The Anti Buying Guide for Photographers

I’m not a Scrooge, just a realist…

In this Live Event, I will discuss the buying trap I have fallen into in 2017 and how the rapid accumulation of gear has stunted my creative growth.  It is not a fun position to be in.  Actually, it is quite paralyzing, but it is important and something I have got to share with you.

Just remember, you will never fill that void in your creative process with more things.  It can only be filled by doing what you love.

The Post on f.64 Academy about Squashing Gear Lust

The Diagram for buying gear:

The Diagram for Compounding Expenses:

Does the item in question come with more expenses in the long run?  The Canon MPE-65mm 5x MAcro lens is great but requires many accessories to utilize it to its max potential.




  1. Excellent video Blake. It really spoke to me personally. I am trying to consolidate both hardware and software in 2018 and get my home office back. The space is ridiculously crammed with boxes, gear, etc, etc – all to be an allegedly more “professional” photographer. Kinda funny for a guy who spends more time stuffing my office full of me gear!

    Reality check? I’m a very good SHOPPER….not sure about my photography!

    PS I would love to see you do a video on all of the software that is out!

    • Glad I could help Randall!

      I will do something next year on my thoughts about software. That one will take some time to put together, but I think something needs to be said.

      Merry Christmas, my friend!

  2. Blake – I totally get it. I was caught in the “buying trap” for a few years – experimented with, then sold my Canon/Nikon/Pentax & Olympus gear before ending up with the Fuji X series – the best gear for my photographic interests.

    When my retailer said I was one of his top 10 clients, it hit me – settle down. Fortunately this expensive learning experience was within my financial ability. No regrets – but glad I’m in a better place without the compulsive need to research & acquire gear.

    BTW: Do you know someone how might need a never-used slider with action modules? 😉

    Thanks – I’ve gained a lot from my online learning at f64 since it’s inception. Meeting you at a workshop is on my bucket list. Hope you, family and friends enjoy the best of the Holiday Season – and a happy and healthy New Year.

    • Woah! Yeah that is a big statement. Top 10 is good for some things, but when it comes to money spent, phew 🙂

      I need to get to that better place. This public self shaming was my first step to getting better. I have more to go, I just need to remember this and walk in the right path. I used to be really good about throwing up the garlic to the vampire sales strategies… now I’m a sucker 🙂

      We shall meet one day! I am trying to do more Workshops, but I am just so busy already. Maybe 2019 can bring some more. Between the three little ones and the business, I am booked solid.

  3. Blake, sorry I missed the live version, but very glad I saw the replay. A photographer I followed several years ago said,”Invest in experiences, not equipment.” That is certainly good advice because all the equipment in the world can’t create an image by itself. My subject interest has changed over the last 18 months, so I have bought a couple of new lens. My downfall is software. What you said at the end of the program really helped. Some software just doesn’t make sense to me. I should try to get better with those I like. That will be my New Year’s resolution.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family…Bruce

    • I love that quite! It is perfect.

      I am glad I could help you on the software end. Jim Welninski turned me onto Capture One, he thinks it is an amazing RAW editor, and I trust him very much in that regard. However, I for the life of me, cannot wrap my head around their interface and it does not play well with my mind.

      I cannot use it. It could be the greatest RAW editor on the planet, but I just can’t wrap my head around it. That does not mean it is not good though, just not good for me.

  4. This is so true ………. and it certainly does not just apply to photo stuff !!

  5. I wish you and your family very nice days and a cozy, healthy and enjoyable 2018
    Blake, it was – as always – a nice webinar, very instructive and eye-opening

    • Thanks, Ineke 🙂 Have a Merry Christmas 🙂

  6. Thanks so much for making this webinar available in f64. Your comments were encouraging to me for the simple reason that I’m in my mid-70’s and just a year or so ago, got my 1st DSLR –a panasonic Lumix G5 -with a couple lenses. (I’m saving for a wide-angle). That camera seemed the best for me as a novice –and acceptable for my wallet. (4/3 has its limitations, but so do I!)

    Sometimes, when I’m watching the critiques and see the exceptional images, I start thinking maybe I should have this or that camera or lens or whatever. (Ca-ching!$$$)

    Your thoughts in this video brought me to the New Year’s resolution to work with what I have, really learn all facets of the camera, and, most importantly, USE it frequently!

    Over the years, starting with HDR Insider, I’ve learned so much from you because you share not only what you know but who you are. Thanks again, Blake.

    –And Merry Christmas (again) to you and your family.

    • Lynn, I appreciate you so much! You always bring a positive spin to everything and see exactly what I am talking about. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversations over the years and it has been a pleasure getting to know you better.

      I am also glad that I could bring you some more advice, and I think you are spot on for 2018, focus on your creative imagination… NOT GEAR 🙂

      I can tell you that some of my favorite photos I have ever taken came from my 4/3rds Oly setup. Oddly enough, I have returned to many of those locations with my high-end Full Fram gear and super wide angle lenses and could never reproduce the images I made with the 4/3rds.

      I think this proves that the gear does not make the image regardless of the scene. It is the whole experience that makes the image.

  7. For 10 years, I was working commercially in E. Africa and predominantly used a Fuji GXIII and 4 lenses. This camera was a dream: Tilt & Shift, Bellows focusing and for its size was incredibly portable and could be used ‘hand held.’ As this was a film camera, an accurate light meter, colour correction filters, a Polaroid back were essentials. and a ‘Grid’ screen was helpful together with three additional interchangeable backs which allowed for different film stocks to be employed. (When they were available in Africa!!!!) Excellent E6 processing in Dar-Es-Salaam but scanning had to be sent to Kenya!

    Eye level viewfinder, and a plethora of other lenses and miscellaneous accessories were available but I never felt the need to indulge.

    I shot everything from: condom adverts to sale brochures of Safari Lodges including: United Nations Criminal Tribunal Rwanda, Gas Well Heads, Miss Tanzania Finals, School Photos, Billboard ads. Political campaigns etc., etc. With this basic equipment I successfully shot on the ground and from the air from small aircraft.

    Upon returning to the U.K. in 2001, I was suddenly confronted with “Digital Photography!” I was presented with a steep learning curve.

    Gutted to find that no digital back was available for my Fuji.

    Bought the top of the range, Kodak full frame digital 35mm as I wanted to retain the integrity of the 35mm lens. (Worst Camera I ever Bought!!!)

    Progressed to a Nikon D3X (Full Frame) which I still am using.

    The camera manufacturers, like Apple iPhones bring out new models to maintain maintain their sales. I have resisted ‘upgrading’ to a D4 as I cannot remember when I last needed ISO 5000+. I am happy with my 105mm f2.8 Macro, which works well with portraits and up to date 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8. If I need wider angle or Telephoto for specific images, I hire!

    However! This year, I have bought 2 Profoto A1 Portable studio flash units together with required trigger.

    As I am an ‘old fart’ I also purchased from Tether Tools an application that allows me to view ground level images on my iPhone. Used with Platypod Max it is amazing!!!

    Unfortunately, most commercial images are displayed on websites @ 72ppi. A Moron in a hurry can create these images with an iPhone with a basic knowledge of Photoshop or someone who will do it for them!

    As anything other than high quality fine art prints, which regrettably seem harder and harder to sell may require upgrades, I have seriously doubts.

    With the latest Photoshop cc upgrades and Blake’s ‘Add ons’ and tutorials I find I do not need to expend more on accessories.

    Just need to expand my imagination and creative view. Imagination and vision is the key to great images – not the equipment you are using provided you are using a quality lens.

    • Absolutely, Anthony. I think your story here proves that time and time again. It is not the tools that make us professional, it is the way we work with them. I true pro these days could make killer images with a Polaroid camera!

      I appreciate your addition to the conversation here.

  8. Just watched the replay – great video, Blake. I think sooner or later everyone steps into one of those traps, I did too.
    I’ve been fighting the urge to switch from Nikon to Sony for two years now and the reason that holds me back is simple: my husband and me we both shoot Nikon DX and we share a very nice collection of 10 or 12 lenses – I don’t want to give up on all the wonderful glass… Lenses can be tempting too 🙂

    • It is tough, really tough. The thing is, we are so passionate about what we do that it is very easy for companies to make us think we need something for our passion. In reality, all we really need to do is get out there and work!

  9. Just watched the video and one note that hit me was when you mentioned being paralyzed by too much equipment you can also be paralyzed by too much post processing software and add-ons. For example, I am finding that getting additional presets for ON1 is beginning to really bother me. I now have so many that I don’t use any of them for fear of spending way too much time trying to see which one I like and that is only the starting point.

    Its getting to a point where I really want a more straight forward, simplified way of post processing, with an organized set of tools.

    The Zone system fits that bill, but at this stage for me, I only use it for my best or favorite images where I want to be artistic. As for the general set of travel and daily family images, ON1 Raw fits that bill although I like the import feature of LR where it assigned my copied into folders by image capture dates; nothing is perfect.

    I am going to try to incorporate the KISS principle in all aspects of my photography and only acquire new gear or software when there is a real need/purpose and not a want. I rather be a student practitioner (honing my skills) of art and not a collector of stuff.

    • I agree 100%! I cannot stand presets and my personal opinion (please don’t take this the wrong way) is that people who sell LR, ACR, or ON1 presets are selling snake oil. They only work on the images they prep them for and will not help. More often than not, they put you in a position where you spend more time managing all these junk presets while the creator is running to the bank.

      That is why I don’t sell presets. I sell tools 🙂

      I am so glad you find the ZSE useful though. I use it on everything. I think the more I use it the faster I am with it. That doesn’t mean I need to use every button, sometimes I just go straight to effects, but I still use it on every photo.

      • This may not be the right spot to discuss this,so please feel free to move/remove.

        It would be great to use one program for everything, so the question is how to get a workflow that is suited for both artistic processing (done on a few images at a time) as well as general processing of a few hundred images efficiently and quickly where ultimate appearance is not your goal, but a good overall composition and look is?

        For example: I recently came back from a vacation trip where I culled 180 photos from a 1000 shots. Many can be grouped into similar lighting condition. For a group of like images, I normally first compose/crop each for a 16×9 aspect wherever possible. Some may end up as 2×3 or 4×5, but for the most part I use 16×9 for full display on a 75″ 4K TV; my medium for showing my images (beats a print especially when set to music in a moving image display).

        Once that is done,I then set the tone, color and effects to the initial image of the group and sync the balance, tweaking as needed. Export to 100% jpegs with basic sharpening and watermark. I can do quite a lot of images fairly quickly. However,for me to do that I rely on ON1 (prior was LR). Don’t know how to do that on PS with or without the Zone Sys.

        Any suggestions?

  10. Thank you so much Blake for this excellent webinar!!! It really hit home. All the best to you and your family for Christmas and for 2018.

    • Thanks for watching 🙂 Merry Christmas to you as well!

  11. As usual, great points, Blake. As another example, I was recently considering an Olympus 12-100mm f/4.0. I already own the Oly 12-40mm f/2.8 and 40-150mm f/2.8, but thought this new lens would save me weight in my bag and changing lens as often. Besides, it was on sale! But, before I pulled the trigger I used Lightroom to analyze the focal lengths of my shots for the past four years and how often I’d miss the extra stop of brightness. It turned out that I’d only reduce lense changes 5% and would probably ADD the weight of another lense to my bag, not reduce it. While I could certainly afford it, I decided instead to mentally move the money into my travel budget so I can go be creative with what I already own.

    • I love that! I need to start thinking the same way. Shoot, a $1000 lens could be 75% of the cost to get back out to Olympic for 6 days and go hunt Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies with you… and Mermaids.

  12. I’m just a hobbyist but…

    For the past 3 years, I built up my Fuji system. Due to the eclipse this year, I purchased a used Nikkor because I could not justify the cost of the XF100-400. Yes, I did get some great shots. 🙂 The 80-400 Nikkor AF-D is fun to use but I live in a wet dark part of the US in the winter time (lens adapters on a Fuji are not WR). So, I purchased a Nikon D300s used – both the camera and lens are in mint condition and now I have a weather resistant and AF Nikon system for a single purpose, to improve my skills with wildlife and other nature shots, all for half the cost of the XF100-400.

    When Fuji finally had a “sale” this year I laughed and jokingly said to myself, “Yahoo, my G.A.S. is gone.” :p I’m glad I went nutz on lenses in 2016 because the sales on what few new purchases I did were much better.

    I have three Fuji cameras plus the Nikon and 17 lenses. Seems like a lot but there is a valid reason. I’m a home school dad with several kids that want to learn. I can share equipment with them but still have something for me to use as well (only 9 are XF lenses, so three lenses for each Fuji camera). Only one of the cameras is still in production. And yes all the equipment they get to use is insured.

    This year I have not purchase any new camera or lenses – only used. In fact, I realized that I have only purchased a new camera twice in over 40 years of purchasing equipment. No debt on any of the purchases.

    I have spent more money on education this year and I’m really getting into adding art to the photos I have so that adds even more education. Plus, I’m learning how to fully take advantage of my cell phone.

    I’m still on the fence on if I’m going to make any purchases in 2018 – maybe not.

    I do have a huge cash back from my credit cards (I pay the balance in full each month) which might reward me another lens.

  13. Thanks for the sage advice. I’ve tried to follow the model you presented for years. It does mean going without sometimes, but it has saved me a ton of money and frustration.
    Sorry I missed the live feed, but I was out shooting.
    Wishing you and your family the best for the holidays and the coming new year.

    • I love it! Being out shooting is much more important! I didn’t advertise this one very well. Merry Christmas!

  14. Blake I couldn’t agree more. This is my 50th year as a professional photographer and I have acquired a lot more equipment than I use on a regular basis. I should have a sale. I started switching to Sony from Nikon when the a900 came out. I got a 28-300 Tamron lens to go with it. My photographer friends all looked down their noses at it but I made 40×50 inch tack sharp prints from those files. I too grew up without much money. I mowed yards and did odd jobs to earn enough money to buy my first “real” camera. It certainly made me appreciate the value of a dollar. I have learned a lot from you. Thank you very much. Until I started watching your videos my Photoshop skills were pretty limited. Thanks, again and Merry Christmas.

    • Merry Christmas as well, my friend! The value of a dollar is an incredible thing. We compartmentalize it based on how much or how little we have. I am glad I grew up that way, I value a lot of things because of it, specifically my family. I am glad I can help you. I love PS and I feel like I have only scratched the surface!

  15. Sorry that I missed the live event but I was happy to watched the replay. I’m like a lot of photographers in that I really had way too many lenses(and cameras) when I had my Nikon equipment. I switched over to Sony because of the lighter weight ( I figured about 1/3 less) and I really liked the idea of the electronic viewfinder. I also could not manual focus with the Nikon D810 in live view. I promised myself that I would not go overboard on lenses with the Sony. However, I loved the Nikon 14-24 and I hav read that the new Sony 12-24 is awesome. I also like shooting wide so if I were to get any new equipment in 2018 it might be that lens. I would also be interested in an event where you discuss various software. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy and Healthy New Year.

  16. Great video Blake. Helps me to keep everything in perspective, and to motivate me to make use and be thankful for of what I have. Have merry Christmas.


  17. I would like to thank you for your video, very honest of you when confronting us with our wishes and real needs,
    I was in NY when you released this video, I had just bought a 100-400mm to photograph birds and nature, it was with pain in my heart that I sold 17-40 mm and 70-300 mm to help with the new purchase. the 17-40 was not used for a long….long time, at 70-300 I had just returned from a weekend and was not satisfied with the results (although I have already done some great pictures of birds in the past).
    I confess that when paying I was nervous because I had never spent so much on a lens. Seeing your testimony, made me think more about what I want for myself in photography, not spend another penny on equipment, go out more often to photograph, even if it’s the birds in my yard !!
    Thank you again for your thoughts and precious tips !!
    A great year for everyone and their families !! Happy 2018 !!

  18. Hello everyone its not the amount of money but how it’s spent. Igot excited when I spent $80 on 6×6\6×9 very old film cameras never knowing if they work thankfully love extra lenses to buy phew.. Do the develop my self .Some in the darkroom but mainly put In to Photoshop via scanner. Large format megapixils for very little money. It’s good to see photographers thinking about the necessity as to whether changing cameras lenses gives better images. It only cost me$200 to buy sinar 5×4 tilt shift for nothing .use paper negatives 5×4 which gives me some excitement in the darkroom.. I always carry my iPhone and always have a chance of getting the image. A present from my daughter. Best wishes kenneth


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