Why Less is Actually More (in Photography)

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Saying “Less is More” is common and probably there are already tons of dedicated posts out there, which are probably written better.

However, I would give it a try, analyzing and explaining my thoughts about how having less, is actually way more for your photography.

Please note that everything mentioned on this post is simply my personal opinion, and for sure it doesn’t mean it’s the correct one.
I’m only expressing my thoughts which hopefully might help someone in improving his/her photography.

What do you mean by “Less”?

Less in photography is about many things, and I will try to explain some of them here.

We live in a society of consumerism. This is what we learn as we grow up, and unfortunately most of us we pass it on to our children as they growing.
We buy stuff that we don’t actually need and end up not using them, having them stored somewhere on our houses.

In photographic terms, most of us (including myself of course) have been many times in the situation of thinking about new gear.
After all, we want to have the greatest gear on our bag, to have more than one camera and of course many lenses.

When a new camera or a new lens gets announced, suddenly our current gear is not so good.
Why?  Why they are not good?
Because they doesn’t get us good results/photos?
Because they doesn’t have the high-tech features that the manufacturer so greatly is presenting in the product press release?

Before missing the point and possibly being misunderstood (if I already don’t have by now), please allow me to explain.
Of course we will have to buy new gear at some point.
It is natural and the most logical thing to do in terms of further extending our work, no matter if you are an amateur or a professional.

What I’m talking about is that we should know exactly when but most importantly, what we should buy and why.

My all-time favorite lens, the Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 mounted on my Nikon Z via FTZ adapter.
Do I want the new Nikon 50mm F1.2 Z lens? Probably!
Do I actually need it? Nope!

Hey man, what are you saying then?

I’m a person that prefers practical things over theoretical stuff, so please allow me to further explain using some examples.

Let’s create two hypothetical but very realistic photographic scenarios, giving two (2) options and then check out what it would actually be better for our photography.

London Skyline, shot from the Shard | Tokina firin 20mm F2 AF on Nikon Z6 via Techart TZE-01 adapter

Scenario 1

Our first scenario goes like this:

You are excited as you plan to travel (hopefully soon!) to another city or country for some days (important notice: not for photo work).
What photographic gear will you take with you?

Option A: one or two cameras, two to four lenses plus multiple accessories.

Option B: one camera and one lens (and some very basic accessories).

Before continuing and analyzing the options, what would you choose?
(polls on this website are 100% anonymous, no data is collected)

Scenario 1 - What Would You Choose?

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Let’s analyze each option.

Option A

Expectation -> You feel confident that no possible shot will be missed, as you carry all your precious gear with you. Photographically you feel secure and that’s really great.

Reality -> You end up missing shot opportunities or you don’t have acceptable results, either because you were too tired from the weight that is on your camera bag (shoulder, backpack, etc), or even worse, because the lens selection wasn’t ideal for a specific shot, or you missed the opportunity simply by changing lenses in that time.

Option B

Expectation -> You feel uncertain about what you will achieve with only a “run and gun” combo of one camera and one lens (and maybe one filter like a CPL).

Reality -> You return back home with plenty of good shots, but most importantly with many great memories because carrying and using less gear made you more focused on both the location as also the potential shots. You enjoyed both your travel/vacation as also the photographic part.

The point here, except what already mentioned above, is that by using only one lens, you are essentially  “forced” to think more about your shots.
Yes, I know, this is something that we always say to ourselves, but how many times have we actually done that?
To think more about our shots? To be out of our comfort zones?
By having many lenses in this type of scenario, you slowly become more lousy as the mind is always searching for ways to make our lives easier.

Personal Travel Experience

Speaking from personal experience, back in November 2019 just before the pandemic hit Europe, I was with my family on a trip in Paris, France.

For my personal and family photography needs (including Disneyland of course😊) I chose to have only one camera and one lens. And being more specific, that was a Nikon D850 and the Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 lens.
Yes, I agree that it is a relatively heavy setup, but for 99,9% of what I needed and wanted, was more than enough.

I had the camera on my shoulder all day, with no extra bags, nothing else with me except a 77mm Hoya gradient ND filter on my pocket, just in case I needed it.
Oh, and a small cleaning cloth😉
I ended up with many great shots, most of them taken using only one hand as on the other hand I was holding my younger daughter Kleio who was tired from walking all day!

Let’s say that in the same scenario, I had more than one camera or lenses with me.
How many shots would be different?
Would I be (mentally and physically) more tired everyday after walking around with a heavy backpack?
I guess my family would also be pissed with me, in case I had to stop them while enjoying the beautiful streets of Paris just to change a lens, etc.

F1.4 – 1/160 – ISO 3200
Tokina Opera 50mm F1.4 & Nikon D850

F2 – 1/200 – ISO 3200
Tokina Opera 50mm F1.4 & Nikon D850

But please, allow me to make another example, as due to the pandemic, travelling is not allowed or in case it is, it still has a lot of restrictions.

So, let’s move forward to another hypothetical scenario, this time on landscape photography.

The canyon of Vikos, Greece | Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 on Nikon D850

Scenario 2

Lets say that finally local pandemic restrictions are lifted, and you are allowed to travel to a nice mountain location in your country, and finally enjoy nature after quite some time staying at home.
What photographic gear will you take in your backpack?

Option A: one or two cameras, three or four lenses, a tripod plus of course filters and other accessories.

Option B: one camera and one lens, a tripod, 2 filters and some very basic accessories as well.

Again, before moving on, what would you choose?

Scenario 2 - What Would You Choose?

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Option A

Expectation -> You once again feel super confident that all shot opportunities will be of good use, as you have the best possible gear with you.

Reality -> You end up frustrated and super tired as you couldn’t reach/ hike to the ideal location due to the extreme weight you were carrying in your back.

Option B

Expectation -> You feel uncertain about the potential photographic results as your bag carries rather more personal items than photographic gear.

Reality -> You return home with plenty of energy although tired from hiking, but feeling great that you enjoyed nature in all its glory while you also got some really nice landscape photos! Oh, and thankfully you did have some spare clothes with you when it started raining just before sunset.

I’m sure that most of us who love landscape photography have at least once felt either A or B.

In the beginning, mostly because our photographic self-confidence is not great, we tend to rely more on the gear we have rather on our creative side.
As mentioned before, mind is always searching for ways to make things easier and less tiring, so most of the times, we subconsciously (or maybe consciously?) choose Option A and take all our stuff with us.

Personal Experience Pt. II

Lets go back in time, on July 2017.
I was travelling to an alpine lake in northern Greece to capture a timelapse of the Milky Way Galaxy in an altitude of more than 2.100m.
On paper that timelapse would be one of the most beautiful sequences for my then working project, “Keep Looking Up”.

My initial plan was to reach the lake before nightfall as I wanted to set my motion control system with my main camera as also my second camera in opposite angles in front of the lake.

My excitement at the time didn’t let me foresee the possible difficulties I might encounter, like in example the weather.
I was anxious to not miss any shot opportunities, so I decided to carry nearly all my gear with me.

So, me, George and Sotiris were carrying three (3) cameras, five (5) lenses, three (3) tripods and one (1) 3-axis motion control system with a slider of 80cm.
Our already full backpacks had almost no space left for more than one extra shirt.
So no extra clothing, no tent, no sleeping bags, no nothing.

Around 22.30, when the Milky Way Galaxy Core made its first appearance over the horizon and the cameras started filming, some lightnings at the east starting to flash and just after 15 minutes, the storm was almost above us.

We had to gather everything super fast, and started to run back to the path, to avoid any potential dangerous risks like being hit by a thunder.
The end result was to be soaked, with no clothes to change, and super tired, both mentally and physically from all that.
And of course with no shots in the memory cards.

Me and gear, hiking the mountain towards the alpine lake (notice the 80cm slider on top)
Shot by Sotiris K (thanks bro!)


Obviously experience is playing an important role for this aspect.
Of course in the beginning it will be more difficult to work in this way, but in the end you will find that you have improved as a photographer, resulting in better photos.

When you are more experienced, you may have a clear vision on what you want to achieve, and this can make things way easier.
Preparation is also great, and when combined with experience, your efforts will be more successful and eventually less tiring.

It is also very important to say at this point that gear is more than great and you must have some very good options in your arsenal, but it is wiser to know what and when you will use each of that piece of gear.

Yes, eventually you will also have to upgrade your camera and your lenses, your tripod and anything else that will help your workflow (especially if you are on professional assignment), but just because you may have all this gear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you always have to carry them with you.
And for sure, it does not mean that it will make you a better photographer.

Learn your gear, prepare better, and in return you will evolve as a photographer.

I would love to know your thoughts on the topic and if you found it useful.
Except your possible comments, feel free to participate anonymously on the following poll I created.

What type of Photographer are you:

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