Shooting On A Shoestring: Top Tips for Photography On A Budget (Part 2)
Here’s a few more of my own personal tips for getting the most out of your photography without having to sell a kidney…
Rediscover Film: There was a time when everyone used film. Yes, I know this is a bit hard for you youngsters to get your head around, but it actually managed to provide the medium for most of the groundbreaking images you’re still reading about. Film cameras are no longer accepted in part exchange at the big camera stores and most don’t even sell the film any more. For some this has been the cue to splash out on a brand new sparkling digital camera. This is great news for the rest of us because it means that its easier and cheaper than ever to pick up film cameras, whether online, in junk shops or at car boot sales. Unlike those new-fangled digital wotsits, film cameras were made of tough stuff and are largely mechanically operated, meaning they need very little operational functionality to continue taking pictures just as they always have. As long as your camera shoots 35mm or 120 roll film, then film stock is still easily available online. The bigger supermarkets will process your 35mm film for a quid or two and then you can scan it (assuming you want to and have the scanner) or make prints in the time-honoured way. Ok, so a 36 exposure roll of film will cost you over £3 whereas a digital memory card will keep on recording for years at no extra cost, but working in film necessitates a different way of working, a different mind-set, even (more of this in a later post).
Old Glass Is Good Glass: On a related topic, when you pick up your free or cheap film SLR, chances are it will come with a lens or two. You might find that this lens fits the manufacturers modern-day equivalent DSLR, albeit with a lack of a few functions. Some photographers are happy to accept the lack of a few automatic functions because they consider the optical quality of some of the older lenses to be superior to their digital equivalent. You’ll need to check out whether your film lens will fit your DSLR but if not, you can always just carry on using it with your film SLR.
Models Without Mayhem: There was a time when unless you had one in the family, you hired models via an agency (expensive) or the local paper (often sight unseen). Thankfully, the internet has changed all that. Websites like Pure Storm and Model Mayhem have created a great way for photographers and models (and Make-Up Artists) to come together without the need for any other agency. These sites are positively brimming with budding models and seasoned professionals, all looking for photographers to work with – and vice versa. So if you’re in need of a model but not able to pay agency rates, these sites have plenty of models listed who might consider TFCD (Time For CD) or TFP (Time For Prints) shoots – on other words, they give their time in exchange for finished images that they can then use for their portfolios. I’ve met some great models this way that I am still working with on a regular basis, but as an unknown, and unproven, photographer, you might find it slightly harder to convince a new model to trust you with their time. Always remember this is a two-way arrangement: you are not getting a model for free, you are getting a model in return for useable images. Fail to provide the images you promise and word travels fast (the sites offer a feedback facility so any lack of professionalism, poor punctuality, and general bad attitude could be on the internet for eternity if you fail to deliver. Improve your chances of finding a model on these sites by setting up a (free) profile that includes some of your best images.
Marque Doesn’t Maketh Man: Your camera manual will tell you to always use accessories by the same manufacturer – lenses, flashes etc. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they? You can get an awful lot more for your pocket money by considering third-party accessories. I’ve previous discussed the fiscal merits of Yong Nuo strobes as compared with the Nikon/Canon etc equivalents, but alternative manufacturers of lenses, filters, remote controls/triggers, batteries, cables etc also represent a real saving but without any loss of quality. Let me give you another example – one of my real pet hates – the Sony hot shoe adaptor. A hot shoe adaptor (for connecting off-camera flash systems to your SLR via the accessory shoe on the top of your camera) will set you back between £15-20 for a Nikon or a Canon and therefore, as these have the same hot-shoe type as Pentax, Olympus etc can be used for these too. Sony, however, have a “unique” hot-shoe design which means these adaptors cannot be used on Sony DSLR’s. Instead, their own Sony adaptor, which functions in exactly the same way, will knock you back well over £100! In fact £140+ last time I checked. Luckily for savvy Sony users, there’s a nice man in Hong Kong who sells an equivalent adaptor via eBay for less than a tenner including delivery. I have one for use when I’m doing studio demos with Sony users and my eBay adaptor works perfectly (or at least as well as the Sony version I should think). In this case, why pay 14 times as much just to have the “authorised” version? Personally I think if they are prepared to rip off their users in this way, they deserve to have everyone using third-party accessories.
Share Alike: Studio hire is fairly cheap nowadays (from only £10 an hour at Fotofilia) but if you’d like to use a studio without paying full price, consider sharing with another photographer or two. This has other benefits apart from the shared hire cost: The more of you there are, the more ideas you will have as a group. Also, when you’re the sole photographer, there are times when you need to change lenses or cards, answer nature’s call, or get a drink, so this is when another photographer could take their turn to shoot. Select your shooting partners carefully however and discuss rough ideas in advance so that no-one feels disappointed or misled.
I’d be interested in hearing about your ideas for saving money on photography too. Please drop me a line or leave a comment.