Who doesn't love a photography related bargain? The problem is that some of those cheaper deals could cause you some serious headaches further down the line. Here are ten items which you should always avoid buying on the cheap.
I'm sure you're already aware that the cost of being a photographer can be a rather pricey pursuit. It's understandable that those on a budget will try to cut corners to save money. Unfortunately, not all cost cutting exercises are equal and some could do much more harm than good.
1. Memory Cards
Buying memory cards online can be a minefield as there are so many fakes out there. Not only do these inferior cards quite often not hold as many images as they claim to, but there is no guarantee on their reliability either. I've heard horror stories from photographers losing important images on a shoot because a cheap card failed on them. If a deal is too good to be true then it probably is. If you're not sure what to look out for when buying memory cards or you're worried you may have bought a fake one already, this article explains in great detail what to look for. Out of everything on this list the memory card is the one thing you should definitely not cut corners on.
I have to admit that I have a mix of both cheap and expensive camera batteries in my bag and without exception, the cheaper ones always last considerably less time and need replacing more often. The same goes for the rechargeable AA batteries that I use in my triggers. If you buy cheap when it comes to batteries you will indeed pay twice as you'll have to replace them more frequently. Just like dodgy memory cards, unreliable batteries can easily derail a photo shoot and if that shoot is in a professional context then the financial implications will be considerably more than the few dollars you saved by purchasing cheap batteries.
This might seem like an obvious one but I still see photographers buying cheap lenses and then complaining about the image quality. Camera lenses are not made equal and if image quality and reliability are important to you then it's best to spend as much as you can on them. While I appreciate lenses can get expensive they do tend to last a very long time and if you intend to stay with the same camera manufacture those lenses can easily outlive the various camera bodies you will get through over the years of your career. Decent lenses in good condition do tend to hold their resale value rather well so if you do change camera brands or realize you no longer need a particular lens, then you should be able to recoup some of that initial investment by selling it on. Be sure to keep the boxes as this can really help to maximize your return when selling.
4. Camera Body Caps
This might seem like an insignificant one as the item is already reasonably cheap to buy but some third-party camera body caps don't stay in place as well as the official ones. I speak from experience having found one of these cheaper body caps had worked its way loose in my camera bag. The result was that the camera in question needed a deep clean to the sensor.
5. People, Props, and Places
Thanks to miserly clients this might not always be in your control, but the quality of your images is directly linked to your team and what you put in front of the camera. A good actor, outfit, location, model, or prop will always make your job as a photographer so much easier. It really doesn't matter how many megapixels your camera shoots at if your subject is lacking your pictures also will be. Throwing more money at a shoot won't always make better pictures, but trying to penny-pinch in these areas will always have a negative effect on your work.
You don't have to look far to find some amazing deals on computer monitors but not all screens are made to be used for photo editing. If you're not sure what to look for when it comes to buying a monitor this introduction is a great place to start. While I appreciate that a decent monitor can cost a small fortune it really is a worthy investment if you're serious about photography. If you have commercial clients or plan on printing your work, then the image you see on screen needs to be as accurate as possible. Cutting corners on a monitor will either lose you clients, cost you money in reprinting, or increase the amount of time sat in front of the computer correcting images.
7. Printed Material
Printing on the cheapest paper and printer you can find will never do your images or business any favors. If you want to make a good impression then your printed material should scream quality rather than resemble the local takeaway menu. I have printed my portfolio and marketing material for many years with various third-party printers and have always had headaches when I've used companies which were more on the cheap side. In my experience, the less you pay the more likely you'll run into issues with colors being wrong or prints being badly handled etc. Getting things reprinted takes time and money so find yourself a good printer and get it done right the first time around.
8. Lens Filters
Filters can be a photographer's best friend but again they are not all made equal. While I appreciate some can be eye-wateringly expensive there is a huge difference between a $10 and $160 filter. The way I always like to explain using cheap filters to people is with the analogy of a person using a pair of binoculars. It doesn't matter how good your eyes are, if you are looking through something which is inferior then what will be seen will also be second-rate. In addition to this, cheaply made filters can sometimes have a habit of getting stuck on your lens. While there are tools to help remove them its another headache not worth having.
Having dedicated insurance for you and your photography is a must and you should never rely on your house insurance to cover all eventualities as a photographer. Insurance companies love to worm their way out of paying for claims so you really need to make sure you read the small print to ensure all bases are covered.
Considering the tripod is the place your expensive camera will often live unattended, you'd be surprised how many photographers short change on this particular item. I have seen cheap tripods betray their owners in the past and the aftermath was never pretty and always costly. If you shoot on location or around clumsy people then the more robust the tripod is the safer your camera will be. Like with many items in this list, there is a false economy in trying to buy cheap products. Combine this with the added risk a low-end tripod brings to your camera and the thought of buying cheaply begins to sound like a really bad idea.
So there you have it, some of the items you may have thought you could cut corners on as a photographer but probably shouldn't. While I appreciate how expensive being a photographer is, there are some areas where penny-pinching could seriously harm your images and career. Buy cheap, buy twice is a popular saying and it seems especially relevant to us photographers.
Over to You
Have you regretted any cheap photography related purchases that caused you major problems further down the line? Anything crucial you think I missed off the list? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.