Are YouTubers Driving Gear Acquisition Syndrome?


Like me, you probably watch photography channels on Youtube. There is a huge range of engaging Youtube photographers that can teach us much about technique, creativity and post production. Like me, Youtube is probably a go to website for you when researching a new equipment purchase. There are video reviews for pretty much anything you are planning to buy, photography wise. There is a problem though. 

The Big Problem With Youtube

A good percentage of well-known Youtube photographers get sent gear to review for free. Legally they have to disclose this when reviewing a product. Most are up front and tell their viewers about the deal they have with the company supplying the equipment. A select few don’t.

Youtube is a clever and subtle way to market photographic gear. By Leon Bublitz

There are two main types of agreement a photographer may have with a company. The first is that the company will supply a product free of charge for the photographer to review but no payment is involved. The second is where a company pays a Youtube to review the product. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two. Which leads us to G.A.S. or gear acquisition syndrome.

Do You Suffer From G.A.S.?

Gear acquisition syndrome is an affliction where photographers (and other techies) have a constant urge to upgrade to the latest and greatest gear. Pre-Internet the main way companies would advertise their gear was through television, radio or print media. It was expensive and it was not highly targeted. 

G.A.S is the constant urge to upgrade to the latest gear. By William Bayreuther

Fast forward to today and companies can focus their marketing on very small and select groups of people. Online behaviour tracking and targeted advertising is one way of achieving that. Using Instagram “influencers” and Youtube personalities is another.

Whenever we watch a Youtube video about photographic gear, there is a good chance that we are being subliminally marketed to, even if the video is not a product review. The reason for this is that once a review has been done and a disclaimer has been added, any further videos do not require that disclaimer. So your favourite Youtube photographer may well be explaining a technique whilst subtly telling the audience that it can be done best with (insert product here). 

photo f db fe
Photo by Rachit Tank

There are reasons why they might do this. Firstly, gear reviews and gear based videos are highly searched and can get a lot of engagement. This in turn will boost the Youtuber’s advertising commissions. Secondly, the more “free” gear a Youtuber can get, the more content he can make. It is in his or her interest to keep the photographic companies onside with subtle references to their products? 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some types of Youtube photographers that may be trying to sell you products. 

The Switchers

Every seen a Youtube video screaming the headline “Why I switched to XXX” or “Why you should move to XXX”? They are all over the place. Apart from the clickbait headlines these are the most blatant types of Youtubers to fuel our G.A.S. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with switching systems. However for professionals and enthusiasts alike, it should be a long term and planned approach, as unless you are very wealthy, this is going to be a decision you have to live with for many years. Yet, two months after switching, the same Youtuber will post another clickbait video explaining why they have returned to product XXX.  If you have followed their first advice, you may well be stuck in a system you do not like. 

These sorts of Youtube photographers follow the money and the freebies with little or no regard for photographers that are looking for real advice. 

Beware the switchers. By Daniel Jerico

The Subtle Persuaders

These guys, as well as being more subtle, are more clever. They will produce excellent tutorials or vlogs explaining how they got a particular shot. Although at first you might not notice it, there is a good chance that they too are advertising to you.

For example, when setting up a shot, they might place the camera on their “Manfrotto Befree” tripod instead of just their “tripod”. They might switch to a Sigma 50mm f1.4 art lens, because its bokeh is so much more creamy. Very often these subtle product references are actually marketing ploys rather than a genuine enthusiasm for a product. 

Subtle persuaders advertise using product placement. By Math

The Visual Persuaders

Even more subtle than the verbal persuasion is visual persuasion. Often, this type of marketing is done by very experienced and creative photographers. During a vlog, they will take you on a shoot, for example a beautiful dawn landscape. As they show you how they set up for the shoot, there will be subtle close ups of the equipment they are using. 

It's very subtle and not unlike product placement in films and television and can have a subliminal effect on your purchasing decisions. It works by equating the beauty of the shot that the photographer has taken with the equipment they used to capture it. 

Visual persuaders are often very good photographers. By Annie Spratt

The Top Tenner

Many of us love a list. Even before the Internet, list books were very popular. Titles such as 101 Places To See, Things To Do were often high in the non-fiction lists. That trend has carried onto the Internet and in particular the Top Ten lists. 

In photography videos top ten list often talk about the “top ten things in my kit bag” or similar. They are sometimes not “sold” as lists but are often still trying to market to you by showing you what you need to achieve a particular shot. Title’s such as “this is what I take on a wedding shoot” may well be trying to subtly market very specific products to you when there are many other alternatives. 

photo by glenn carstens peters
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

Avoiding G.A.S. from Youtube

It’s very easy to get caught up in the Youtube hype, especially from certain channels. Try to avoid channels that are overtly gear based. Look instead for Youtube channels that create more technique and creative based content. Even when watching them avoid the temptation to think that your shots would be better if you used the same gear as them.

Even though Youtube is a great resource, there are other options. One of the best ways to learn is to log off the Internet and read books and magazines. Photographers managed to learn from them for a 100 plus years before the World Wide Web came along, with great success. 

Lastly, if you see an amazing shoot on YouTube and want to replicate it, do so. Only do it with the gear you already own, you may be subtly surprised at what you can achieve. 

Whilst this article is about how G.A.S can be fueled by Youtubers, there is no doubt in my mind that YT is a great place to learn photography. However forewarned is forearmed and knowing that certain Youtube channels may well be attempting to market to you will help you overcome any gear acquisition desires and concentrating on learning the core techniques instead. 

photo by nordwood themes
Photo by NordWood Themes

To learn more about photography channels on Youtube, check out the links below.

Further Reading:

  1. 5 Awesome Photography Related YouTube Channels
  2. These 3 YouTube Channels Will Help You Become A Better Photographer
  3. 20 Must-Subscribe YouTube Channels For Photographers
  4. Top Photography YouTube Channels You Should Start Watching Right Now
  5. 21 Awesome YouTube Channels Photographers Love
  6. 18 YouTube Channels For Photography Tutorials

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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