I wanted to get into photography for years but I could never take the plunge. I knew it was going to be an expensive endeavour and looking at my cash flow at the time I shuddered at the thought of buying an SLR and lens and then being sprung with a multi thousand dollar repair bill for my car (those came every now and then!)
Obviously I did end up taking the plunge. I bought the Canon 350D with a kit lens, a memory card, a little tripod and a small bag. It cost me about $1,400 AUD all up. I was so stoked to finally have an SLR! That initial purchase loosened my attitude to spending large sums of money on photograpy equipment. It was in early 2006 and since then my aresenal has grown somewhat. Now, in mid 2009, I look at all the gear I have and I’m too scared to sum up how much it all cost me because I’d instantly have a guilt attack about all that money that could have gone to a worth cause like a house, car or beer.
I don’t think it means that I’ve wasted my money too much. I know I make it sound like I have a warehouse full of lenses but I don’t. I do use a lot of the gear that I’ve bought and as for the gear that I haven’t used that often I either keep it as back up or I’m yet to learn how to use it properly.
But I do worry about my tendency to pine over a piece of kit. I become convinced that I can not do a certain type of shoot without a certain piece of gear. “I can’t get low light shots without an f/1.4 lens” or “I can’t do portraits without the 85mm L”.
And you know what happens when I say those things to myself? I don’t try to do those types of shoots! I look at the price of the lens or the studio lighting kit or 4 Pocket Wizards then I decide that I just can’t organise a shoot that requires that gear.
There’s two problems with this. Firstly, who says you can’t do that particular shot without that particular type of gear? So you get too much camera shake when shooting in a church with a f5.6 lens. Do you really need f/2.8 or wider to fix that? Are you sure that 2.8 is the only way to solve the problem?
If you don’t have image stabiliser on the lens and you’re getting too much camera shake, would a monopod work? It might not be so convenient but have you tried it or are you listening to the consensus on the Internet? When you convince yourself you need certain equipment for something, you’ll never try the shot anyway.
Secondly … ok so you really do need a macro lens to get a 5x magnification for that ant’s head that you want to fill the frame with. Do you have to buy it? You could rent it. It won’t cost you thousands of dollars and is a much better option if you’re not going to use the gear often enough to justify spending full retail on it. I’m going to harp on about renting in a future post so I won’t go on here.
The point of this post is that you shouldn’t scare yourself off a type of shooting without at least trying with your current gear. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to organise a shoot with models, make up artists, assistants and studio time until you know you can do the shoot. Experiment with your current gear first then decide where you stand with your gear. If you just can’t make it work, rent the gear and see if it’s even your thing. If it is then go to the camera shop and contribute to the economy.
Don’t, what ever you do, buy gear then use it once then let it sit in the cupboard. In the past I’ve gone through the initial period of wanting to buy something. This period lasts for months. Then I finally buy the thing. I use it once or twice then I get bored or I don’t know how to use it properly. Don’t worry, I’ve gone back and learned how to use all my gear so I am eating my own dog food!
A good slogan I’ve heard in the online photography community is “Get out and shoot”. That slogan tries to combat the paralysis a lot of us fledgling photographs get for various reasons. Don’t let the economics bog you down too much!