Friday, December 11, 2015

Invest In Experiences (Not Gear)

McWay Falls - Big Sur, California
Photography can be expensive. Cameras can cost thousands of dollars. Lenses can cost thousands of dollars each. Even a cheap DSLR with a few inexpensive lenses can run you a grand or more. Then there are filters, tripods, flashes, SD cards, bags to carry it all in, software, etc, etc--it all adds up to a lot of money.

Then every couple of years you're replacing all of that with newer, better things. The average professional and advanced amateur photographer spends $5,000-$7,000 each year on gear. Wow!

But I have a better idea: invest in experiences rather than gear.

You might be surprised that, even though I have changed gear many times over the last few years, I really haven't spent any money. I purchased a DSLR in 2010 and a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera in 2012.
Tree And Half Dome - Yosemite National Park, California
Those cameras were stolen and my insurance replaced them with new cameras, and the deductible was paid out of the stolen gear (basically one lens wasn't replaced, as that paid for the deductible). Later the stolen cameras were recovered and I was able to buy them back for next to nothing. I then sold all four of those cameras and that has paid for my gear ever since. The last time that I paid for a camera was in 2012. I've simply sold my old gear to pay for new gear ever since.

I have purchased some software over the years, mainly Alien Skin products. I love Exposure, and Snap Art makes my Impressions series possible. I purchased both of those products when they were discounted. Mostly, however, I've used free software, like GIMP and Paint.NET (even the Phase One Capture One Express that I'm currently using was free because Sony users can download it for free).

In the last five years I've invested a total of about $1,500 in gear and software and such. It averages out to around $300 per year, but almost all of that was spent over three years ago. In the last three years I've spent less than $300 total, and much of that was software and my website:

Because I've spent less money on gear I've been able to spend more on travel. I've been able to make a number of great trips to beautiful locations. I've been able to experience things that I wouldn't have been able to if I had spent $5,000-$7,000 each year on gear.
Green Hills, White Mountain - Fruit Heights, Utah
You'll capture better photographs with your older "lesser" gear at extraordinary locations than with newer "better" gear at ordinary locations. Great photography is in part about being at the right place at the right time, and often it costs money to get to the right places for great photography.

Besides better photographs, you'll also have better memories. You'll have seen things you wouldn't have otherwise seen. You'll have met people, eaten food, and visited sights that you would have missed if you had purchased the new gear.

Instead of buying that new camera or lens, purchase a ticket to somewhere you've always wanted to go. Reserve a hotel room. Put gas in the car and go. Think of all that you could experience if you remained content with the gear you have.

Invest in experiences, not gear. When you have the urge to buy something new, consider what the money you'll spend on that could pay for. Then think, would I rather go there and do this and that or would I rather have a few more megapixels or slightly better corner sharpness?
Red Chairs - Cambria, California
Years down the road you won't really remember that new camera or lens. Sure, you'll remember that you owned it and used it, but you won't really care about it. Do you fondly look back on that television set you paid big money for in 2005? If you still even own it, you probably really wish you had a newer, better and bigger one (and probably a cheaper one, since prices have dropped so much since you purchased that old TV).

That gear that you really want to buy will be replaced within a few years. Eventually it will be "junk" and you'll put it on eBay for significantly less than you paid for it. Before long it will be a distant and fading memory, as you pay attention to that new thing you replaced it with.

Experiences, however, stay with you. You'll fondly remember what you did. You'll learn and grow. You'll come away with photographs that will be some of your favorites. You will benefit far more from this than you'll benefit from having some slightly "better" camera or lens.

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