Sunday, February 1, 2009

Where to buy photo equipment?

I wanted to talk a bit to those getting started in photography about buying gear. I always recommend buying a basic digital camera with manual options. It’s a good idea to avoid the fancy cameras with over the top functions that will rarely if ever get used. If you’re new to photography the best way to learn is on a basic camera shooting in manual. If you read my blog you’ve no doubt heard that a few times.

You do have a few options to consider before you buy. First, buying new or used. Buying used equipment can help keep your budget in check and build your system faster. I have found some pretty amazing deals on used equipment. Of course you must evaluate the equipment carefully as used gear has an implied “as is” meaning once you hand over the money it its yours. New equipment is the safest way to go by a long shot. If you’re on a budget this means it could take time to get your system in place.

Consider the below before you buy your photo gear

1. Known retailers: Local shops are a good choice as they stand behind you’re purchases. If your buying gear online using a known retailer, a company that has a track record is always a good bet.

2. Online auctions: I’ve known many who have brought gear on eBay and only a few who have been unhappy with little recourse. It can be a risky proposition buying equipment online. If you’re set at buying on eBay follow the common rules, checking sellers feedback, looking into the return policy of the seller asking specific questions about the condition etc.

3. Craig’s list maybe a better option because you can meet the seller at a local coffee shop for example to check out the gear before you buy it. Again, be sure to take a good look at the gear you’ll be buying. Test lenses, cameras and other equipment, I had a student even meet a seller with his laptop and tested the camera by taking general exposures and downloading the card to his laptop just to make sure the camera was working properly.

4. Still another place for deals on used gear, I’d suggest checking out the other local options such as camera stores for consigned equipment. I teach photo workshop all over the country when I stop in to the local camera stores I go right to the used gear area, often in the back of the store. It’s a good place to find gently used gear where a hobbyist with a big wallet and an eye for the latest and great equipment will trade up for the newest models.

5. Camera Shows/Swap meets: In larger towns like the one I live in you can find camera shows or photography swap meets listed in the newspaper or online. I make these shows at least once a year and pick-up all kinds of odds an ends from light stands, extra flashes to a out of print photography books. Most of the dealers there are at every show, it seems the more I get to know them the better the prices I get. At these types of shows everything is negotiable, on the last day of the show the prices are almost always better! In some cases the more you buy the better the price.

6. Pawn Shops: One of my photo assistant’s makes a habit of stopping into these shops and its shocked me at some of the things he has found. I remember him showing me a case that included an underwater film camera with two lights plus the case, he paid 250.00 clearly the dealer was not aware of what he had. My assistant is a diver and uses the gear twice a year for his trips, takes the film to a local lab and has digital scans made.

Photo swap meets can be a great place to add to your photography system. Often these events are organized by local photography clubs and can be a great place to pick up low cost gear. You’ll find all kinds of things you never knew you needed. I buy everything from light stands, extra gear bags to tripods. I even picked up a really cool mini spy camera. To find out more about the DFW camera show click here.

This article, graphics and photography are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. Text, graphics and photos by Mike McLean

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