It’s time to face facts. You’re a Gadget Guy (or Girl). It is impossible for any photographer – hobbyist or professional – to be anything but. You will always compare your current setup with the up-and-coming cameras. You will always aspire to have the next coolest gadget, the better flash, the most crisp lenses or even the best software you can afford. It’s in your blood, but it’s also part of your hobby. I am not going to try to tell you that this is an unhealthy habit: The desire to improve and expand your tools and resources. On the other hand, it does require some planning as we don’t all have the money or the justification to upgrade on a whim. Here are a few short tips to help you plan for your next upgrade.
- Wish Lists – Doesn’t matter how you keep one, be it through a favorite online retailer or an Outlook Task List, but the best advice I have to offer is to keep a list of what you want. As you will see, this list comes into play with many of the tips included herein.
- Prioritization – You should be sure to prioritize your wish list based on needs and desires. Base your priorities on what your current style may be. If, for example, you’re shooing a lot of landscapes as of late, a new SB-900 Flash will be much less important than a 10.5mm Fisheye lens. Priorities will change, so revisit your list often and certainly before making a purchase.
- Biggest Bang for Your Buck – Though difficult to assess, you should weigh your options based on what will give you the most value. While a really high-end camera body might seem appealing, you may benefit from spending less money on a better lens, a better flash, a new tripod or any combination thereof.
- Don’t Settle – Good things come to those who wait. It is difficult to wait indefinitely while you try to save for a high end piece of equipment. But don’t skimp out on a cheaper brand or product just to get something in your hands. It might look nice, but a Cannon 20EG Backpack just doesn’t compare to a Crumpler Customary Barge Backpack, despite the cost savings.
- Do Without – Since you don’t yet have your equipment, find a way to cope without. Aside from the obvious – the fact that you can’t use something you don’t have – I bring this up for good reason: You may find a way to live without your desired equipment. If you do, you may find you don’t need that piece of equipment and you’ll either remove it from your wish list or re-prioritize.
- Borrow Specialized Items – Specialized items, such as Canon’s 17mm TS-E Tilt Shift Lens, would be nice to have in your bag. But unless you’re using it constantly for your work, $2500 (USD) is hard to justify. Fortunately, a lot of camera shops and online vendors will rent such lenses for a reasonable price so that you can complete your project without breaking the bank.
- Just a Dollar A Day… – Charities use this phrase all the time, and for good reason. Your next $380 lens upgrade won’t seem so bad if you save just one dollar a day for a little over a year (365 days long). Drink one less fancy coffee from that Seattle coffee vendor, eat one less super-sized candy bar and save just one dollar per day.
- Remember What it Took – After all the planning, after all the time spent and all the sacrifices, when you finally have your prized addition to your bag, cherish it. And never forget what it took to acquire that particular item.