Shooting on a Budget

What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you can create high quality images without taking out a financially crippling bank loan to buy the highest end equipment or maxing out all credit cards in existence because you wanted the perfect cinema style lens (They are EXPENSIVE!) If you shoot smart you can save a lot of money on equipment and location.

I often say that just because someone owns a Ferrari doesn’t mean that they know how to drive. What that means is that just because someone may own the highest end equipment that fact does NOT make them a good shooter. There is an unfortunate amount of FOMO (fear of missing out) among photographers due to client expectations or competition. The folks that request you to have certain pieces of equipment more often than not cannot tell the difference in what they do. Hopefully you get hired for your eye instead of what your gear is. Don’t get me wrong – quality gear helps but fundamentals are worth more and the basis of a great shooter. A great guitarist can play well on any make and model of gear. The same goes for photographers. If you hone your craft with a decent camera and some decent glass you can build on that to get better, build your portfolio, and gain exposure plus clientele.

Shooting-on-a-BudgetOne great way to keep costs down is to master your surroundings. For examples here is a shot at golden hour in Central Park among an outcropping of leaves.

This was done on behalf of a modeling agency based in St. Louis. What better place to shoot than Central Park? I used my surroundings without costing my client extra to rent a location or mock up props. The lens flare effect was a natural occurrence at that time of day and I think it worked out rather swimmingly. The lens I used on this assignment was actually a rental. You can find some pricey glass available for very excellent rental prices online (I use ATS Rentals) This particular lens has paid for itself time and again with various shoots.

If you look at your potential overhead with your monies available plus the gear you want, you will find that you can find a way to get any desired effect without costing yourself an arm and a leg. A firm grasp of post software doesn’t hurt either. If you don’t want to spend a thousand bucks on a ProFoto strobe (They are awesome. But 1200 bucks buys a lot of tacos) then consider a strobe from Godox for less than $100. Here is a very simple fashion/portrait example shot on a seamless gray background ($30) held up by a generic brand of stand ($25) and my own Godox strobe ($90) Again. My client was happy and I’m rather proud of this image.


Remember you don’t NEED the high end stuff until you NEED it. If you have the budget to mess around then by all means go crazy and experiment with some cool stuff. But, if you’re shooting on your own you’re going to have to balance what you want and what you need as well as what would expand your work in a better way. Entering contests for free gear is a great way to start accumulating cool items. When photo shows come to town, finding contests online, or on social media then by all means throw your name into the hat. As far as finding locations on the cheap you can check out the Breather app and AirBnB works wonders especially if you can talk renters into giving you an hourly rate. I have had some great shoots in amazing spaces that have charged me minimally for usage.

Another two great resources for shooting on a budget are eBay and Craigslist. In my experience many of the guys who have the higher end stuff end up being hobbyists who take pictures of their kids. They get burned out on the gear and decide to sell. Go online right now and check out how many Canon 5D M2 or M3 cameras you can find that belong to hobbyists on either CL or eBay. Buying used gear on the cheap is another great way to hone your skills without hurting your wallet. There are always great finds on CL and many times it’s from folks who don’t know what they have. A photographer friend of mine snagged two Canon Speedlight 580 EXIIs, an EFX 1.4 III lens extender, two batteries, and a 24-70L-series lens for around $1500.00 – I was mind blown. These items were left in the seller’s house by his retired brother who was a hobbyist photographer. They were practically new.

Photography is an art form and camera gear are the tools we use to create our art through a honed craft. Keep that in mind before you open your wallet for an unnecessary piece of gear you may not need.

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This entry was posted by Richard Storm.

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