Buying photography gear is no easy task for a new photographer. I know when I started my photography business, I seriously felt like I needed everything and anything related to photography.
If I was going to do this professionally, this is what I thought…
I needed as many lenses as possible. I needed speedlites as well studio strobes. I needed umbrellas, softboxes and a beauty dish. I needed to purchase various types of software editing programs because with more choices, my final product would surely be better. I needed more photoshop actions and textures.
There were so many things I thought I needed. The truth was that I was wasting money, and drowning myself in things that I really did not need…
It is easy to get caught up in all of the things you think you need for your photography business, versus concentrating your efforts on core pieces of equipment first, and then expanding outward… You see, I had so many new things to learn, it was just too much. Rather than becoming comfortable with one or two lens choices, I was faced with 6 lens choices. That meant I wasn’t really getting to know any of my lenses as well as I wanted to…there were just too many choices!
Here are some tips for budget conscious photographers who are working on establishing their photography businesses in a responsible manner…
1. Rent lenses before you buy them
When buying new photography gear and equipment just remember that sometimes — especially when you are just starting out — less is actually more.
Not sure which lens you are going to love? Rent a few and try them out. Find the one you love, the one you keep going back to, and buy that one… And don’t think you need every focal length out there — for example 35mm and 50mm are quite similar. Figure out which one you love, and go with that one…
I have personally rented equipment from the following sources and both have been great:
2. Pick a lighting choice and stick with it
Whether you are shooting portraits or weddings, being able to utilize both on-camera flash and off-camera flash will be imperative. You can choose to go with speedlites or speedlights (depending on if you are Nikon or Canon shooter) which are more compact and portable or larger studio strobes, such as the Alien Bees. And of course there are some other choices out there as well…
Lighting is one of the things newer photographers struggle with. You should research what methods of lighting are best for your application (wedding vs. portrait). Go online and into forums and message boards and read real-life stories from photographers who are using the equipment. Rent various types of lighting equipment and put it to use so you can get a feel for it. But whatever you ultimately decide to buy, stick with it until you master it. Once you have mastered it, then feel free to make changes.
Newer photographers are often frustrated by learning lighting techniques. For example, a photographer may buy a set of speedlites — get frustrated — and then think they would actually be better off with studio strobes. So, they sell the speedlites on ebay and buy the studio strobes. When the story is all said and done, lots of money has been spent on various types of lighting gear…thinking things would be easier with one choice versus another and the truth is, the key is to learn how to use the gear you have.
Look at Zack Arias. That guy didn’t have a ton of money for lighting gear when he first started out. He had what he had and he made it work. So instead of continually spending money on what you think is going to better…just learn how to use what you have in front of you first!
3. The newest set of actions or presets will not make you a better photographer
This is the toughest one. We all have the urge to get the newest set of actions of presets from celebrity photographers or new companies. It’s hard to just say no to all this stuff continually being “sold” to us. It’s new, it looks cool, we want it. This is especially true when you are just starting out and building your photography business. I was there, I know, and I purchased way too many actions, presets and textures when I first started my business.
Learn how to take solid shots, i.e. properly exposed. Buy a set of actions and stick with them. I edit in Lightroom and Photoshop, with the majority of my wedding images being edited in Lightroom. The really killer images, mostly portraits, get a more detailed edit in Photoshop.
Through the many purchases I have made over the years, Totally Rad Actions have consistently been the best. I have played around with countless other actions, presets, and plugins, but I always come back to Totally Rad Actions. They even have an awesome plug-in called RadLab that makes visual editing happen so easily within Photoshop, a Skin Retouching plugin that just works super great and Lightroom Presets!
You will not be disappointed with any product you buy from them and you will be able to achieve almost any editing “look” you are going for, along with the usual adjustments. If you are disappointed…I am sure they will give you a refund. They seem cool like that.
4. The MUST Have Item
There are a few must have items for your arsenal of photography gear and I plan on covering some of them in the upcoming months. BUT I would have to say that one of the most used and under talked about piece of equipment I have in my bag is the Manfrotto Justin Clamp. There are a few of them, the one I am talking about and use is part 175 F.
I think this clamp is so important to have in your gear bag, that I even did a video about it and how I use it:
5. Being in business means you want to make money, right?
It is so easy to lose sight of how to create and maintain a profitable business when the word photography is involved. That’s because, as a photographer, you have a certain amount of gear lust. The newest camera comes out and you MUST have it….the newest flash comes out and you MUST have it. I have been there and I know how hard it is to commit to only spending a certain amount of money on new gear each year.
This is why my last tip involves trying to remind yourself why you are in business. I am going to assume it’s to make money, and the IRS is going to assume it’s to make money as well. People are in business because they have the intention to profit from their activities. [If that’s not the case, you really just have a hobby]. So, the less you spend on buying photography gear, the more profits you have to take your family to Aruba or Disney World this summer.
It is understandable that start-up costs will be higher when buying photography gear for your new business. But once you have honed in on your key lenses and type of lighting, hold back on impulse purchases. Remind yourself that the more you spend on fancy, new, shiny equipment, the less profits you will have…
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