Every photographer started from scratch before becoming a viral sensation, a renowned fashion photographer, or a well-respected photojournalist. Whatever your long-term career goals are in photography, you best believe that you won’t be getting there without a handful of obstacles along the way. One obstacle you are sure to face in the early days of your career is having a limited budget for your photography needs. Don’t fret or be discouraged, as there are ways for you to keep your spending at a minimum while still being able to excel in photography.
Cost-Saving Tips for Frugal Photographers
Many beginner photographers are under the impression that the more you spend on gear, the better your photos will be. We’re here to tell you that this is not the case at all. Here are some tips you can follow to reach your potential as a photographer without breaking the bank:
Don’t get GAS.
As much as having high-quality gear can yield better results, they are not everything. GAS is short for Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and it is what photographers used to describe someone who tends to buy excessive amounts of photography gear that are more than what they can realistically use. Other than wasting money from buying seemingly useful equipment, people who buy lots of gear can cause them to lose sight of what it actually means to be a photographer – to take photos.
Studies show that this syndrome is a mechanism through which we alter our brain’s reward and stress systems to relieve some of our anxiety. Another effect that gear acquisition syndrome has is giving a novice photographer the false sense of security that their skill will improve if they have the best gear around to use. These scenarios do the exact opposite and hinder your growth as a photographer.
One possible solution or compromise to fight GAS is to opt for camera and gear rentals instead. In this way, you can experience the features of the best equipment around without spending a fortune on it as well as know whether you like that particular gear or not without buying it right away. There are also eye-catching rental deals for students and educators out there who are looking for alternative ways of using the best equipment while on a budget. Once you are satisfied with the camera equipment that you rented, you can start investing in one for your own since you already know how it works and that it’s worth your money.
Make the Most Out of What You Have
Novice photographers and enthusiasts ask the same question as they begin their photography journey: “Which camera is the best one to get?” The answer that a lot of veteran photographers will give you might surprise you: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” You won’t be able to make the most out of a $5,000 professional camera if you don’t know what to do with it. If you are on a budget, focus instead on mastering the camera that you already have.
Most cameras nowadays are capable of capturing great images. You don’t always have to get a DSLR since all you need is 8 megapixels for a high-quality 8×10 photo print. If you have the money for it, sure, get the camera you can afford, but avoid thinking that entry-level cameras are not capable of capturing and producing quality photos.
Make Value-driven Purchases
When doing photography on a budget, one thing you have to keep in mind is that all your purchases should have an immediate benefit to your goal as a creative. Treat every purchase as an investment that will help in your growth as an artist in the long-run. Factor in things like quality, price, and suitability. For example, if you’re leaning towards landscape photography, it would be better to invest in a decent wide-angle lens instead of a portrait lens that you might end up using less as you progress your style.
Consider Using Second-hand Gear
Purchasing second-hand cameras and equipment is an excellent choice when you are on a budget. Contrary to what you and most people may think, not all used cameras are worn down and perform significantly less than its original capabilities. If you do decide to get yourself used camera gear, it is best to bring along a more experienced photographer or someone who you can ask for a second opinion. Inspect the hardware tediously, from hairline scratches to dead pixels and motor malfunctions, to ensure that you get your money’s worth.
Ask your Friends & Family for Help
If you want to practice taking portraits, and can’t afford to take professional classes yet, the best thing a novice can do is to call up some friends or family and use them as models for practicing. This way you can focus less on creating great images and more on learning the fundamentals of how to work a portrait shoot (like light, composition, poses, interaction, etc.)
You Can Always Make Your Own Accessories
Many amazing effects can be done with the help of a few DIY photography projects! You can make things like DIY light modifiers, create neat image distortion effects with prisms, or use a regular white towel as your portrait background. Making these things makes photography more fun while saving a lot of money that you can use for your other photography or camera needs.
Go Out There and Shoot!
A lot of photographers tend to spend more on gear than actually spending time to shoot and hone their craft. As their current gear collects dust on the shelf, they set their sights on the newest branded camera or lurk in camera forums to find out about the hottest new telephoto lens in the market. They buy said equipment and enjoy it for a couple of months, and then set their sights on the next new thing. At the end of the day, it’s not the camera and gear that matters; it’s what you do with it that counts.
Yes, expensive gear can produce fantastic image quality, but if you don’t have the money for it yet, you can always focus on the other aspects of photography like composition, lighting, symmetry, and other factors that no machine can teach. New gear doesn’t make you a good photographer; practice does.
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