The Real Reason Minimalist Photographers Are Successful
I won’t waste time. I’ll get right to the point. The real reason minimalist photographers are more successful than their peers comes down to just one phrase — THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON THE MOMENT.
One of the reasons I prefer photography to video (and yes I know we all make more money with video these days but money isn’t everything…) is that photography is what I like to call MOMENT DEPENDENT.
When you have a ton of gear to carry and manage, you tend to lose focus — maybe only a little — maybe a lot. But good photography requires us to be in the moment.
If you’re changing lenses, looking for an accessory in the bottom of your camera bag, etc., while you’re doing that — stuff is happening.
Come on now — we work with shutter speeds that are possibly a hundredth of a second or even much faster. How long does it take to change lenses? If you’re super fast and accomplished and the new lens is already in your hand —three or four, maybe five seconds? That’s an eternity if you do the kind of work that requires capturing what Henri Cartier Bresson called “the decisive moment.” He said:
“Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”
That’s why sometimes, those of us who take a minimalist approach have a better chance of success than the person who has a bag full of spare bodies and lenses.
For more than a year, I’ve been using only my iPhone or of late — my Fuji X100V as my main camera. No muss — no fuss. I don’t even need a camera bag, unless I just want one.
I used to be the opposite. I used to be the guy with three camera bodies around my neck. I used to have dozens of lenses. It’s fun to have a lot of gear. But it’s not necessarily helpful when it comes to making great images. Sure, I might miss a shot since my X100V has only the equivalent of a 35mm lens. But I more than make up for it by always being ready when the time comes. I can also work longer because I don’t get tired from lugging around a bunch of gear. I can also clear my mind and — this is the real lesson — the clearing of the mind allows me to better focus on the moment.
Athletes call this being in the zone.
Imagine a football player — a wide receiver — running a five second 40 yard dash, away from the quarterback, with 21 other players on the field, 50,000 people in the stadium watching, national TV cameras broadcasting, and having to spot a dark, semi-round ball coming at him from 150 feet away — at a closing speed of more than 50 miles per hour — through the air — and then having to be at the precise spot where the ball WILL be (not is) and catching it, even if a defender is trying to obscure his vision or block the ball. That right there takes extreme concentration — it takes a clear mind — it takes the ability to focus on the moment.
The fewer things we carry into the field as photographers, the easier it will be to make sure our brains are 100% focused on SEEING and our hearts on FEELING so we can make images that capture the decisive moment and which — if we’re good at it — and if we’re a little lucky, might move others to feel something.
Referring to the story about the football player — Having less gear to tote is like having the football come to you only much slower, with no fans in the stands, with no defender in your way. It’s easier to accomplish your goal.
Though I often come up short, I am trying to make people feel something when they see my work. And it’s my main reason for sticking with a minimalist setup.
I use the Fuji X100V. (There are plenty of other good choices too.) But if you want to read my thoughts on the Fuji X100V, visit this article. https://toyphotographs.medium.com/my-desert-island-camera-c704ba80dbc4
The point of this article is not to sell you on a Fuji X100V (You probably cannot find one for sale even if you want one.) The point is to get you to see the possibilities of doing more with less.
While I am now spending my time making photos with toys — not birds, I still appreciate the ability to move and act decisively without a bunch of gear getting in the way. It’s probably less important to me now than it was when I was a bird photographer, but I still see the benefits of going the minimalist route.
No matter what type of photography you practice, consider stripping down your gear — if not permanently — then on a trip by trip or job by job basis and see what it does for your ability to get better photos.
I’m rooting for you.
Remember, toys are joy.