3 ways not to waste money on photography equipment

Photography equipment can be a serious investment. Sometimes photographers need to spend some serious cash to purchase the equipment they need. Often people can make poor choices or buy equipment that isn't right for their needs and waste their money. Here are 3 ways to avoid wasting money on photography equipment.

1.Don't buy "the best" photography equipment

There is an school of thought that spending more money on photography equipment will buy better photographs, but often the "best" equipment is designed for specific purposes. The extra features you buy are often not needed for general photography.

Looking at top end photography equipment, there should always be  questions in your mind "Do I need these features? Is the amount of benefit I will get, worth the extra investment?" Those extra features are only worthwhile if you use them. In many cases, the photographs people take would show little difference on a low end camera compared to the top of the range gear. 

2. Look at your whole kit.

Another area of potential waste is not looking at your equipment as a kit. If you decided you need a top of the range camera to shoot continuously at 10+ frames per second, you generally need to have lenses that will focus quickly as well. Having a lens that is slow to focus may mean that the camera is waiting for the lens to focus before it shoots, or even worse not waiting for the focus and giving you out of focus photos

Similarly, buying a very expensive lens to get the best sharpness may be a great investment but coupling that lens with a cheap protection filter may loose much of the image quality you invested in. If your whole kit does not work together for the best result, would you have been better of with less expensive equipment?

You also need an outfit of photographic equipment that covers your common photography needs. I have met many photographers who want to buy the best, but they can't afford it all at once. So, they buy part of a top quality outfit, then end up missing opportunities because they don't have the equipment to get the shot. Would they have been better off with a complete cheap kit rather than an expensive part kit?

3. Get good advice

I think the last area where people can waste their money is buying photographic equipment based on bad advice. Going online you can read or watch volumes of information about photographic equipment. Some of it is great information, while some of it is garbage. Often it is advice based on specific needs or personal preference. Buying equipment based on bad advice or choosing what other people may prefer is not necessarily right choice for you. Especially for people starting out, this can make the whole purchasing process very confusing.

So, how do I decide?

It's easier than you think.

If you are starting out, head into a camera store, bricks and mortar, not online, and hold a few cameras. See how it feels in your hands. Do the buttons and dials sit comfortably for you to turn and push? Is it to light? Too heavy? Too big or small? Even though you may not understand what all the buttons and dials are for, you will be using them later. The camera that is most comfortable in your hands will do a better job than one that is uncomfortable. Also, look at the range of accessories that are available. You won't need them all but having a good range to choose from is important.

If you already have a kit, then, DON'T BUY ANYTHING until you have identified a area in your current kit that is limiting you. When you often find a problem, then you look for a solution. If you don't find any problems then you don't need the new equipment.

If you are seeking advice about equipment, your most important weapon is the question "Why?" Anyone offering good advice should be able to present their reasoning for the advice, you can listen to the reasoning and see if it fits your needs. If they can't explain why they are recommending something then their advice probably isn't all that good.The most important thing to realize is there is not overall "best" equipment, what you are looking for is the best equipment for your needs. Sit down and get your head around your needs before you start and you will make far fewer bad choices.

Bonus - The 3 best things to buy to improve your photography.

Simple answer

  • Education
  • Education
  • Education

Whatever equipment you buy, it is completely reliant on you to take the photo. The more you understand about photography, the better your photos will be. Coincidentally, there are lots of great workshops and tours on this site. Why not check them out and improve your photography?


The Photographic Process

The photographic process is how a photograph comes into being. Many consider it to be only the push of a button but really it's much more. It's a process that starts before you push the button and often finishes well after the initial capture.

Usually, the photographic process starts with an idea. Sometimes, the idea is not a carefully considered but more a reaction to what is happening around you. With a little time, the idea comes from finding the subject, composing and lighting the subject appropriately, and then capturing the image. We can consider exposure settings that capture all of the detail and record the subject in a way that suits the aesthetic we are trying to portray. The captured image can be adjusted so it will reinforce the idea and transfer it onto the final display medium.

Each step is important, each step effects the outcome and paying close attention to all of the steps will give you the best result. Relying on one step to fix up a poor choice in another step is not the way to get  ideal image quality.

If you want to improve your photographic process, before you next take a photo, stop and think about what you are about to shoot:-

one sunlit tree emerging from the rainforest canopy
The morning light rising over a hill highlights the leaves of one tree to separate it from the rainforest canopy.

What is your subject?
Why did it attract you?
How do you compose the image to to get that idea across to another person?
Is your shooting position the right place?
Should you move the subject?
Should you move yourself?
What lens crops the photo appropriately?
Are you focused in the right place?
Do you need a particular aperture for the Depth of Field?
Do you need a particular shutter speed to capture the movement?
Is “correct” exposure going to capture the right detail?
Would less or more exposure capture the information better?

Now push the button.

But that is not the end of the photographic process. After the image is taken you come to post production. Adjusting your images is often a necessary step in the photographic process, purely because the camera does not capture things the way we see the world. Although the camera will process the image to something close to our view, there is often a level of fine tuning to bring it into line with our artistic vision. At times, there may also be elements in the photograph which you want to emphasise and others that you want to make less obtrusive. You may also want to remove an object that you could not be moved at the time of shooting.

Processing an image has a huge potential to enhance but also to damage your photograph. If you approach your processing thinking about what needs to be done to bring out your original idea, you are less likely to damage the image. The technique should suit the image, the image should not be made to fit into the technique.

The last step in the photographic process is presentation. Is the final result to be an image on a screen, a fine art print, reproduced on canvas or some other medium? Will it be large or small? Will it stand alone or be part of a larger presentation. Your choice of the final presentation can enhance the overall impact of the image and considering this throughout the photographic process will help create a final result that gives you the best image quality.