Photography is not a cheap hobby. It probably starts out as an inexpensive past-time for most of us, maybe with a low-end compact camera or using Dad’s SLR and a couple of prints here and there – I know it did for me – but as our experience and our enthusiasm grows, so do our kit bags.
Add together the cost of an entry-level dSLR, a couple of lenses, a tripod, and a few other bits and pieces to make your life more interesting and you’ve already spent the best part of £1,000. Before long we realise that we’re having to take out insurance policies specifically covering our photographic equipment.
So if finances are a bit strained, or if you’re trying to save to go on the photographic trip of your dreams, what can you do? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Small Aperture’s guide to skinflint’s photography.
From eBay to the local paper to car-boot sales to word-of-mouth there are thousands of pieces of perfectly useable photographic equipment for sale at a fraction of the price they would be brand new. Granted, they come without warranties and guarantees, but shop carefully and there are bargains to be had.
Don’t feel compelled to buy the latest model
At the moment you can pick up a Canon 450D for about £550 / $600 (Amazon UK / Amazon USA) whilst a 550D is roughly £750 / $1,000. If you’re just stepping up from a compact to an SLR the difference in specification is probably not worth £200. The same goes for lots of kit; so weigh up if the extra expense gives you suitable value-added.
Without even thinking too hard I can name two of my friends who also use Canon cameras. Did one of them lend me his wide-angle lens when I went away last weekend? Of course he did. Would I loan someone my 50mm prime lens if asked? Almost certainly.
It costs nothing to ask, just make sure you care for someone else’s kit better than you’d care for your own granny. (That is assuming that you like your granny. Otherwise pick your favourite person in the world.)
Okay, so you use a Nikon and your best friend uses Pentax. You can’t borrow her macro lens for your weekend at the Eden Project, but you can always rent one.
Renting the same piece of kit over and over again will be expensive and you might as well just buy it in the long-term, but every now and again, or if you want to try before you buy, it could be worth it.
Make your own
Need a soft focus lens? Improvise with clingfilm. Don’t have a diffuser? A piece of muslin over your flash will do the job. Left your tripod on a train? Try using a piece of string. Want an interesting portrait background? Look around you: there’s sure to be something intriguing.
There is a bundle to be saved with a little ingenuity and creativity.
Try using old kit
Plenty of camera manufacturers haven’t altered their lens mounts in years. That means that many lenses from manual cameras will still fit on their digital grandchildren. Even if they don’t fit, picking up an adaptor is relatively cheap. Think of all that beautiful glass you could be using!
Use rechargeable batteries
I keep a compact camera in my handbag: it has rechargeable AA batteries in it. Got a flashgun? That’ll take AAs, too. Might as well make those rechargeable.
Use free software
If you haven’t got £230 to spend on Adobe Lightroom, there are free photo editing packages available, for example GIMP, Photoscape, and Picnik. They might not be quite as responsive as something you pay for, but they will do the job.
Shop around for printing
I’m as guilty as the next person of always using the same company to run off prints of my photos. If I were to shop around, looking online and on the high street, I might be able to save myself some pennies on printing.
I do try to save up and print in bulk, though, which is far more economical than ten photos here and there.
The day that I realised I was frustrated with my compact camera and wanted the versatility of an SLR, I knew that I was in for the long haul, but at least I know that it doesn’t always have to cost me a king’s ransom!