7 Tips for Students and Amateur Photographers: Learning to budget when buying your gear

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When you’re into photography, one of the best skills you’ll ever learn is budgeting – the reason being it can be costly to assemble even the essential equipment you’ll need to take stunning photographs. Avoid the dreaded ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ – you don’t need a massive amount of kit to get started – though the earlier you establish the most cost-effective ways to fund your activity, the better. 

Begin by working out what kit you can get away with using. The important thing is having the bare minimum required to start taking shots. This article is all about how you can budget effectively, borrow wisely, and prioritise what you buy:

  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Lens(es)
  • Memory card
  • Carrying case
  • Editing software

1. Credit cards vs personal loans

Maybe it’s the boring bit, but having a plan before you hit the stores will save you money. Don’t get into bad spending habits. First, sit down and go over the above list, then use the following tips to work out where you can save some money and where it’s counter-productive to skimp on quality.

No matter your passion, equipment follows a general rule – and you should always opt for quality when you can afford it – but avoid leaning on credit cards because they’re ridiculously expensive in the longer term – typically with an interest rate around 20%. Even if you’re still in college or at uni, you can obtain an unsecured personal loan – which is way more economical. 

2. Buying a camera

You don’t absolutely have to buy an expensive camera to take great shots. Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras represent great value for money, and they’ll perform a broad range of functions.

Be mindful of the shots you take – whether portraits, landscapes, or sports, for instance. Pick a model that does the job, but don’t try too hard to save money – there are many reasons the top manufacturers are so well regarded. 

3. Buying lenses

Lenses are the business end of your setup and arguably more important than your camera. It’s better to build up a collection gradually and buy quality.

In a nutshell, you can get by with just one lens. It’s true that you’ll need to add to that later, but budget for something affordable with a broad range of usefulness to start with and go from there.

4. Buying memory cards

Prices for memory cards have dropped considerably in recent years, so it’s worth buying enough capacity from the outset. You can find 128GB and 256GB cards for around fifty and one-hundred bucks, respectively, online, while at the higher end sit the 1TB cards.

5. Get a carry case

You don’t need to be hopping on and off international flights to get a decent carry case. This item protects your expensive investments, so budget to buy something that will do the job and last a while. Avoid going over the top and purchasing something bulky or heavy, but make sure it’s well padded.

6. Your computer

Think about buying enough RAM to handle what you need to do. One of the most important aspects of your hardware is the monitor – and you can buy something amazing for under $1,000.

Your editing will only be as good as the resolution, so invest in something good with decent colour rendering.

7. Editing Software

Photoshop is the go-to for many professional and amateur photographers, and many use Lightroom, too. Remember, Australian students can access free versions of Adobe’s Lightroom via an Adobe Creative Cloud account.

It pays to check what free licenses your school offers. In addition to that, Adobe’s Lightroom Starter Plan gets you access to free core editing features and organisational tools.

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