During these difficult economic times, you can still enjoy doing what you love, here are some essential tips on how to save money on your photography hobby
We all know that photography can be costly, and it can often feel like enjoying and advancing your photography isn’t possible without spending significant amounts of money, but that’s not the case. As much as purse strings continue to be tigtened, it’s still possible to continue to enjoy your hobby to the fullest, all while being budget conscious.
I’ve always considered myself a somewhat thrifty photographer (more so than ever right now) and learned from experience that there are many simple changes you can make to economise your photography practice to make it work for you financially.
These are some of my favourite tried-and-tested tips for saving money and can be applied to all types of photography, no matter what kind of budget you’ve got to work with.
"...it can feel like enjoying and advancing your photography isn’t possible without spending significant amounts of money, but that’s not the case."
1 Buy used and refurbished kit
Buying used camera gear can save you a considerable amount of money on your kit, and there are some excellent, trustworthy marketplaces where you can buy (and sell your own) used gear. All of these are vetted and tested, so you know they will be reliable. I would highly recommend MPB in particular for the variety of kit available, good customer service, and reasonable prices.
You can get great deals from camera manufacturers if they offer refurbished items of their products. I bought a refurbished X-T30 directly from Fujifilm at a fraction of the cost of a new model. I haven’t noticed any difference in the quality of the product.
Another reason to buy used:
Not only is buying used and refurbished good for your pocket, but it’s also great for the environment. See our guide to can more about how to reduce your carbon footprint as a photographer.
2 Invest in the essentials & prolong their life with good care
Sometimes it’s unavoidable that you need to spend a bit of money to get the best results for your photos, but investing in the right equipment and, significantly, looking after it can help you save considerably in the long run.
Investing in a good quality camera body, lens, tripod and filters from reputable companies will last much longer than cheaper, poorly-made items. I’ve learned this from personal experience; it might be tempting to buy the most inexpensive filters you see on eBay, but they won't last - and you’ll find yourself replacing items mud sooner than you’d expect.
It’s also essential to look after your equipment, keep them in the best condition possible, and they’ll serve you for a very long time, and in some cases (like good quality tripods and filters) potentially forever. Neglect your equipment, and it’ll shorten its lifespan significantly. Again, I’ve learned this the hard way.
"Neglect your equipment, and it’ll shorten its lifespan significantly. Again, I’ve learned this the hard way."
Here are some of my favourite tips on how to best look after your equipment:
- Buy a pack of microfibre cloths and regularly wipe down your lens optics, viewfinders and LCD screens
- Store your equipment in a dark, cool, dry place
- Use silica gel packs to keep your equipment moisture-free. Add these to your bag when moving around with equipment too
- Make sure you attach your lens cap to your camera body. It seems like a small detail, but I’ve had several scratches due to the lens cap falling off without noticing.
- Buy a good camera bag; this can make a massive difference. Camera bags have been designed to store your equipment correctly, so it doesn’t get damaged when you’re out in the field. In the past, I’ve found that carrying my equipment in a regular backpack (knocking about with everything else in there) caused damage to my kit.
3 Hire or borrow equipment you only need to use occasionally
If you need to use specific equipment from time to time, whether that’s for a particular job or you need a specific piece of equipment for a shoot, it’s much cheaper to hire it rather than buy it outright. Hiring camera equipment is generally pretty reasonable so long as you plan.
You could also ask a fellow photographer if they would be willing to lend you their equipment if they had something you need. Photographers are more often than not very happy to help out. Still, if you feel uncomfortable asking to borrow equipment outright, you could offer something else, like the offer to lend out your equipment at a time they may need it.
4 Consolidate your photography trips
When reviewing my photography spending, I was surprised at how much I spent on petrol to travel to locations for photoshoots. Adding it up over the many months, it totalled hundreds and hundreds of pounds.
It prompted me to start looking at how I could consolidate trips to photo locations to save money on travel. And the key to it is planning, looking at a map and seeing where realistically you can visit in one trip with several stops. Of course, if you’re visiting a location to shoot the golden hour or blue hours specifically, this can be a bit trickier as the time window is so short, but with this, you can consider where you’d be happy shooting at other times of the day and work around it.
And if you start planning your time well, you could also fit location visits on trips where photography isn’t the primary purpose. If you’re travelling somewhere and you know there’s a good photo spot along the way - plan to make a stop.
"If you’re travelling somewhere and you know there’s a good photo spot along the way - plan to make a stop."
Another way to save money is to travel in groups and split the travel and accommodation costs between you. Plus, visiting locations with fellow photographers is a great idea; you’ll have good company on your shoot and others to bounce ideas off.
5 Invest in a drop-in filter system
If, like me, you’re particularly interested in landscape and outdoor photography, you’ll know filters play a significant role in helping you get the best shots. But these come at a price - especially if you’re using multiple lenses requiring filters at a particular thread size. Suppose you’re using mainly circular lens filters that screw onto the lens, you’ll soon find the costs of having so many different filters and ‘doubling up on equipment (i.e. having the same filter at different thread sizes to accommodate different lenses) becomes significant.
Investing in a drop-in filter system will save you considerable money in the long run. You can purchase a single mount which goes on the lens, and then individual filters that 'drop-in'. With this system you can simply use adapter rings to fit different lenses - it will save you both from having lots of different filters and also save you lots of cash. You can read more about mounted filter systems with our guide to camera lens filters. Just make sure you look after them (another learned lesson)!
I use NiSi filters for my photography, and I haven’t discovered better quality filters. They are also an excellent price.
Bonus: Take breaks from shooting altogether
I’ve learned that there are many benefits to taking a break from actively shooting; one of those is that it can save you a lot of money!
Over the years, I found that sometimes I’d be forcing myself to go out and shoot just because I felt like I had to when my heart wasn’t really in it. Or buy a kit I didn’t necessarily want, just for it as I thought it was needed to become a better and more exciting photographer. And really, all I ended up with were images I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about, a drained bank balance, and a generally unfulfilled feeling about photography altogether.
Giving myself breaks from taking pictures from time to time helped immensely when it all began to get a bit too much. And taking a break from shooting doesn’t mean you need to take a break from your photography. If you’re not shooting in the field, spend that time editing your images, working on your photography portfolio and store, sharing your pictures with your audience, visiting galleries and networking with other photographers.
"...all I ended up with were images I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about, a drained bank balance..."
More thrifty photography tips:
- 5 best free photo editing software options
- 9 money-saving hacks for your photography accessories