I mentioned in a previous post that renting photography gear is a good way to see if you really need that gear to do certain types of shoots. That’s not the only reason renting is such a good idea! Here are the reasons why I think renting is a good alternative to buying for the fledgling photographer:
1. Try before you buy
You can test out lenses, flashes and other gear in the store and I recommend you do that whenever you want to buy something. When you do that, however, you’re usually testing out 2 or more choices of an item that you’ve already decided to buy. For example I was interested in the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8. There are lenses with f/2.8 in that zoom range from both Tamron and Sigma which were a third of the price of the Canon. I had already decided that I wanted something in that zoom range with the f/2.8 aperture so I tested all three lenses in the store so that I could decide on which brand to buy.
But when you’re thinking about getting into either macro photographer or wildlife photography, and you need to pick one because you don’t have the funds to do both, how will you decide? You can’t really buy a macro lens then figure out that you hate shooting macro and then buy a 600mm! If you can afford that sort of mind changing, let me know and I’ll give you my wish list 😛
If I were in that boat I’d rent the macro lens first, give it a try then rent the 600mm and try that. I know it’s a couple hundred dollars to do that but lenses are so expensive that it’s cost effective to ‘waste’ $200-300 to decide on where you want to go.
Oh and I never got that 24-70 lens!
2. Get focused on your creative goal
A lot of us treat photography as a hobby. That’s not a bad thing but sometimes the fact that you’re doing it for fun results in a loss of direction. Simply having gear has also become somewhat of a status symbol to some people. I remember seeing a post on a photography forum where the poster was showing off photos of about 10 L series Canon lenses. He apparently owned them all and was obviously looking for some recognition for owning all the lenses that everyone else watned. No one had actually seen any of the work he’d produced though. It was about the gear for him, not the art, not the ‘doing’.
While most of us don’t have the disposable income to be able to buy gear like that not and make money off it, I would wager that we all do what that forum poster did in some way. We lose the motiviation to make art because we always can if we’re bored. The gear is sitting in your cupboard, waiting for whenever you’re inclined. You can always do it tomorrow, right?
Renting equipment means you only have the equipment for the day or the weekend. You’re not going to mess around wasting time while the clock ticks. You’re going to get the most out of that lens or studio. If you owned that gear you won’t feel as pressed to do anything with it because it will always be there.
If you need to rent something it will be because you are planning a shoot with a specific result in mind. You’ll take the creative steps to generate the photographs that you intended. If you own the gear and you’re not a full time, professional photographer, chances are you’ll not feel compelled to take the steps and therefore you never will.
3. Business thinking rather than hobby thinking
I am just starting to get the wheels in motion for doing paid photography work. I know it’s going to be hard. Not only do I need to learn a great deal about marketing myself but I also need to learn how to run a profitable business. I have to manage what I spend on the business and get it to a cash flow positive state.
When embarking on a new business most people will need to spend a lot of money up front. It’s not just the equipment, but there’s registration fees, insurance, logo design, web development and hosting and a bunch of stuff I’m sure I’ll run into on the way. If you’re starting a business, anywhere where you can safely save money is a God send.
Let’s just say you’ve started a business where you take macro photos of flowers for a chain of florists that are opening new stores once every month or so. They want to display nice, big, close-up prints of flower in the store window and each store has to have a different photo.
Each photo will take you half a Saturday because you have to get the flower that they’ve chosen for the shoot and you have to show them at least 10 different shots so they can choose one. You bought a light tent, a couple of speed lights, Cactus triggers and you have a DLSR that produces images with enough resolution to be useful for printing.
You don’t have the macro lens though and it costs $1,500. You could put it on your credit card but you’ve decided that you want more work before you spend even more money on gear.
The florist asks you how much you want to charge for each store’s photo. You find it hard to give them a number because you’ve never charged for your photography before. How do you decide what’s fair?
At the very least you need to cover your costs. If you need to travel anywhere, you need to cover the cost of fuel, train tickets, air fare etc. If you need to get the flower yourself you need to cover the cost of buying it or looking for one.
Now you also need to cover the cost of your equipment. What ever you do, don’t just absorb the cost of the gear. The business has to be profitable!
Obviously you can’t charge the client the full amount you spent on aquiring your gear but what you can do is figure out how many ‘uses’ your gear has left in it and how many ‘uses’ the job will use up. Divide the gear’s total uses by the cost to get it then multiply that by the ‘uses’ the job requires and that’s how much you need to factor in for gear.
That’s pretty wishy washy and you might want to try something different to determine how much to charge for use of your gear. When you rent the lens for the shoot, you don’t have to do that math to determine how much to charge for gear, you just need to add the rental price to the bill for the client! That’s clear cut, no mucking around with math!
In fact you might even want to find rental prices for the gear you actually own and use those prices as a starting point for what to charge for the use of your gear. It might be a bit high but it’s a good place to start. The rental prices will be commensurate with the value of the gear.
I think the biggest benefit for me when I first rented gear was that I shifted my thinking. Originally I believed that my abilities were limited by the gear I could afford. Now I realise that I need to nuture my skills rather than worry about collecting more lenses. I can go out and rent a studio lighting kit and do a model shoot because I know the basics of what I need to do. I don’t need to own the kit!