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 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!