving your camera, and for some reason I cannot help to detect a little snobbish attitude underlying these kinds of comment. Why shouldn't I love my camera? If I didn't I would probably not enjoy photography at all. I think that the more you love your camera, the more you will enjoy shooting and the better photographer you will be. You want to find a camera that you love so that you will be more likely to stick with it. I parted with my Nikon D80 millennia ago and felt nothing, unlike when I sold my GRD III which I sorely regretted. It's ok to love your camera, the problem is if you love the camera as an object in itself, and not as a partner.




Cameras for cameras sake

No camera=no photographs, no human=no photograph. Having a camera is like being in a symbiotic partnership, you cannot do anything without the help of each other. Cameras and lenses are good, but the problem is when people start accumulating gear for gear's sake and not for vision's sake. Want the Nokton 1.1? How much portrait jobs do you do or how much night shooting do you do? If the answer is none then you can bet that you want it just for the sake of owning a 1.1, you want it for wanting it (lust feeds itself). And that is the root of G.A.S, you don't need it but you want it. The evidence of G.A.S is accumulation of a lot of gear that you've only used a couple of times that are now gathering dust.


I lost a whole lot of money because of this, for example I had a large format, medium format Fuji, Gigapan, bunch of glass, etc. etc. I didn't really NEED them but for some reason just looking at the 4×5 camera I had images of me doing landscapes, something that I rarely do. I saw all that I could do with it, I could have super resolution scans and HUGE PRINTS that I would never do, and I could have a Polaroid back! Polaroids are cool right? I could do 4×5 portrait sessions, something I don't like. I could do all these things that I would never do…that's called lust.


Beware when your self talk is: “Look at what I could do” and that “could do” is something not related to you. Between a street photographer saying “I could get the 1.1 to shoot later at night” or a landscape photographer saying “I could get the 1.1 and shoot streets at night” which do you think is a legitimate need?




Gear minimalism

When I realised how much stuff I had that I would never use, I sold everything I didn't need. Best thing I ever did. I regret not having started like this (like Alan.P from Hong Kong who is using a GRD IV and X100 only) and saving myself a lot of money. Belive it or not, Gear minimalism frees you, it is artistically liberating. Henri Cartier Bresson only had a 28, 50 and 90, but he mainly only used his 7 element 50mm Summicron.


Loving your camera/lens will also make you a better minimalist, because you will be attached to your camera and will be less likely to part with it. Gear minimalism is a simple and profound philosophy: Get the strict minimum and deal with it. Strict minimum is a plastic term, a wedding photographer's minimum will be way higher than a street photographers but only get what you will need with no extra.


Gear minimalism resolves around a concept called limitation creativity, it states that humans create better when they are limited in some way. Try going out in the streets with just one fixed lens and be amazed at the magic. That is one of the reasons the Ricoh GRDs are so effective, you force yourself to the 28mm. I personally can't stand zooms, and if one is handed to me, I just use one focal length and forget it. It is a huge paradox that is best illustrated by Rembrandt, my favorite example of limitation creativity: He only used a palette of 6 non primary colors for his work. 6 out of potentially infinite combinations of colors.




Be free

If you feel overwhelmed by your cameras and lenses, this is a good sign to sell some stuff. Gear minimalism gives you that zen state where you know you can do great things with the little that you have, and not feel handicapped at all. I always smile when I see photographers in the streets lugging 3 huge dslrs with zooms around their neck when I have my Epson RD1 with a 50 in hand and a Ricoh GRDIV in my pocket (Or just the GRD if I feel like it). I, along with many countless photographers can back up the statement that less is more, and the more you abide to this statement and love your cameras, the more you will love the craft. The less you have the more creative you will be, the more you love your camera the more willing you will be to learn and shoot, therefore improving.




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12 thoughts on “Why I believe in photographic gear minimalism”

  1. The hardest part when you are starting as a hobbyist is knowing yourself. It took me several years to stop saying “I could do this or that” and realize both what I wanted to do, and what I’m capable of shooting.

    Great blog post, and thanks.

    1. Thanks to you 🙂
      Its the worst part when you are hobbyist and every camera you look at, you start saying “I could to this or that” 🙂
      I remember investing into a ringflash: “I could do model shoots”
      And a Gigapan: “I could do large format stitches”
      And a bunch of umbrellas: “I could do lit portraits”
      And 2 Sunpak 120J: “I could do the white background technique”
      And 4 cybersyncs: “I can do off camera flash”
      And a large format Polaroid: “I can 4×5 landscapes”
      I wanted to do landscapes cuz everybody was doing it and so was lit portraiture (Zack Arias, David Hobby..). All I ever needed was to look at what I really wanted to do and get a GRDIV and an M mount camera :/

  2. I’m not a pro. But sometimes GAS – at least in a limited way – is a way of discovering exactly what you prefer. I really like rangefinders and have a IIIF, an Ikon, and an M9. I also shoot with a pocketable Minolta TC-1. I have a bunch of screw mount glass – my favorite being a cheap Jupiter 3, and a fair set of Zeiss – 28, 35, 50. I’ve discovered I really like wide frames. 50 is as long as I’ll go. I didn’t invest in any of this until I’d pulled my old IIIf out of the drawer and shot with it for a year. Wanted to make sure that a rangefinder in this day and age was for me. It is. I love the process. As good as mirror less cameras are now (awesome) I really don’t feel the need. Now I’m determining what lenses I want to use. It might lead me to selling most of them to help finance a couple of Summis.

    So yes, I agree that simple is better. But maybe you have to experiment a little to discover how you want to shoot.

    1. I agree that it’s a way of discovering what you prefer but more likely then not the buying is tied to emotions. Renting is a more viable option or really searching yourself before buying a new piece of gear

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