How to save money on your photography and camera equipment
- Tue, 11 May 2010
Photography can quickly become an expensive pastime. You may start with a basic DSLR and kit lens but soon you'll be craving camera bags, grips, tripods, filters and studio kit, and once you start looking at camera lenses you could be looking at paying the price of a new car for that ‘ultimate' piece of glass.
However, if you're on a budget or need to save money, fear not, as we have put together a collection of indispensable ways to ensure you can continue to enjoy your photography -- and even expand your kit bag - without breaking the bank.
In this feature we look at ways to make your own accessories, things you can get for free, and ways to make use of those old lenses you may have sitting in the back of your cupboard from the days of film SLRs.
On the next page we also set members of the What Digital Camera team a challenge to buy something to help their photography for just £50 - a real test for any enthusiast. So, sit back and enjoy, then pat yourself on the back for the fact that, just by reading this article, you may have saved yourself a fortune.
Save money on photography by buying secondhand
SAVE! Between £50 - £500
The digital camera market has now matured enough to offer a fairly decent secondhand market.
Older models that are still of a good spec can now be found gracing the used cabinets of camera stores or the pages of websites like eBay and Gumtree.There are some great bargains to be had as people chase the latest model and sell off their old gear, or upgrade to more advanced models.
Buying secondhand online can be a bit hit and miss - you don't get the chance to examine the gear before you buy, as you would with a shop - but as long as you do your research you should be fine.
Always email the seller for more information if it isn't clear, and avoid buying from overseas or first-time fly-by-night sellers.
Save money - Buy Last Year's Model
SAVE! Between £10 - £100
When a new camera is launched camera shops tend to drop the price of the older model to shift their remaining stock. This can result in some huge savings and, so long as you're not too bothered about having the latest gadget, you still get a great camera.
Plus, if you can't find what you're looking for in the shops, some manufacturers have their own refurbished stores online where you can buy models that have been returned, fixed or are just old stock, and most come with one year's warranty.
Check out: Fujifilm's refurb store | Canon's outlet store is on ebay.co.uk under user name canon_uk1
SAVE! Between £2 - £77
With an array of companies offering printing services online, there are usually some quite persuasive deals on offer to get you on board.
Many will offer a set number of free prints on sign-up for you to try them out - that way, if you're not happy, nothing is lost but if you like their service you'll come back for more.
Photobox offers 40 free prints on sign-up all you pay is postage. You can also get more free prints when you refer friends, so you could end up with hundreds of prints for free.
Make a Reflector
SAVE! Between £10 - £100
This is one of the easiest accessories to make on the cheap, and in a very Blue Peter way can probably be created by things you already have lying around your home.
To create a silver reflector, find yourself a large piece of card (the side of a cardboard box, or even some thin MDF board will do). You can go as large as you like but half a metre to a metre is plenty.
Then take some regular kitchen foil and cover the surface of the card, shiny side out. Secure it with sticky tape or glue around the edge, and you have yourself a functional reflector.
For more subtle results you can simply use white paper or white plastic or, for a more portable version, attach the foil to some thinner card or plastic to allow it to be folded up.
The results should be fairly good but if you're using it in public you probably won't pass for a pro!
Make a Diffuser
SAVE! Between £5 - £50
Direct light can produce harsh shadows but by adding a diffuser you can create a softer even light source. Though dedicated diffusers aren't that pricey, free is always better.
If you are using a flashgun use a rubber band to secure some white paper over the front of the flash.
For smaller flashes a single piece of masking tape across the front can work too.
For a still-life set-up try taping or holding a piece of masking tape in front of a desk lamp for a softbox effect. Though, beware that it doesn't get too hot.
SAVE! Between £10 - £600
One often-overlooked cost attached to digital imaging is the modern equivalent to processing. The price of the computer alone can be expensive but you then need the software too.
Many an expert will you that Adobe Photoshop is the ultimate photo software, and while this may be true it will cost you over £600 for the latest version. Recent updates and improvements mean for most photographers the likes of cheaper Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro are more than sufficient, but there are also offerings that will cost you nothing at all.
Free software doesn't always mean sacrificing functionality either; Google's Picasa is a free download and offers powerful but simple to use editing and archiving features, while the much-respected GIMP software offers more advanced editing capabilities, in a free download. Adobe has also now released an online version of Photoshop (www.photoshop.com) which allows basic editing, organising, and outputting controls, though you do need to register and upload your images to work on them.
Check out: Free photo software
Enter Photo Competitions
SAVE! Between £10 - £10k
Most photo competitions offer some kind of photo kit as a prize, whether it is a camera or accessory, so by entering a range of photo competitions you stand the chance of winning yourself some flashy new photography gear.
Why don't you try entering the competitions on our site or submitting images for our magazine by uploading them to our gallery.
Photos published in Evening Class recieve a £50 Jessops voucher and in My Digital Camera win photography gear.
Check out: How to win photo competitions for more details.
Make your own passport photos
SAVE! £4 a set
In the UK it is legal for people to make their own passport photos.
Creating your own not only saves you money but allows you to choose a more flattering picture than the type you expect from a photo booth.
Check out: How to make your own passport photo
Use Old Lenses
Did you know your old lenses might just fit on your new DSLR?
Some mounts have remained the same since film days, while for others there are adaptors available to make them fit.
On the next page, we take a look at the main lens types and give you all the information you need to bring them back to life.