A Photographer's Ode to Frugality ~ Wisconsin Wedding Photographer
So, if you know me at all, you know I'm a bit of a personal finance geek.
Maybe you've called me a "tightwad" behind my back.
Cheap (though I prefer frugal....cheap sounds so seedy!)
I'm all about debt slaying, saving, investing, paying cash, and finding "frugal" alternatives for things people SAY you need to spend a lot of bank on. (In fact, have you checked out my Personal Finance blog, The Pudgy Gazelle? PLUG!!!)
Over the years I've found a way to run this business on cash (and I don't intend to EVER go back to using credit for Type A again, mark my words) and to save where I can. To me, running a successful business is knowing where to spend your hard earned money on reinvestment, knowing when to save it, and knowing how to up your profit while controlling your costs.
Here's some of my FAVORITE "cost savers".
Note: There are affiliate links on this post. If you're interested in purchasing any of "cost saving" items, feel free to search them out with the name and info or using the affiliate link is cool too :)
Missy MWAC just wrote an ode to the camera bag. You don't need to look far for blog love from lady photographers praising their pretty bags. Hey, sometimes dudes get in on the action to with their leather, beard-wax smelling man-bags.
Photographers love bags. It's a given. Even me....and I'm lacking an extreme amount of style or fashion-forwardness. But, I love big things to put all my things in (bonus if there are many pockets for smaller things).
I've detailed my saga over less-than-superior camera bags on the Facebooks and Instagrams. I was a Kelly Moore fan for some time. Had my black Kelly Moore bag that I had purchased used for 6 years and she was well loved. For $80 on Ebay I got my money's worth (LESSON ONE: NEVER PAY FULL PRICE....if you can help it!). But, alas, she started to show her age. So, I thought, Ebay Bag had done me well....why not do it again. I got the EXACT same bag (so I thought) from Ebay for about $60.
It didn't exactly meet my expectations.
That? That "I look like I got chewed on by a sewer rat" look? That was after ONE WEEK of use. I thought it was probable I had purchased a knock-off, but other Kelly Moore owners were expressing similar "shaving" issues. Apparently they changed their material.
So, I hit the internet in search of a reasonably priced messenger camera bag that wouldn't fall apart on me. There was no way I was springing for a $400 or so bag that was just gonna get stepped on, thrown in the dirt, tossed around, and banged up. I actually USE my equipment....and I'm hard on my bags.
After months of scouring the internets, I came upon this bag on Amazon from a company called ZEKAR. It's canvas and leather, looks a LOT like some of those more expensive hipster-y bags and....get this....I paid $35.99 for it. THIRTY. FIVE. NINETY. NINE. FOLKS.
It's gone up one dollar since then, but I've had the bag since June 11th and it's been through a few double header wedding weekends and, so far, I LOVE it. It sits right on my hip nicely as I'm walking around and if I need to throw it down it sits upright. Best yet.....leather seems to be good quality and the canvas is nice and thick. Stitching is quality and for $35.99.....it's just one hell of a bag. I don't know who the ZEKAR people are, but hey.....praise Zekar.
I'm a lighting geek. There are lots of natural light photographers out there, and while I do love some heavenly natural light.....I love to see what a good flash can do.
Problem I ran into? Light shit is expensive. Like, ridiculously so. A 28" Westcott Recessed Softbox (my personal favorite modifyer. Yes. I have a favorite) is $129. And while the light off of this baby is well worth it....I was going through 4-5 a year. So, $600 or so in softboxes....yeah, started to get a little stupid. So, off I went.....Thrifty Me....looking for an alternative.
First I found a great little softbox from somewhere overseas, again on Ebay. It was $35, but I can't seem to find them for sale anymore. So, I moved on to Neewer Softboxes. Their 28" softbox is $19.99 on Amazon and it stands up to me shoving it in trees or having the lightstand fall over in a gust of wind or whatever else I try to do to it. So far I've only had to buy 2 this year, but $40 is much easier to swallow than $600 or so.
When it comes to speedlights, I'm a Nikon gal so naturally I went for the Nikon branded speedlights when I first started out. An SB-700 is about $326. A little steep, especially for what it does. I mean, does it light up? Are there other things out there that'll light up too? Sure...let's find them.
So I did. First I went with used SB-28 Nikon speedlights, which are GREAT and you can get them used for about $60. But, if I wanted brand new I had to go searching for other options. I finally found Yongnuo flashes, which are great little flashes that you can use on camera or off with excellent results. What I like best might be trivial, but they have metal hot shoes. The SB-28's are plastic....and I was constantly breaking them. So yay for metal hot shoes. It's the little things.
SAVING ON OTHER SHIZZ
Rest assured, if I'm buying something for myself....if it's for the business or whatever....I'm going to find the best deal or I'm going to delay the gratification. Because I freaking HATE spending money. I have a real aversion to it. Especially if I can jimmy-rig something amazing with what I have.
Blame my best childhood friend being a grandmother who survived The Great Depression. Who knows. I have a real need to not spend a lot.
When it comes to my cameras, I've typically always either bought new (but not right upon release, because they are the most expensive then), refurbished (my last refurb lasted me 4 seasons) or gently used. The last two cameras I purchased were from a friend who barely if ever used them, so deal for me. When a new camera body comes out, I never really feel the need to jump right on it and upgrade....especially if what I have is serving me...and my clients....just fine. When I find a need to upgrade, I do.
When it comes to the little tools of my trade: triggers, cords, camera straps, whatever.....I seek out used. That's probably the GOOD part about there being SO MANY dang photographers out there.....lots of folks with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) who realize about $10,000 in that gear doesn't really make a business....and they start to sell stuff off.
Yay for me.
Yes, Photography is EXPENSIVE. It's a very expensive 1-person business (add in studio rent, insurance, travel fees, whatever) and it's a very expensive hobby....especially if you allow yourself to be a gearhead.
Just remember, the gear HELPS....but it doesn't MAKE the photographer. The flashes light up. The softboxes softbox.....the used Rapid Strap only comes with a LITTLE bit of previous-owner sweat smell.....no really.....
Seek out deals, work smart, spend smart, be happy!