Warning: The article below is over five years old. It may be badly written, poorly considered, immature, obsolete, no longer my opinion, or simply flat-out wrong.

Photography on a budget

  1. Introduction

    Let's face it, photography can be a pretty expensive hobby. Cameras aren't cheap, and nor are lenses, and there are so many. And then you get film and tripods and filters and so on and so on. Like music, all the equipment can be seductive. But in general, I can't afford it. So, here's an article with hints and tips on photography on a budget.

  2. Buy stuff second hand

    You really don't need the latest Nikon to get started with photography. In fact, you'll learn a lot more if you pick something older. I do all my film photography using a Praktica Super TL. This is a fully manual camera, and its light meter in the viewfinder is the only concession to luxury on it. This makes it more of a challenge to shoot with at first, but it means you get more control, more satisfaction, and learn much more. A second-hand, manual camera, will set you back anywhere between 40 and 100 pounds depending on where you buy it. The lens is more important than the body, so get a good prime lens on the front of it and you'll have the raw materials to take some great pictures.
    Charity shops are great resources, too, mainly for books and props. I've got a big hardback book ("The Book of Photography" by John Hedgecoe) for 4 pounds, and a couple of others ("1000 Photo Tips" and "Practical photography") for a pound altogether. You can also find blankets and sheets, bits of material, clothes, and accessories like hats etc. too. The cheap bookstores can be interesting as well - I've got a history of photography and a bok of Eugene Atget's work from my local cheapy store.

  3. Buy in bulk

    It's worthwhile buying your film in bulk. I get mine from MX2 online, which works out around 2 pounds per roll, for 36 exposures. It's a larger up-front expense, but if you're going to buy 10 films in the next 6 months or so, then you might as well save yourself some money in the long run.

  4. Shoot in black and white

    If you shoot in black and white, you can develop it yourself and then scan the results into your PC, or just make your own prints and enlargements. This might be a good option for you if you've got easy access to a darkroom - say, are near a college or go to Uni, or there's a friendly photographer in your neighbourhood.

  5. Don't shoot in black and white

    The flipside is that black and white film tends to be more expensive, and costs lots more to develop as nowhere keeps the machines to develop it. Buying C-41 process black and white film (which means it can be developed in the same chemicals as colour film) might be a way around this, but I haven't tried that yet.

  6. Borrow stuff

    Loads of people enjoy photography. Use their stuff - borrow lenses, tripods, backdrops, and so on. Just make sure you take good care of it. Oh, and use your local library. The selection of photography books might not be huge, but there's almost certainly a book in there that can teach you something new or improve your photography.

  7. Improvise

    Yeah, it's nice to have pro stuff, but sometimes it's just not possible. A large sheet makes a good backdrop, and can transform your front room into a makeshift studio. Use some halogen desk lamps instead of the pro photo lights (you'll need quite a few, and will have to shoot in black and white to minimise the effect of colour casts). A tall stool can take the place of a tripod or a light stand, if you're careful. Yeah, your results might not be perfect, and you'll have to experiment. That's part of the fun.

  8. Barter

    Trade your skills for things you want. You might not be able to pay your models, but maybe you can cook them a meal, or mow their lawn, or pick up their groceries, or babysit, and so on.

  9. Conclusion

    It's perfectly possible to photograph on a budget. Hopefully these tips will have given you a place to start. Drop me an email if you've got your own tips to share.