What You Should Be Spending Your Money On If You're a Photographer

What You Should Be Spending Your Money On If You're a Photographer

Gear, of course! Camera bodies and lenses galore! Nothing makes you a better photographer than dumping thousands of dollars on the latest technology! Right? No? Ok, I digress, I guess blowing all your hard earned (or borrowed) cash on the latest and seemingly greatest in camera equipment is probably about the least effective thing you can do to improve the quality of your work. So what SHOULD you be spending your money on then?

Travel

Variety is the spice of life. Nothing can lead to a more onerous creative rut than feeling like you have nothing interesting to shoot. By traveling out of your normal environment your shatter those suffocating walls of sameness. If you find your work is starting to feel a bit stale invest some money it traveling to new and exciting subjects.

Education

What better way could there be to improving your craft than taking steps to learn how to be a better photographer. Photo related education ranges from very expensive, to extremely cheap, to even free. No matter what your budget is there is always some sort of learning you can invest in and they almost always have something great to add to your skill set. By investing in high quality education you will, without a doubt, see a marked improvement in your skill level.

The nature of what education you feel is most useful is entirely up to you. Whether you want to invest in video based tutorials to supercharge your knowledge with new techniques or even take a business course at your local college really should be based on what you feel will best empower you to push yourself forward to the next level.

Marketing

If a photographer takes an amazing photo but no one sees it does it really exist? In an era of free social media marketing it becomes easy to forget that some of the best marketing can require a bit of investment. I’m not saying burn your money by taking out ads in traditional media or mortgaging your house to shoot a super bowl ad but there are an endless number of marketing opportunities that you could make for yourself with the help of a smidgen of creativity and a few, well spent, coins.

A Fast Computer

Most photographers spend a lot more time using their computer than they do their camera. Between culling, editing, and posting photos there is a tremendous gain to be had from being able to improve the speed of your workflow. Not only does a faster computer let you spend more time shooting but it also dispels the frustration of dealing with a slow workflow and thus alleviates your likelihood of having to sacrifice quality due to lack of time.

Personally, I learned this lesson the hard way. After college my grandmother gave me a Mac Pro as a graduation present. I tried to make that computer last forever. After almost eight years I finally gave up as some of my PSD files were taking over an hour to save. Moving forward my motto has been to replace my computer every 2 years or so with the most expensive machine I can afford at the time. Currently I'm using a max spec 27" iMac in conjunction with a a mid-line Macbook Pro for when I'm on the road.

Your Health

Your ability to energetically and consistently focus on your craft hinges rather heavily on your own, personal, health. Allocate enough resources to ensuring that you keep your own body in as healthy a state as possible and you will quickly see that the benefits of that health have a tendency to trickle all the way down to the quality of your work.

Nothing

We live in a culture of insane consumerism. Our first instinct is always to spend. Perhaps the best choice for your photography is not to spend. Having a cushion for a rainy day or for when your camera decides to jump off the side of a mountain can be a life saver. There is nothing wrong with a healthy bank account.

Conclusion

Money can be a fickle thing. For many photographers cash seems to constantly be trying to climb its way out of our pocket and right into the latest multi-coated, vibration reduced, hypersonic, ultra-fast, lens that really won’t do anything that we couldn’t already achieve with our existing kit. Before blowing your wad, take a moment to think about where it will be the most useful.

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17 Comments

Cédric Bloch's picture

Great Article, Ryan! One question: is there any book about photography you can recommend?!

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Cedric, I would recommend checking out Photography Q&A by Zack Arias. It's easily one of my favorite books on subject of photography. Another great read is Vision Mongers by David DuChemin. Those are the two most inspiring books I've read on photography. They are not necessarily "How To" books, but they are packed with inpiration

Cédric Bloch's picture

Thanks for the answer! Yeah, often it's not necessary to read a "How To" but to get inspired!

Ryan Cooper's picture

It really depends on what sort of photography you are looking to read. McNally's Language of Light is fantastic for learning lighting. Kelby's digital photography books are great for more entry level stuff. Lara Jade's Fashion 101 is great for people looking to get into fashion. Fong's "So you want to be a rockstar photographer" is excellent for anyone looking to build a wedding photography business. The list goes on. :)

Cédric Bloch's picture

Ryan thanks for the answer! I will have a look at those! At the moment I'm into landscape, but I'm really interested in fashion and advertisment photography too!

Ryan Cooper's picture

Awesome! For Landscapes I would certainly point you in the direction of the latest tutorial here on Fstoppers: https://fstoppers.com/Photographing-the-World-Landscape-Photography-and-...

Robert Raymer's picture

I think "The Camera", "The Negative", and "The Print", all by Ansel Adams, and "Light, Science, Magic" are all excellent books that develop a good foundation in photography

Zach Ashcraft's picture

This is a dang good and well thought out article

Great article. I'm refining my gear (never thought I would need a gimbal), but mostly just getting out and shooting. Alaska this month for bears. Wife wants to go photograph baby elephants in India next. Change is good.

Lauchlan Toal's picture

Great points Ryan, I like that you mentioned health. Having tons of equipment is cool, but if you can't lug it to the locations you want or you miss out on days of shooting because you neglected yourself and fell ill, that equipment's completely useless.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Ryan, great read man. I totally agree with you on all of these points

I like the idea of the article, and Ryan has some good points, but there are 2 things I feel need to be said: #1 - IMHO you have to have the right glass for the shot. For example, ultra-wide shot, macro shot, shallow depth of field shot. So someone shouldn't be afraid to spend money on the glass they need. They can save money by buying used, or buying an older model lens. #2 - Travel is good, but photographers often neglect the opportunities near where they live, locations they can repeatedly visit. If this involves a hike, it can also give you points in the "your health" section.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Ryan, I got a question? What kind of gear do you have?

Ryan Cooper's picture

I primarily shoot with a D800 and carry around two primes, a 35mm F1.4 and an 85mm F1.8. I have a few other lenses I've collected over the years but 95% of my photos are shot with either of those. I find they do the job perfectly so no need to buy more. :) (Though I really wish Nikon or Sigma would put out a modern 135mm F2.0 as I am really fond of that focal length for headshots)

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Thanks for response, Ryan!
Your post has been about not having to put money into expensive gear. You've got the D800, which isn't cheap. I'm trying to save up for this beast.
So my next question, can you imagine not to have a full frame camera and be satisfied with shooting? Or did you, by saying expensive gear, mean Hasselblad?
I want to add that I'm not trying to be a dick here. I really enjoyed reading the post, many good points there. But as much as I would want to, I just can't agree that the gear is not important.

Jiyang Chen's picture

Wondering if you can write a more detailed post about the marketing aspect? I'd say that this is the weakest part of my photography.

Thien Doan's picture

Good Article