How to Save Money and Still Have a Good and Artful Time with Digital Photography
© 2011 Peter Free
26 November 2011
Materialism’s hype can make suckers of most of us — Here’s how to avoid spending lots of money and still have a good time with serious hobby photography
Digital photography has been a manufacturer’s delight. It combines crappy product longevity with Newest is Best Lust. The combination frequently persuades people that they need to buy “improved” products on a regular basis.
Here’s how to think more and spend less.
Common sense propositions make a difference to the fullness of one’s wallet
(1) Most Internet camera reviewers are lousy photographers and have no utilitarian sense of what really matters in selecting camera gear.
Pay attention, instead, to what professional photographers have to say about ergonomics and output.
Since professional photographers’ purposes are generally our purposes, what they have to say about equipment winnows the inanity of most Internet reviews down to what’s actually important.
(2) The evolution of digital gear has slowed down significantly, so each new model tends to be only a relatively slight advance on what preceded it.
As a non-professional, one can get happily by with equipment that’s two to four model generations old.
New equipment is never as good as initial reviewers frequently say it is. And old equipment is not as bad.
(3) Photographic skill often makes up for deficiencies in gear.
Having the ultimate in continuous autofocus, metering, and low sensor noise is unnecessary for most purposes.
For example, pre-focusing and anticipation go a long way toward making excellent photographs under difficult conditions, even in sports, non-professional wedding, and wildlife photography. Millions of us did this successfully in the days before autofocus, auto-exposure, and (even) metering.
Consider, too, that the more frames your camera shoots automatically, always means that you will have to edit heaps more afterward. Editing before I shoot is generally more time-efficient than trying to afterward.
(4) Good post-processing software (and skill in using it) can make up for a significant range of camera and picture-taking deficiencies.
Pay attention to what software is on the market and learn to use the most helpful among these offerings. As a non-professional, it’s arguably better to invest in the best software than the best equipment.
Examples of a money-saving philosophy
We generally don’t need to spend money for the best lenses. Lenses are generally fairly comparable in output, when they are used at their optimum apertures.
Of course, professional wedding, wildlife, and sports photographers need fast lenses, low-noise sensors, and dependably fast-operating cameras. But most of the rest of us don’t.
It is the combination of low light and action that place the highest demands on gear.
If ambient conditions regularly lack either the darkness or the action element, photographers can save money on less expensive equipment, without giving much away to the competition.
Consider that most affordable fast lenses are not especially good wide open. So, you wind up stopping down anyway. Within limits, we can make up for having to use small lens apertures by boosting ISO and getting rid of increased noise with post-processing software.
Don’t think like a photo-imbecile
In illustration of this point, have you seen the interminable discussions about the necessity of being able to limit one’s depth of field with a wide-aperture setting on a fast lens?
You know, the postings that some art-challenged person illustrates with a portrait that has only one-half of one eyeball in focus.
Generally speaking, photography discussions draw a high proportion of technically minded folks who have almost no photographic vision. We are often treated to lengthy and intelligent-sounding equipment discussions, which turn out to miss the visual point of picture-taking.
Some of the best photography I’ve seen regularly comes from rank amateurs (including my wife and daughter), who use the very cheapest, often comparatively ancient, equipment. They have the vision that lies at the heart of photography.
The moral? — if we’re not “seeing,” fancier equipment is not going to help
It is when we “see,” and still can’t get the photo with our existing equipment, that we arguably need something else.
Moreover, we can persuasively explain why the new “stuff” is going to help.