9 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Photography

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Photography is an expensive hobby. There’s simply no way to get around that. You can easily drop $1000 on a decent DSLR body and then you still have to go out and buy lenses, tripods, a flash and something to carry it all in. Personally, I prefer to save up for the best equipment I can have, even if it means I have less equipment than other people. On the other hand, if your a technology hound and need every piece of equipment now, you might like to consider a few money saving ideas.

Pictures for money

Pictures for money by Banalities.

The Carry Bag – I have a LowePro backpack and I have a generic backpack. When I travel I use the generic one because the LowePro screams “rob me.” The funny thing is, my $14 generic backpack from some sleazy shop in Bangkok has served my camera gear well over several years. Now, I feel much cooler with my Lowepro among my photographer buddies, but in reality I don’t really need it.
Camera Body – Ok, it’s nice to have the latest Nikon D1, but do you really need it? The old adage is that it is better to spend your money on better glass than a better body.
Lenses – the “faster” a lens, generally the more expensive it is. Now, for this particular tip, you are almost certainly going to be sacrificing quality. A lens that goes to f/1.2 is generally better than a lens that only goes to f/3.5 as it’s simply more versatile, especially if you want to close the lens up. However, a fast Canon or Nikon lens is also going to cost often twice as much as a slightly slower Tamron alternative. Unless you have a specific  need for the faster lens, you might be able to get away with the slower and cheaper alternative.
Post Production – Photoshop is the industry standard for post production of digital images. It also costs a hell of a lot of money. On the other hand, The GIMP is free and does almost everything that Photoshop can. In fact many professionals prefer it.
Go Digital – This one kind of goes without saying, but a lot of people forget to factor in the cost of developing film when deciding whether to go digital or stick with film cameras. With digital SLRs being of such awesome quality these days there is little need for anyone but the most devoted specialist or professional to stick with a film camera. If you’re below professional level, then digital is certainly a much cheaper way to learn about photography than film.
Education – I learned more lugging around equipment as an assistant to a professional photographer than I ever did from any book or course. I even met a few famous folks! The great thing was that, after doing it for free for a few weeks, they even started to pay me! Get outside of your comfort zone and go and find a professional who needs their gear carried (you can do this on your weekends). You will learn more from that pro than you can imagine and it is way cheaper than taking some photography course.
Choosing Your Brand – Ok, so Leica, Canon and Nikon are the clear industry leaders but they are also top of the pile when it comes to price. Some incredibly good cameras and lenses are produced by other companies like Sony, Pentax, Olympus and Panasonic. These other brands don’t have the name and so often you can get a bargain for gear that is actually very good quality.
Used Gear – Why not consider getting some used camera gear? This is a great way to save cash and if you follow a few common sense guidelines you can also get top quality equipment. Check out our guide to buying a used camera lens as well as our post on choosing a tripod which can get you started with what you need to know about second hand gear. I have also noticed some incredible bargains on Ebay for brand new gear (but remember to check if you still get the warranty when buying internationally).
Get a Good Printer – If you print your photos at home, then you are going to be going through a lot of ink. Your long term costs will be hugely deflected if you invest in a purpose built printer that is designed to print only photos. Using a standard printer that is designed to print anything will use a lot more ink and the quality will not be as good for your shots!
The sad fact is that photography can be a hugely expensive hobby. Planning out your kit and knowing how you can minimize any costs associated with this great past time will ensure that you don’t go broke and that you have access to more equipment for a longer time!

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography pushed him into building this fantastic place, and you can get to know him better here

Another alternative to Photosho is Corel’s Paint Shop Pro. Originally created by Jasc Software as a low cost alternative to Photoshop, Corel has dropped the support for Adobe plug-ins but has revamped the core product to be feature-competitive and focused toward digital photography.

I’ve used PSP for several years, and I’ve always felt it was a more polished product than GIMP, yet the cost is still within the budget of the cost-consious photographer.

@Randy – That’s an awesome tip. To be honest, I haven’t even tried PSP! Thanks for letting us know about that one!

Photography is my biggest frustration. I really want to be a photographer. I admire those who capture very awesome pictures. Can you give me some tip on how to start in the world of photography and some ideas on how to capture great subject.

Lowie – If you really want to learn photography, I’d suggest volunteering to help out a pro. Next best is to take a course with a pro. After that there are also plenty of great books aimed at beginners!

@Lowie – I was checking out the Nikon D60 the other day. It would certainly get a beginner started without breaking the bank. It has more limited settings than its more expensive cousins, but certainly has what you need to get to know how to use a DSLR – plus some of the pics people take on them are simply awesome!

Excellent article!

I’ve picked up photography as a hobby because I’m very inspired by the work I see on the internet (I spend a lot of time browsing Flickr, too, which explains part of it). However, many costs (Photoshop or Lightroom, a DSLR) are rather prohibitive for me right now.

I did get Photoshop Elements, though, which is fairly decent for most photo-editing, especially if you’re an amateur and not fully prepared to invest in a ton of software and equipment. There’s some functionality that you lose with PSE compared to Photoshop CS-something, but there’s a nifty set of actions called ‘Grant’s Tools’ that give you some helpful tools like Curves to process photos.

And hey, great photography doesn’t mean you need an expensive camera. You can’t really buy anything that teaches you good composition. 😉

That’s exactly right Kyan! Most people try to compensate for lack of ability by buying more expensive gear and it simply doesn’t work!

Thanks for the ideas on Elements!

I would love to switch not just to GIMP, but to Ubuntu altogether. What is stopping me however is the batch processing in GIMP, I just don’t like the scripting bit. I’m sure it will be far more powerful than PS in recording mode, but I find it to much of a hassle.

Great write-up, cheers!

This article is excellent with some very good sound advice. However, I would like to just make two points:
1. If you just have to get PhotoShop then get PhotoShop Elements – it costs 1/10th the proce of the full version & will give you all that you will ever use in the full version.
2. DO NOT buy a second hand camera body unless you definately know that it has been used very little. A highly used second camera is very likely to give you expensive problems in the end. Second hand glass is OK providing it is in good condition.

I have both a hiking rucksac (Berghaus Freelow 35+8) and a Lowpro Primus Camera Rucksack and although my hiking one has given me many miles of hassle free photography (and is a great bag anyway), the Lowe Pro one is just easier. With the custom made camera compartments and tripod holder it makes changing lens much easier.

SO – Whilst I agree a bag that screams – ROB ME! – is not the best choice, there are other more discreet ones, like the range from Kata etc.

Hi , thanks for the posting. Nice. There are many ways to get rid of hair issues, but first know that bad hair is usually the result of unclean hair and scalp, it is also due to the use of excessive hair product, which usually grab on to your hair making it heavy and dry. Chemical hair products also clog hair pores killing the health of your hair

Thanks for posting useful tips for better photography.

There is another alternative for photoshop which is light room.Easier than GIMP!!

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