The Paradox of Choice is Hurting your Photography

Paradox of Choice

You love photography so it's only natural to want the best gear you can afford but stuck between smart marketing campaigns and over two million choices for photographic equipment, the paradox of choice is hurting your photography.

In his famous TED talk Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, argues that when we have too much choice, it's difficult to choose anything.

Search Amazon for "digital camera" and you'll find 1,666,654 choices
Search Amazon for "mirrorless digital camera" and you'll find 13,375 choices
Search Amazon for "DSLR camera" and you'll find 199,763 choices
It's no wonder photographers overthink things...

At one point in my life not too long ago, I had so much gear, I could not even keep up with my inventory list, let alone go out and create something meaningful with it. Sponsors were sending me bags, cameras, lenses, tripods, you name it, and because I like to please, I agreed to review everything. This lead me to a life where all I was doing was reviewing gear and not taking photos. Quite frankly, I was not even able to keep my commitments to the sponsors for reviews because I had so much equipment in my office. Eventually, I became deeply depressed to the point where I began to ask myself if this is life, what's the purpose of all this?

If gear makes you happy, I missed the memo.

If gear makes you happy, I missed the memo.

I had made a hard decision to walk away from the generous sponsorships I had earned through my blog Small Camera, Big Picture and then I ended the blog altogether. I boxed everything up, gave a decent amount of my gear away to friends and family and even then, it took me over a year to sell it off.

I now work with a camera that is (as of this writing) nearly seven years old using only three prime lenses, and I couldn't be happier. The camera is limited on features (constraints), has slow autofocus and the auto exposure is ok at best. Working with manual exposure, manual focus and getting to understand the photographic instrument I do have has made me a better photographer.

I'm the first to admit how lucky I was to have such generous sponsors and am grateful for the friends I made at some really cool organizations. Most of us though, buy our photography products, and I bet you have products you have not touched in a while. Sell them. Sell it all and put that money into living debt free and enjoying the experience of being a photographer. Use that money to go on a trip that will put you in a situation where you can get the photos of a lifetime. You'll have less gear to weigh down your creative mind, and because constraints breed creativity, you'll be making your best photography ever.

SpareFoot : Data from U.S. Census Bureau, via  Curbed

SpareFoot: Data from U.S. Census Bureau, via Curbed

The Paradox of Choice is not limited to Photographic products though. Think about the 38 billion dollar self-storage industry. We have stores that do nothing but sell containers for your stuff and companies that will rent you space to store your stuff. If you have a storage unit full of stuff can you write down everything that's in there? How much is that stuff costing you each year? That stuff is not only keeping you from living your photographic goals, but it's also preventing you from living a robust life. One day, you're going to die, and your grieving family is going to be tasked with dealing with your estate. Do you want to leave them a storage unit full of stuff or do you want to leave a legacy of beautiful photography? On your deathbed, will you be glad you kept your stuff or will you be happy you had a fulfilling life experience?