How to save money as a photographers at any level

·3 min read
Soccer fans break out their cameras to get a shot of soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco during an exhibition game between the Club Dorados De Sinaloa of Mexico and the San Antonio Scorpions FC March 14, 2012, at Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton.
Soccer fans break out their cameras to get a shot of soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco during an exhibition game between the Club Dorados De Sinaloa of Mexico and the San Antonio Scorpions FC March 14, 2012, at Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton.

I have often joked that there isn’t a problem in photography that a lot of money can’t solve, but is there a inexpensive way to learn and practice photography? The answer is yes and no. It depends on what kind of of photography you’re interested in and what level you aspire to.

If you’re content just to be a hobbyist then you can find inexpensive places to learn how to take pictures.

There are online forums such as Facebook photography groups that not only display it’s members images but offer photographic tips and advice, virtually for free. Some offer meetups and photo walks so that you can put your newfound knowledge to practical use. Local photo/camera clubs can offer the same thing and many hold monthly contests for their members to measure themselves against each other. There’s usually a nominal fee for membership in these groups.

Photographer Whitney Ramirez takes pictures of people participating in the "Dear Stockton" event June 28, 2012, at Stockton City Hall in downtown Stockton.
Photographer Whitney Ramirez takes pictures of people participating in the "Dear Stockton" event June 28, 2012, at Stockton City Hall in downtown Stockton.

If you want to step up to the next level community college’s can offer excellent photo courses at a reasonable cost. If you’re inspired to make photography a career then there are four year colleges and photography schools that offer degrees in photography, which are more expensive. The higher level you want to achieve, the more money it will cost you.

Equipment is the biggest expense in photography. When starting out in photography one of the cheapest avenues is just to use your phone. While smartphones can cost from several hundred to well over $1,000, most people get them for communication and internet connectivity in addition to their camera functions, so the cost is spread over the different uses.

A visitor takes pictures at the art installation Field of Light at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro on Aug. 3, 2019. The exhibit consists of more than 58,800 LED lights on stalks nestled in a gently sloping ravine a few miles outside of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.
A visitor takes pictures at the art installation Field of Light at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro on Aug. 3, 2019. The exhibit consists of more than 58,800 LED lights on stalks nestled in a gently sloping ravine a few miles outside of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County.

But for many people they’re the main image-making devices and are used much like the older digital point-and-shoot cameras. Because of this you can buy a point-and-shoot for a few hundred dollars to as little as $50. With either, there are limits on how much control that you have but you can still learn much about composition and lighting.

The next step up are the DSLR and digital mirrorless cameras which run from several hundred dollars for entry level equipment to several thousand dollars for professional grade gear. You can defray some of the costs by getting used equipment. While they may not have the latest bells and whistles, used cameras can perform nearly as well as new ones.

Record photographer Clifford Oto photographs the championship football game between St. Mary's High and Pleasant Grove High from Elk Grove on Dec. 13, 2008.
Record photographer Clifford Oto photographs the championship football game between St. Mary's High and Pleasant Grove High from Elk Grove on Dec. 13, 2008.

The greatest costs can come from the different genres of photography. While a portrait photographer may only need a modest camera and lens, wildlife and sports photographers will probably need very expensive telephoto lenses that will bring the action and subjects closer to them, especially in low light conditions. The portraitists, however, will probably spend their money on costly lighting equipment.

So for beginners, start out small. Use a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera and joint a camera club or photography group. Then when you feel the need to expand your abilities perhaps move up to an entry level or used DSLR and take a class or two. By the time you’re ready make photography a career, if you’re so inspired, the purchase of equipment and and professional development won’t seem so much of an expenditure as it will an investment.

Record photographer Clifford Oto has photographed Stockton and San Joaquin County for more than 36 years. He can be reached at coto@recordnet.com or on Instagram @Recordnet. Follow his blog at recordnet.com/otoblog. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.

This article originally appeared on The Record: Is there an inexpensive way to practice photography?

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