How to Budget Photography Equipment

Strategizing photoraphy equipment purchases is vital for every professional at any stage of your career. Not only do photographers need to anticipate career growth, but also the inevitable need to replace outdated or worn out equipment. Objectively weighing needs against wants will simplify your creating a sensible budget.

Needs and Wants

A camera body and a few lenses naturally fall into the need category, but even those choices represent decisions between desires and requirements. Is a flagship digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) necessary, or is it possible to live without some of the bells and whistles in the beginning? DSLR technology is constantly evolving, which may make a leading edge camera more practical and fiscally sound than a bleeding edge body.

Lenses, by contrast, tend to enjoy a longer life in a photographer's gear bag. And, as a lens often has more impact over image quality than a cutting edge body, an initial investment in one or two quality lenses is a sound one and can justifiably be moved into the need category. Lens buying is seductive, and every photographer has fallen into the trap of rationalizing an emotional purchase, but those rationalizations can be financially fatal to photography business. Limit the initial lens purchases to those that are essential for the business.

A tripod is not essential for every type of photography. When a tripod is necessary, however, it is vital to invest in a rugged, sturdy one.

A photographer's gear bag also falls into the essential category. It transports and protects the entire investment. Skimping on a gear bag or case can have heartbreaking repercussions.

Most photographers require a flash at some point in their career, but in the beginning, learning to work with available light can save money while honing skills. And, while studio lighting will eventually become necessary for most portrait photographers; professional results can be achieved with a window and a reflector.

Bargain Now, Pay Later

Even stripping an inventory list down to the essentials can create a financially daunting shopping list for photographer on a tight budget. Faced with limitless needs and limited funds, it may be tempting to shop for bargain-priced equipment. However, most 'bargains' carry hidden costs in the form of flimsy or unreliable gear.

Renting equipment on an as-needed basis may be one way for a fledgling studio to mitigate costs while saving for premium gear. Buying used equipment can also significantly stretch a photographer's budget. Thoroughly research prices of used gear before any shopping venture. While there are many places to buy online, the prices are not always competitive with local offline sellers. Minimize risk by purchasing from sellers who accept returns.

Anticipating Turnover

Finally, technology and standards evolve, and equipment deteriorates. Carrying insurance will safeguard a budget from theft and accidents but not from inevitable wear-and-tear and upgrades. Reserving a small percentage of every profit for gradual, planned upgrades is much easier than waiting for a body to fail and facing a major unexpected purchase.

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