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Five Things not to Skimp on in Photography

Five Things not to Skimp on in Photography

We have all heard the old adage: buy cheap and buy twice. Here are five things you shouldn’t skimp on.

Photography can quickly become an expensive game. Cameras can be a major investment, so it is easy to try to cut corners elsewhere. Certain items can certainly be bought cheap and work just as well as their more expensive counterparts. These items should certainly not be skimped on.


When I started out, I purchased a few cheap lenses. The optics were poor, the build was poor, and I eventually either broke them or sold them at a loss to buy better optics. If you have the budget, spring for some pro-level glass; it will easily last you a decade of heavy use, if not more.

Light Stands

If its holding onto an expensive item, don’t skimp. The first light stand that I purchased was from Manfrotto, and it was the only one I could find. At the time, it seemed extortionate for what was basically a metal stick, but I still have it today; it only holds flags and reflectors now, but by cost per use, it has been ace. About six years in, I started to invest in really heavy duty stands and century stands. These bad boys may cost a lot more, but I expect them to outlast me.


Like light stands, tripods shouldn't be skimped on. You have the choice of cheap, light, or strong. You can only have two of those qualities. If it is cheap and light, it certainly wont be strong. I ended up buying some very strong tripods for the work I do; one of them was a 10-year-old Manfrotto Salon Stand and the other was brand new. I put a few grand into my tripods, and I wont be buying anymore in my career, barring any major incidents. The ones I purchased at the start that cost £150 or less all disintegrated or ended up being too flimsy for the job.

Hard Drives and Memory Cards

This sounds obvious, but I fell victim to Kingston memory cards when I started out as they were so affordable. I shot a festival one weekend and lost 2x 16 GB cards of data in a corruption. I was gutted. Since then, I have only used premium cards and when I order them online, I have them validated by the company to make sure that they are legitimate cards so that I know that the will work 100 percent of the time.


Six or seven years ago (my memory is hazy), I purchased a Think Tank Airport Security for what I thought was a ludicrous sum of money. I still have it today; I also purchased a Billingham shoulder satchel at the same time that I have used pretty much every day since. The cost per use of these items is amazingly cheap. Other photographers I know purchased cheaper bags and have replaced them several times over.

What are your items that you would never skimp on in photography?

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Deleted Account's picture

Nice succinct article but your links are fairly useless. I would add filters to your list. You do NOT want to use cheap filters!

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks :)
What isn't working with the link?

Deleted Account's picture

If you don't know which lenses are pro-level or which memory cards are legitimate, the links won't tell you and if you do, you don't need the links. The other links only point to specific products which, while good, won't necessarily fit everyone's needs. I think it would be better to point to articles discussing what qualities define a good lens, tripod, light stand, bag and memory card/hard drive.

Scott Choucino's picture

Ah I see. Will look into that on future articles.

chrisrdi's picture

yeah I bought some cheap filters. huge waste of money.

Daniel Medley's picture

I know the article is focusing on spending the cash for top tier or near top tier stuff when you need it, but one thing that I see people overlook are sandbags for their light stands. If buying light stands for the first time, yes, don't skimp, but also include sandbags as part of the purchase price.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah sandbags are ace.

Michal Labot's picture

Isn't a sandbag actually one product that you could easily make yourself on the cheap?

Deleted Account's picture

I made my own but ones you can easily fill on-site are really nice.

Daniel Medley's picture

Yes. The point being to not overlook them. When purchasing stands for the first time, consider them as part of the initial purchase of a stand.

Richard Bradbury's picture

Buy cheap buy twice.. or may be three times.

Re the memory cards how did you validate them? Was that just registering them with the manufacture?

If that's the case it will take me a while... I have a lot of CF cards.

Scott Choucino's picture

you go to the website and go into live chat and type in the serial numbers.

Walid Azami's picture

YES to high-end​ hard drives!

Ryan Davis's picture

I learned this one the hard way,

Rifki Syahputra's picture

invest more in knowledge such as books, classes, and experience by shoot more.. you'll know what gear suits you well (it may not be the top-tier) and it can save some good money :)

Scott Choucino's picture

Education is the most important aspect.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

So what can you skimp on? Cameras and lighting gear? ;)

Deleted Account's picture

You don't need a camera with two memory cards! LOL

David T's picture

Stuff like flags or flats can be done DIY.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thats a pretty useful video. Thanks for sharing

Josh Wright's picture

2 external HD for backup, or 2

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah I use 2 drives and a cloud. I then have a 3rd drive that I write to during the shoot that is kind of my second card slot in the camera... but not...

Michal Labot's picture

This Billingham you recommend is one ugly satchel !!!

Scott Choucino's picture

haha, I guess it comes down to taste. I am really fond of them. They are about as British a camera bag as I think one could find.

amanda daniels's picture

Camera straps!! I hate the strap that comes with your camera, so I found one on Amazon, it had good reviews and looked good. So I got it and sure enough used it 2x and it started ripping, thankfully I realized it before my gear fell. I now use the holdfast money maker and also the spider holster, while they are a bit more expensive you can easily tell the quality and I feel safe and not paranoid that my expensive gear is going to drop. Guess this fits into your "anything that is going to hold you expensive gear" piece.

Scott Choucino's picture

I have always stuck with what ever came on the cameras, but when ever I have used someone else nicer straps I have had a bit of envy.

amanda daniels's picture

lol. I have had 2 neck surgeries and 1 brain surgery, so I don't really have a choice, The ones that come with the cameras are just too painful. Get yourself a nicer one!

Sandor Bako's picture

for tldr: dont skimp on anything

Dennis Johnson's picture

this is a useless article basically gluing affiliate links together.

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