Photography is cheaper now than it ever was before. I don’t have to purchase film or pay to have it developed, nor do I need to print my photos in order to enjoy them. That said, photography is a very expensive hobby, and I like to live life frugally.
1. Buying Zoom Lenses
I have only one prime lens for my dSLR, a 50 mm f/1.8. I spend most of my lens money on zoom lenses instead because they offer a range of focal lengths, which consequently increases opportunities for any one photograph.
The major downside to zoom lenses is that they rarely perform as well at either end of the focal length range as they do in the middle. My 55-200mm, for example, produces great shots at 65mm and 105mm, but when I shoot at 55mm or 200mm, the shots are less sharp. This is why I’ve purchased lenses that overlap in focal length.
When I first got my dSLR, I saved every shot. Sometimes I’d have 50 pictures of a single flower, many of which demonstrated the same angle of view, focal length, depth of field, and tint. That’s a waste of space, and where digital photographers often drop the ball money wise.
Now I prune my shots down to the best ones. I might shoot 50 photographs and keep only five or six. Once I’ve imported them into Lightroom and compared them side-by-side, I can delete the inferior shots and save the best ones. This saves money on storage.
3. Photography Hacks
I own very little photography equipment outside my camera body, a few lenses, a tripod, and a couple lens hoods. Rather than shelling out hundreds of dollars at B&H, I try to make my own supplementary equipment.
For example, if I absolutely have to use my on-camera flash, I cover the bulb with a strip of tissue paper to diffuse the light. A diffuser would cost, at a minimum, $50, so I save money. I’ve also made reflectors out of cardboard and tin foil. There are lots of digital photography hacks on the Internet, and some quick research can help pad the bank account (or at least prevent it from running dry).
4. Visiting Local Stores
We have two independent photography stores here in Houston: the Houston Camera Exchange and the Houston Camera Co-Op. Both employ professional photographers who are usually willing to offer advice and help find cheaper alternatives to expensive equipment. I’ve saved lots of money this way.
Of course, I also frequent photography web sites and blogs. This is how I find out about sales and deals that I otherwise would not have known about.
5. Giving Gifts
Since first picking up a camera, I’ve given dozens of photographs as gifts to friends and family members. It’s an inexpensive and personalized option that saves me money overall, but certainly doesn’t feel cheap.
This isn’t to say I run off any old print and wrap it in newspaper for a Christmas gift. I spend lots of time planning, shooting, editing, and packaging a picture before it ever falls in a loved one’s hands. It does, however, make the spending a little easier to bear.