You’re sat in front of your laptop, and your brain has turned to mush.
Multiple tabs are open at every possible retailer in the world, pages crammed full of information on the latest cameras and all of their specs.
Your head is about to explode with all of the statistics flying at you from every angle, and you end up, 3 hours later, none the wiser than when you started!
Just more exhausted & confused.
Yes, I know this pain. And it’s incredibly difficult to get yourself out of the rut of researching cameras and equipment, because with every new page comes another link to another camera and another benefit it offers. And very soon, your ‘narrowed down’ list has about 25 options on it!
Investing in your first professional camera is a minefield, not least because there’s typically a hefty investment involved, right? You’ve saved up, you’ve made that decision to launch your photography business, and now all that’s left is that elusive piece of kit that’s going to ‘turn your whole world’ around and make you a success (hint: no camera can do that, but what’s within you can x)
So before you part with any hard-saved money, let’s have a chat about the main mistakes lots of new photographers make when purchasing camera and lenses, and how you can sidestep these bumps in the road with a little careful planning.
Hello lovelies, please note that this page might contain affiliate links. They won’t cost you a penny more, but I’d be as happy as a little lamb as it helps support the site x You can see my full disclaimer here 🙂
The wrong fit
The biggest question to ask yourself is this – do you know what type of photography you’re going to be doing? Have you researched your local area or market, to determine there’s a market for your business? Or do you know you’ll be taking a variety of photographs to start with?
Because if you don’t properly taking time to decide what photography you really enjoy doing, or researching what your market demand is like, you just can’t make an informed decision on the equipment you need. You just can’t. It’s like trying to pack for a holiday when you don’t know the destination or how long you’re going for – and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want shorts at a ski resort!
If you’re still in two minds about what your specialty will be, then definitely check out The Happy Creative Book. It guides you through all the questions you need to ask yourself, helps you banish your doubts and refocus on what you want from your photography business.
Secondly, if you’re unsure about your photography focus, then hold off on buying any specific lenses for the time being. The kit lens that you currently have is going to serve you just fine for now, whilst you iron out those last few niggles in your mind about the focus of your photography
Blowing your budget
Great stuff, you know your photography specialism and you’re all set to go!
You’ve decided on a terrific camera and lens and you’re all set to make that purchase when…. oooh, something else catches your eye. Perhaps if you just spent a little more on the camera body, you’d future-proof yourself. Sure, that makes sense. Oh, and what if you upgrade the lens a notch too. And maybe it’s a good idea to get another lens, just in case in a year’s time you need it. And….and….
I feel ya! There’s literally no end to the candy store that is buying cameras and lenses! But you need to stop yourself before you become a photography diabetic! You have a budget, and a budget for a reason. It would be amazing to buy every lens for every eventuality. But you’ve done your research, you know what you need. So stick to what you need and don’t get seduced by what you want!
Haha, this is why I tend to buy most things in my life online – I can’t get ‘sold’ to in the shop and walk away with things I don’t need! (mind you, I can be just as bad left to my own devices on Amazon!)
Your budget is not there as a guide. It’s there as a rule book. You can move money around as much as you like within it, but remember – if you’re adding to one section, like cameras & lenses, you need to be taking away from another section, like marketing or insurance.
Remove the Ego
Okay, some tough love now.
A high-spec camera doesn’t make you a better photographer.
So, if you’re even contemplating an expensive, top of the range piece of kit to ‘impress’ clients or your friends or family, stop right now. Seriously, as a friend to you, stop. Because a) you shouldn’t care what equipment you have and b) if anyone else rates you on your equipment then they’re not looking at the quality of your shots but judging you on your tools.
I’ll give you a prime example here – I was once on a photoshoot towards the start of my career, at an event, and one of the attendees came across to me and said with automatic disdain ‘Oh, you’re using a crop sensor’. ‘ Yes, I am’, I stumbled in reply, somewhat taken aback by his attitude and the whole look on his face. And it made me feel so small, like I was a fraud. He then proceeded to ask me all the about the camera and if it gave me ‘enough’, and then rambled on about his new Canon Mark 5d (all whilst I was trying to do my job!) Was I a professional without a full-frame camera? Was I going to produce great photographs that day and others to follow?
Now, two things. Firstly, (and I wish I’d had the confidence & knowledge to deal with him at the time, grrr) the camera you use is of little consequence if a) you’re skilled at what you do and b) that’s what your budget can stretch to. A truly great photographer can take an amazing photograph with a disposable camera if needs be, so forget the latest megapixel, fancy-schmancy specs on the market. Secondly, never put yourself into financial trouble chasing the latest & greatest equipment. It’s stress you don’t need, and for absolutely no legitimate reason. And thirdly, anyone who asks you about the ‘camera’ you’re using is revealing themselves to know little about photography – because not once did he ask me about the lens I was using, or the lenses he had. You see, the world’s most spectacular camera body means very little if the lens you have is mediocre. So let’s chat about that next…
The body to lens $ ratio
Say you’ve got $1,000 to spend on equipment. How do you split that?
There’s a few various suggestions around and about, but I personally think you should be thinking about a 65/35 split of your budget or even a 70/30. That is, 65% of your budget on the lenses, and the remaining 35% on your camera body. Because never forget, it’s the lens that gives you your specialty.
Remember the first question I had you ask yourself – what type of photography do you want to do? Well unless you said something sooooo incredibly specialist as underwater or aerial, the type of camera body you buy can typically set you up for a variety of sectors. But the lens you buy can’t. The lens primarily determines what’s possible and what’s not. So it stands to reason that you want to spend more money (& time researching) the perfect lens for your photography.
Get all touchy feely
Yes, I buy a helluva lot of stuff online. And with a 2 year old toddler, who can blame me for not wanting to drag him & myself around the shops, right?!
But having said that, even if I buy equipment online I always check it out in person first. Always.
If this is something you’ll be using every day, or a lot of the time, you want to make sure that it ‘fits’ your hands.
Some camera bodies are bulkier than others, some are small and finicky to use. Others have buttons in places which are awkward for some fingers and perfect for someone else’s. Until you rock up to a shop and actually hold it in your hands, and practice using the functions etc, you can’t tell if you’re going to love it or hate it.
So, make this part of your research. Take yourself down to a local store and have a little play with the equipment to really get an idea of what’s not just good for your budget, but good for yourself.
Worrying about dSLR vs Mirrorless
This is a huge topic all in itself, and so I’m only gonna touch on it now, and do a whole post dedicated to this very soon…
But for now, just know that whether you choose to go down the dSLR route, or the mirrorless camera system, your decision is right for you. This is hoping you’ve done your research, you know your budget and you know what your typically day’s work is going to be like. And if you know all this, then who cares what Sally Shutter or Lucy Lens are using (nb. if this is your actual name, completely unintentional & also amazing, please let me know!)
When mirrorless camera first came out, I really hated them. Seriously, I was so anti the mere idea of them and thought they were this weird kind of no-man’s land – either buy a dSLR or stick to a bridge camera, but would’ve never recommended mirrorless.
Fast-forward several years, and hundreds of camera models and lenses later, and I think they’re bloomin’ terrific!
No, they don’t suit every photographer. And yes, they do have their limitations. But these two statements also apply to dSLR cameras.
If you’re planning on travel photography or street photography, mirrorless are well worth a peek at – if you’ve ever carried a dSLR around with a heavy lens on all day, you’ll get what I mean!
Forgetting the ‘little things’
So you’ve bought your camera, you’ve got your gorgeous lens, and you’re ready to go.
Have you remembered a neoprene backpack? And has that gorgeous lens got a filter attached to it? Nope? Then get back home right this minute and don’t take another shot without one!
Okay, slightly dramatic, but filters are imperative for your lenses! At their very basic, they help protect the glass from smudges, dust, marks and accidental bumps to the front of the lens. And a neoprene bag? Well that helps protect your whole system when you’re lugging it around all day and between photo sessions.
Filters come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure you buy the right size thread for your lens. And they can be confusing as to UV, polarising, neutral density etc…. So when starting out, just buy the simplest which is a UV filter. The main thing is that you protect it from day 1. And buy a lens cleaning kit too, to keep that lovely lens all tip top 🙂
Blinkers for the ‘New’
I love the feeling of opening a shiny, new box. Unwrapping the cellophane, carefully removing the seal, and lifting the lid to reveal the most beautifully clean, gloss black lens or perfect camera, nestled in styrofoam and bubble wrap. It’s like Christmas, right!
But every purchase you make doesn’t have to be brand new. In fact, buying refurbished or second-hand items is a terrific way to make your budget stretch a lot further.
A few piece of advice on this:
1. Only buy from reputable companies. Lots of online stores offer refurbished products and grade them accordingly (typically ‘like new’ down to ‘good’ or even ‘parts only’)
2. Make sure there’s a returns policy included. Just in case.
3. Only buy from eBay if the reviews are all top notch ie. 99% and above, and the seller has a decent number of reviews (I’d aim for 100+ as a marker, but never less than 50)
But if you stick to these guidelines, there are lots of good deals to be snatched up. Sometimes, a camera body has only been used a few times and it’s being resold with a 25%+ discount! Worth checking out, right?! And Amazon Warehouse also do these kind of deals too – I’ve now bought 2 lenses from them and 1 body, and been happy each time.
So, now you know a few things to look out for as a new photographer, ask yourself these questions before purchasing:
- Is this within my budget?
- Is this the right camera & lens combo for me and the photography I’d doing?
- Am I buying this for my needs or the appearance of it?
- Can I buy any of these items at a good quality refurbished price?
- Have I got the essentials to protect this kit?
- Does it feel right in my hands? Am I gonna love using this daily?
I’d love to hear about the kit you’re thinking of buying – and if you’d like any advice, pop a comment below and I’ll get back to you (I read every comment & email) 🙂
With my happy photo love