How To Avoid Gear Acquisition Syndrome And Build The Best Photography Kit

A little while ago, I found this amusing yet slightly depressing post called The Dangers of Photography Addiction.  It makes for a good read, and every photographer can relate to it in some way or another.  It can read like an ominous foretelling of your future–but it doesn’t have to be that way!  There are means to keeping your budget in check and avoid the dreaded gear acquisition syndrome (a.k.a G.A.S.) all while indulging in this great hobby.  Here are a few ways to stop yourself from breaking the bank.

Photo by Fabian Blank
Photo by Fabian Blank

Avoid Gear Acquisition Syndrome: Only Buy What You Need

The allure of buying new gear and constantly improving your arsenal is strong.  It’s easy to believe that spending more money is a requirement for improving or going further with your photography.  This is certainly not the case.  There are many ways to limit your purchases without limiting your abilities!

Rent Before Buying

Many photography stores have gear rental packages.  If you’re not sure you need a specific item, go ahead and try it out!  Maybe you’ll find you don’t like the weight, or the gears are in an awkward position for you.  Maybe you’ll discover a lens is more prone to lens creep than expected, and you’ll decide it isn’t worth the price.

Or perhaps you’ll pick up a new piece of equipment and you will hear birds singing, the clouds will part, and sunshine will pour down on you as you experience a euphoria that tells you this was the item you had been waiting for all your life!  (Okay, that’s maybe a bit extreme, but you get the point.)  Either way, actual experience can tell you so much more than sifting through reviews online ever will.

This is also a great option for traveling!  If you want a specific lens for a trip but aren’t certain you’ll use it often enough back home, try renting.

Photo by Mario Calvo
Photo by Mario Calvo


Let Go Of Brand Snobbery

Certain brands do things better than others, with an equivalent or even cheaper price tag.  I won’t go into details here because the point isn’t to bias you toward one company or another.  Rather, the point is to consider that you don’t need to place all your faith in one brand.

As with any industry, people who are serious about photography can have extreme opinions about what make or model is The Best for “true” photographers.  What does it tell you when the community as a whole is ultimately still split on that decision?

For the most part what you started with is what you will stick to.  But you can buy third party lenses or accessories that work just as well, or sometimes better, and they’re often cheaper.  I use a Rokinon for my wide angle lens and have been supremely happy with the results.  And there even exist lens converters, so you can place a lens designed for a Nikon body onto a Canon one.

Share With Friends

For me, the way I decided which body manufacturer I was going to use ultimately came down to what my friends were using.  Not because I was a copycat, but because I often go on photography adventures with them, and this allowed us to share equipment easily.  I borrowed a friend’s telephoto lens for a good three years before having to finally invest in one of my own, and by that time I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.

If you’re going to suffer gear acquisition syndrome, getting your friends involved is a good way to limit the amount of items you’ll all have to buy individually. Sharing is caring!

Avoid Purchasing Unnecessary Gear

As I mentioned earlier in a post about selecting photography equipment for travel, if you have multiple pieces of gear which overlap each other in usage, chances are you won’t be getting your money’s worth out of two separate items which are used in the same conditions.  You will most likely default to favoring one over the other.

Save money and only add to your collection things which expand your abilities.

Or, if you are upgrading, sell your old gear.  Don’t hold onto it for sentimental reasons, that’s only contributing to gear acquisition syndrome.

Gear acquisition syndrome is a real thing. Photo by Jackob Owens
Gear acquisition syndrome is a real thing. Photo by Jackob Owens

Protect Your Gear

Use Lens Filters

Lens filters are useful for more than just altering what light enters your camera–they’re also great for protecting your lenses!  Filters are much cheaper to replace, so if you’re going to ding something it’s better to ding a filter than your lens glass.  You can even buy clear filters which are designed for this purpose alone.  Additionally, most photographers recommend never using a lens without a UV filter.  Not only do your pictures come out clearer, but you protect your camera sensor and your lens glass.  (Over time, exposure to sunlight can do some real damage.)

Lens Filter Photo by: Ryan Fanshaw
Lens Filter Photo by: Ryan Fanshaw

Treat Your Possessions With Care

Are you taking photographs inside Antelope Canyon?  Choose one lens for your body and stick to it!  As tempting as it is to change lenses on the fly to get every image you imagined, tiny sand particles flying around will get into your body if you open it up.  It’s impossible to avoid.  And it’s not worth the risk, trust me.

Be mindful of whether you are in dusty areas, how much moisture is in the air, and the chances of inclement weather.  Take the necessary precautions to protect your gear.

Get Insurance

But you can also purchase property insurance specifically for your photography gear.  If you think you will be shooting in questionable environments, seriously consider reducing your financial risks.

Buy Secondhand

This is my favorite way to save money.  You can often save 50% or more off the retail price by buying used equipment.  Many people are afraid to buy gear secondhand because they don’t trust the process, but it can help if you know what to look for.

Photo by Vitaly
Photo by Vitaly

Consider the Shutter Count

Just like cars are assessed for mileage, DSLRs are rated for their shutter count–the expected number of times the shutter can be operated during the body’s lifetime.  You should be able to find these statistics easily for the model you are considering.  Take this into account to help judge how heavily a camera has been used.

Check for Defects

Are there scratches on the glass?  Do the buttons and dials twist easily, or is there something obstructing them?  Can the zoom lens be extended without issue, and can it hold its position without noticeable lens creep?  Maybe there is visible rust on the body or the connection ports.  These things all indicate the purchase you are making isn’t a sound investment.

Take some sample photos with the camera or lens you’re considering, then look at those images on a large screen.  Ensure there are no dead pixel areas, and your pictures are coming out clean and crisp.  Verify that any problems you see are temporary, like dirt or dust that can be cleaned.  Doing this also helps ensure you are able to get photos off the camera–it’s a good way to check that connection ports are functioning accurately.

Photo by Chantel Lucas
Photo by Chantel Lucas

Buy From Trusted Sources

Of course, you want to make sure the seller isn’t hiding some hard to spot defect.  It helps to buy from people or communities you trust.  My workplace had a buy and sell community which facilitated this–the trust inherent in buying from someone with a sort of verified status is a great help.

But more than just making sure you are getting a good deal, you want to make sure you are not naively buying stolen gear.  Does the deal seem almost too good to be true?  Is the seller pushing you to make a fast sale, and you feel like something is off?  Check the serial numbers to make sure that the gear hasn’t been listed as lost or stolen.  Stolen Camera Finder and Stolen Equipment Registry can be used to find out if this is the case.

Wait For Sales

This is probably self-explanatory, but buying the latest gear as soon as it comes out is far more expensive than waiting for a sale.  You can also trust that when new gear is released, or big sales come up, other photographers upgrading their collection will start selling their used gear–so this tip can help you get better deals even when purchasing secondhand!

Photo by: Keith Cooper

Buy The Best You Can Right Now

The cost involved with buying mediocre gear and then continuously upgrading can add up quickly.  While it may not seem obvious, if you are buying equipment, you should decide how much you are able to spend and get the best item you can afford right now.  This will help delay the urge to upgrade later, as you will be happier with what you currently have.

Feel free to indulge your photographer side!  Just do so with consideration, and you can avoid breaking the bank.


Get valuable photography education and inspiration.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

About the author

Jessica Arwen Best

Jessica is a software engineer, photographer, climber, and traveler. She's currently living out of a truck while driving through the Americas, and finds inspiration in nature and wildlife. Some of her favorite things in life are ice cream, passionfruit, animals, and going to remote places.

Send this to a friend