Shooting On A Shoestring: Top Tips for Photography On A Budget (Part 1)
Few would disagree that photography can be an expensive hobby. Expensive to get the kit in the first place, expensive to get additional kit, expensive to produce prints, expensive magazines, expensive to shoot (once you start getting a bit adventurous), expensive software to edit your images etc.
Well, I’m proud to be something of a tightwad when it comes to my photography. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, every purchase I make for the business needs to be financially justifiable, and this is fine by me because its much the way I have always approached my photography.
There are two sayings I’ve picked up – and repeated ad nauseum – over the years which sum up my philosophy regarding spending money on photography…
“All the gear, no idea” : I’ve been around photographers and camera clubs enough over the years to notice that there is no direct correlation between the amount spent on equipment and the quality of results produced. Far from it. I’ve met LOTS of photographers who insist on the buying the latest model of this, and the top of the range that, and still have never produced an image worth the expense. Some do though, of course. Similarly, I know other photographers who continually produce original, beautiful, thought-provoking work using the most basic of equipment.
“The most important part of the camera is the 6 inches behind it”: Again, it is the photographer’s “eye” which is important, not the capabilities of the camera. We should sometimes remind ourselves that the greats – Cartier-Bresson, Capa, Julia Margaret Cameron… – had very little in the way of technology to fall back on but still managed to create images which continue to inspire up to a century and a half (in Cameron’s case) later.
So with this in mind, let me give you a few of my own tips for reducing your financial outlay without cutting corners on quality.
Acquiring your camera: Ever heard of a humble little website called eBay? Well, there’s loads of kit on there! It’s cheap (usually) and a great place to get a deal, especially if you’re happy to prepared to get a camera which isn’t the up-to-the-minute just-released model. I’ve bought several cameras on eBay, as have a few other pros I know, and never had a problem with faults etc. It’s a risk of course but you can go a long way to safeguarding against scams by using some simple common sense and reading the small print. Similarly, for many photographers, a tripod is a tripod, and a flash umbrella is a flash umbrella, so why not get a second hand one at a fraction of the cost.
A Camera for free?: Freecycle is a way to get rid of your own un-eBayable kit by giving it to someone who has a use for it. Likewise, you can often pick up FREE cameras, lenses and other kit such as darkroom gear when someone wants to get rid. You’ll need to be quite quick off the mark (sadly, human nature being as it is, there are people out there who use this site to source their own eBay or car boot businesses), and might have to travel a bit to collect. But I repeat – it’s FREE!
Magazine Inspiration: As I’ve written before, there’s only one magazine I subscribe to and that’s Silvershotz. But the first time I bought it, it was as a bundle of back issues direct from the publisher at Focus On Imaging. I NEVER buy any other new magazines – they’re way too pricey for the advertisement-packed rags that they often are. Often you won’t get much change from a fiver. The tips, techniques and tuition that are their staple content are often repeated (after all, there’s only so much material you can keep on churning out on how to use your DSLR) and so unless you have a particular interest in buying a new camera (in which case the reviews and comparisons CAN be useful, as long as you bear in mind their advertising revenue comes from the very people they’re reviewing), there’s no real need to get the magazine the second it’s released. Instead, think about sharing a copy with a friend or two, or better still, look out for bundles of back issues on car boot sales. It doesn’t matter if you miss an issue or two – I can guarantee that the content will appear again in a later issue. On the whole, a comprehensive book on the subject will provide more info per pound, and ultimately take up less of your spare room!
No Thanks For The Memory: Memory cards are getting cheaper and cheaper, and bigger and bigger (in terms of their capacity I mean). I know people who insist on getting several large-capacity cards when all they ever shoot is a few holidays and family get-togethers. You don’t need this extra outlay. One card of 4MB or 8MB is plenty for most people, as long as they upload their images regularly (which they should do anyway) and re-format your card when you put it back in your camera.
Bring Out The GIMP: In almost every class I run, there are people who don’t have photo editing software because they assume they either need to buy an expensive Adobe CS package, or get a dodgy copy from a man in the pub. There is another option. Download GIMP – a comprehensive photo-editing suite based on that produced by our over-priced chums at Adobe. It’s available in Windows or Mac versions and it’s FREE! It mimics pretty much everything that CS does because the geeks who put it together (God bless ‘em) challenge themselves to recreate all the best functions but don’t believe we should be paying through the snout for it. I’m finding that more and more of my students are using GIMP and apart from complaints that its occasionally a bit “clunky”, the feedback is almost universally approving. But if you’re dyed-in- the-wool Adobe, you can always download CS5 or Elements or Lightroom on a one month free trial and if you’re really mean, keep on switching the time and date back on your computer. Don’t laugh – there are people who do this.
More tips to follow in part 2…
Freecycle – http://www.uk.freecycle.org/
Adobe – http://www.adobe.com/downloads/