You’ve saved just enough money to buy that lens you have always dreamed of, but should it be your next purchase? Before you buy photography gear, refer to these 10 tips to help you decipher which investment to make next to further your photography career.
Before You Buy Photography Gear | 10 Tips
- Go with Lenses Before Bodies
- Choose the Right Camera Body
- Upgrade when the Time Is Right
- Avoid Certain 3rd-Party Accessories
- Know Which 3rd-Party Items to Buy
- Define Want vs. Need
- Research when Shopping Online
- Watch Out for Grey Market Goods
- Be Careful with Private Transactions
- Beware of G.A.S.: Gear Acquisition Syndrome
1. Go with Lenses Before Bodies
As far as aesthetic and overall artistic performance, you’re going to see bigger differences in the lenses that you purchase versus the camera bodies. Sure, a camera body may let you have a higher resolution, better low light performance and dynamic range, but the aesthetic quality of your images is determined largely by the lenses. In addition, camera bodies come out every couple of years, but lenses see updates ranging between 10 to 20 years. A lens is more of a long-term investment and you’re going to see a bigger overall difference in your photographs when you invest in lenses before bodies.
2. Choose the Right Camera Body Before You Buy Photography Gear
Pick the camera body that’s right for you. Know your purpose and know what you like to shoot, and select your body with that in mind. If it’s about ultimate portability, then a point-and-shoot might serve you well. Or, if you plan to use the camera in a professional capacity, you can find portable (yet pricier) DSLR or mirrorless systems. For professional purposes, a camera body with two card slots for redundant backup is a must. Essentially, determine what fits your needs and do diligent research of the capabilities of the camera before you buy photography gear, and then make your purchase.
3. Upgrade when the Time is Right
You need to make sure that you’re upgrading for the right reasons, and just because a new camera comes out, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need the upgrade. Is the current camera body that you have holding you back in your process, in what you need and want to do? If that is the case, then it’s definitely time to upgrade your camera. I would say that 99% of the people that own a DSLR or mirrorless camera body probably already have a piece of camera gear that is beyond their own abilities and that they’re not getting the most out of it.
If you’ve researched your gear and are ready to buy a camera, check out this article for the best places to buy cameras in the US, UK, and Austrailia. You could also try to rent before you buy photography gear, because if you rent it at least three times, and it stays in the bag, then you probably shouldn’t buy it.
4. Avoid Certain 3rd-Party Accessories
There are certain 3rd-party accessories that we really don’t like using. We typically don’t like using anything that’s non-branded, whether it’s branded to the camera manufacturer or just a name brand component. For example, the camera’s internal battery and memory cards should definitely be from a proper name-brand in order to reduce risk of dying cameras and corrupt memory cards.
[Rewind: 5 Quick Tips on Memory Cards]
5. Know Which 3rd-Party Items Are Best when You Buy Photography Gear
[Related Reading: Photography Lighting Equipment – The Best Light for Your Budget]
What are some third party accessories that are worth buying? Lenses and flashes, triggers, flash modifiers, stands, or even lights make the list. Basically, you should be okay with anything that’s not an internal component of the camera.
6. Define Want vs. Need Before You Buy Photography Gear
If it’s not holding you back, it’s probably not a necessity. Most of the time a client won’t be able to tell the difference between photos taken with an aperture of f/1.4 vs. f/1.8, so decide for yourself whether or not it will be worth the upgrade for the work you create. The main thing to consider is if it’s going to make a difference in your overall quality and the overall product that you are delivering. If so, then maybe it is something that you need.
7. Research Before You Buy Photography Gear Online
We’ve made Adorama & B&H our go-to sources for new gear. They represent two of the largest online dealers for camera gear and accessories, and each has established a trustworthy reputation. When it comes to pricing, everything is pretty much the same across the board because manufacturers hold all of the retailers to the same prices. Amazon can be a great resource as well, but do your homework when shopping around on Amazon for buying photography gear. Be sure to read gear AND seller reviews and carefully research price points. You can find multiple listings for the same gear at different prices.
8. Watch Out for Grey Market Goods
Some sites, and even brick and mortar shops, end up selling grey market goods that are basically imported, packaged, and sold by parties other than the manufacturer. The warranties for grey market goods are usually non-existent, registered repair shops may not work on the gear when necessary, and the gear is sometimes outright counterfeit. However, there are reputable places for buying photography gear, like we mentioned above, and it is worth your time to do the research to find a trustworthy shop near you, especially if you are looking for used equipment or even film cameras. Read the seller’s reviews and check their status as an authorized seller to get a better idea of whether or not the gear they sell is legitimate. Just keep in mind that camera gear and accessories have a certain market value, and when you see the price far below that market value, it’s most likely too good to be true.
9. Be Careful with Private Transactions
And here we are with yet another warning. If you are shopping on Craigslist–or any used marketplace really– proceed with caution. What looks like a brand new lens could very well be a tarnished, used-lens, disguised by a low & attractive price. If you’re meeting in person, do it in a safe public space, and it is probably a good idea to take a friend. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, buy from reputable dealers and always test the product out to avoid finding issues later on. Saving a couple extra bucks on gear shouldn’t end up costing you in repairs or worse.
10. Beware of G.A.S: Gear Acquisition Syndrome
G.A.S: the mentality that photographers develop over time in which they think about acquiring new gear for no useful purpose other than having the latest & greatest releases. Most of us have more gear than we could possibly use, and many of us haven’t maxed out our ability to use that gear to its full potential. Remember, the picture has more to do with the photographer and his/her skills than the gear.
I hope you found this collection of tips to consider before you buy photography gear helpful. While gear has the potential to play a significant role in allowing us to create incredible imagery, the quality of our work really depends more on our knowledge and experience as photographers. If you’re interested in diving deeper into your education and mastering the fundamentals of photography, I’d like to invite you to check out our Photography Fundamentals Training System, our A-Z guide to photography and lighting basics. You can stream these courses along with all of our other post-production, lighting, and educational workshops as a Premium member.
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