The Three Main Ways To Find A Great Deal On Photography Gear

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Everyone loves a good deal and everyone loves to save money. Now, more than ever perhaps, photographers especially are in need of ways to cut costs when buying gear and accessories.

We all know photography gear isn’t cheap. So if you’re looking for the latest stuff in brand new condition, you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and pay full price. Or, you could compromise with yourself (I know, that’s never fun) and buy something a little…less new, shall we say…at a more reasonable price.

Here are three sources you can look to when you want to acquire new-to-you photography gear and save a few dollars.

1. Thrift Stores/Charity Shops

It used to be that going thrifting was an activity for people who have very specific tastes in fashion. Or, at least that’s what much of the camera buying world assumed. The fact is, people who are into film photography have always known the value thrift shops.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a large handful of 35mm film cameras and lenses, probably totaling no more than $75. Yes, they all work.

More recently, people have become increasingly aware of the potential deals to be had in thrift stores and thrift stores, in turn, have upped their prices a bit. Thanks, YouTube.

If you decide to shop at a thrift/charity store, keep in mind that the people who work there aren’t camera experts. Odds are they know little to nothing about a film camera from 1981 that some random person brought in. It’s not their job to know. So you might have to pull out your phone and get Google to help you on the spot.

Perhaps the best part about going thrifting for old cameras is that it’s pretty easy to haggle with the seller and walk out with an even sweeter deal.

Obviously, this isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for recent digital photography gear. But if you’re on the hunt for a 6-megapixel Kodak Easyshare DX7630, you might have some luck.

gray and blue Open signage
Photo by Mike Petrucci

2. The Online Marketplace

You know all the big names — KEH, UsedPhotoPro, MPB. These are websites that deal specifically in secondhand photography equipment, everything from high end lenses and camera bodies to filters and memory cards. Sites such as these thoroughly test the items they sell and offer pretty liberal return policies. You can feel safe shopping at these places.

Then there’s eBay. I’m sure a good number of you reading this have been burned at least once by eBay. There are certainly great deals to be found there, but purchasing doesn’t come without risk. Of course, there are ostensible safeguards in place, but they aren’t bulletproof. And sometimes returning an item ends up being enough of a problem that you’ll never risk buying from eBay again.

Photography forums typically allow its members to sell items. While you’re still left to rely on pictures and written descriptions as you do on eBay, I think photography forums tend to engender considerably more confidence in prospective buyers due to the fact that fellow photography enthusiasts are selling items they care about.

silver MacBook Pro on white table
Photo by Christopher Gower

3. In Person

Have you ever checked your local personal ad source for photography gear? You never know what someone near you might be selling. Much like buying from a thrift shop, you may be able to talk the seller down in price. You also get the advantage of being able to inspect and test the item for yourself.

Safety, of course, is paramount and you should only agree to meet with someone in place where you’re comfortable. Furthermore, depending on where you live in the world, there might be health related precautions that you will need to take. Or just wait until it’s safe to socialize with other humans again.

Until that day, the first two options on this list will suffice.

two people shaking hands
Photo by Cytonn Photography

Final Thoughts

Obtaining photography gear of any kind at a significant discount is possible. Yes, you’ll have to make certain concessions and some of you may even be comfortable ignoring the “buyer beware” mantra, but hey, a deal is a deal, right?

Well, there’s no reason to be reckless with your money. Do your research on both the item you intended to purchase and the source from which you intended to purchase it so as to minimize your monetary risk.

Happy shopping and happy shooting!

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Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

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