Posts Tagged ‘budget’

How to Photograph Jupiter from Your Own Backyard On the Cheap


I recently captured this picture of Jupiter, the 5th planet from the Sun. It was well received and many liked it. Lots of people wanted to know how to take a picture like this and what it would cost, and surprisingly I did this on a relatively low budget for astrophotography.

Here’s a rundown of how it was done, including a list of all the gear I used. Read more…

GoPro to Launch a Cheaper, Low-End Action Camera Simply Called the HERO. Here It Is.


Earlier this week we published the world’s first full leak of the upcoming GoPro HERO4 cameras. Here’s a second major reveal that we’re sharing exclusively with our readers: GoPro will be unveiling a cheaper, entry-level action camera simply called the HERO.
Read more…

Canon Debuts Two New Budget Bridge Cams for Close-Ups on the Cheap


Not a particularly exciting release, but a camera release nonetheless, Canon earlier today debuted the PowerShot SX520 HS and PowerShot SX400 IS: two new affordable superzooms that will get you really close to the action without emptying your wallet. Read more…

Walkthrough: How to Create a DIY Studio On a Budget

In a perfect world, we’d all have the studio of our dreams, and it would be filled with all of the best of gear. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, and more often than not we’re constrained by a (sometimes very tight) budget.

Here to help overcome that challenge is Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens, who has put together a video that shows just how easy it can be to build a very viable studio out of fairly cheap materials/products in a spare bedroom. Read more…

Tennis Australia Wants Experienced, High-Quality Photographers… For Free


In another “sign-of-the-times” type of story out of Australia, the company Tennis Australia has been in hot water with photographers for over a month now over a classified ad posted on The ad called for photogs with “previous experience,” “a strong knowledge of tennis,” and their own equipment. The pay? There is none. Read more…

How to Shoot, Print, and Frame a Massive Photo on a Budget

Want to adorn a wall with a giant print using your own photography? Here’s a great video in which photographer Lee Morris shares how he shot, printed, and framed a massive 5-foot-wide panoramic print for less than $150 — super cheap compared to the $1,000+ you might pay to have it professionally done. After shooting multiple photos on a bridge in Rome, he merged the images using Photoshop, had a metallic print made by Bay Photo Labs, and then framed it using a large mirror he found at Bed Bath and Beyond. The final result is quite impressive!

Disclosure: Bay Photo Labs is a sponsor of PetaPixel

Quality Portraits with Budget Lighting

Who says you need uber-expensive lighting equipment to shoot nice-looking studio portraits? In this video, photographer Bert Stephani shows us what you can do with cheap halogen work lights (you can find them for about $30-$50) and a couple shower curtains.

(via f stoppers)

5 Tips for Reselling Your Camera

If you are upgrading your camera gear, horray for you! That also means you’re probably planning to convert your old camera to cash for new gear or at least to free up room in your camera bag.

Camera bodies are probably the most difficult piece of photo equipment to sell, since new bodies and technology are released very frequently. They lack the longevity of lenses and depreciate over time.

We’ve posted a few previous tips about buying used DSLR gear and buying pro camera gear on a student budget, but now we’ll shift gears to the seller’s standpoint.

1. Think local — really local.

Selling your own camera gear can feel a little like selling an old project car.  It’s easy to become sentimentally attached, and you want to make sure it goes into good hands.

Before posting your gear advertisements anywhere, see if anyone in your immediate social circle is interested in buying. Co-workers or fellow students tend to be a good bet.  When I was working at my college paper, a lot of photo department staff would sell gear to each other, with the comforting reassurance that their equipment would be put to good use. There is also an added level of trust within colleagues, since they already know you and you’ll spend less time having to convince them that what you’re selling is in good condition.

Craigslist, when used with caution, is also a good way to find local buyers. Be wary of scams, though — a lot of falsely interested “buyers” might email you with a strange proposal. I’ve gotten a few generic emails from people interested in “the item,” offer a higher payment via PayPal, and then ask you to ship it to some remote relative in Africa. Yeah, right.

If you do find a real, local buyer on craigslist, do be careful. Propose to meet in a safe, public place during the day, and bring a friend or two along for added security. Cash is always most reliable, as well. It might be a good idea to meet near your bank, so you can safely stow your cash after you’ve made a sale.

2. Advertise the basics.

You don’t need to go into detail about small wear and tear that you notice, or anything beyond the camera’s model and maybe highlight some important technical specifications like megapixels and frames per second.

It is helpful to post a link with more detailed camera specs, either from the manufacturer’s site or, for the buyer’s convenience.

But the bottom line is to cut to the chase and don’t let your advert be hunkered down by unnecessary details.

Just tell them, it’s a Nikon D200. 10 megapixels. 5 fps. Excellent condition. Body specs here.

The less you tell prospective, but serious buyers, the more they might want to respond to your ad with questions. Once you begin a discussion with them, that’s your chance to answer more detailed questions they might have.

3. Don’t include more than you have to in the box.

Naturally, you’ll need to include a battery, charger, and other accessories that came with the camera body, but avoid including interchangeable accessories that you might use in the future.

Michael mentioned in his gear on a student budget post that he made the mistake of including a high-end B&W filter with a lens he sold, but later realized he still needed it.

Hang on to those memory cards and filters.

4. On the other hand, you’ll have a better chance of selling it if you bundle it with a lens.

Though this is a bit of a contradiction to the previous tip, but buyers will be much more interested in purchasing a used body if it comes with a lens.

You probably will not make as much back on the resell, but if the market is dry and people just aren’t interested, a lens can add a great deal of buyer incentive.

However, whether you need to include a lens or not really depends on what kind of camera body you are selling.

If you are selling a professional body, chances are, your buyers will be pros as well, and are likely to have their own lenses. In this case, there’s no need to include a lens.

If you are selling a lower-end DSLR, like a Nikon D40 or a Canon Rebel, prospective buyers are probably newer to photography, and will likely be looking for a bundle kit.

There’s really no need to K.I.T. with your kit lens, especially if you’re selling the body it came with. Ask yourself: are you really likely to attach that plastic 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 on your brand new D3x? Probably not.

Selling kit lenses alone is pretty pointless as well; brand new, they’re worth less than $150.

Instead, include it with the body you’ve got up for sale, and readjust your price. Be sure to check the street value of your bundle on eBay and craigslist.

5. Include your own photos of your gear on your advertisement.

If you provide photos with your advertisement, people are more likely to click on your posting. Additionally, if those photos are noticeably different from the standard manufacturer’s product shots, they can add to a feeling of authenticity and openness on the seller’s side. Also, when you post attractive product photos, the photos can imply your own skill as a photographer, and can give you more clout as a camera seller.


Understand the buyer’s standpoint when selling. Check out Michael’s posts on buying used DSLR gear and buying pro camera gear on a student budget.  Don’t sell yourself short, but be aware that you may need to make some concessions in order to make your gear marketable.

Finally, if you’ve got any additional tips on selling gear, feel free to share it with us!

Image credits: D70s by salimfadhley, Hoya Filter and Wine Bottle by davidgsteadman, 18-55mm kit lens by Manchester-Monkey, and My new camera by Catherinette Rings Steampunk

A Guide to Buying Used DSLR Gear

craigslistThis article is the second part of the previous article titled “Pro Camera Gear on a Student Budget“, and contains some advice for what you should do once you find a good deal and have arranged a meeting with the seller. I personally consider purchasing used gear on craigslist to be a much better route than other services (i.e. eBay), since you can check out the gear personally and walk away from the deal if anything doesn’t seem right. Here are the tips:

Know What to Look Out For

Just as you need to know a good price on a piece of gear from a bad one, you need to be able to distinguish something that looks and works like it should from something that doesn’t. I’ll be covering some specific things on what you should look for, but bring along a photographer friend if you haven’t used the kind of gear you’re buying before.

Check the Camera’s Sensor

sensorThe sensor on a DSLR is what captures the image you photograph. You don’t want to buy a camera and then later find out that the sensor is scratched or damaged in some way, since this might affect the quality of all of your photographs. Different cameras let you examine the sensor in different ways, so be sure to know how to check the sensor on the camera you’re looking at before going to the meeting. Just taking off the lens won’t expose the camera’s sensor, since it’s naturally hidden behind both the mirror and the shutter curtain. You’ll have to use the feature of the camera that locks up the mirror and opens the shutter curtain in order to see the sensor.

Ask How Many Actuations the Camera Has

Cameras are like cars, and mileage matters. Each camera has a “life expectancy” for how many actuations, or shots, the shutter system is expected to be able to handle before it fails and needs to be replaced (which is expensive). A camera is generally in pretty new condition if it has less than 10,000 actuations, and very used if it has more than 50,000 or 100,000 actuations (since many cameras are only rated for this many). Research your specific model to see how many actuations the manufacturer rated the camera for. Since for most cameras there isn’t an easy way to verify the actuation count with certainty, the figure is meant to give you an idea of how used the camera is, and how much life you might still get out of it.

How to Tell if A Camera is More Used than the Owner Claims

From personal experience, the best indicator for how much use a camera has seen is the strap attached to the camera. If the owner claims that the camera has barely been used, but the strap is worn and faded, then a warning bell in your head should go off. Gentle and minimal use won’t wear down a strap much.


Other areas you can check for wear are the external flash hot shoe and the LCD screen. On certain camera models, the hot shoe has a black paint coating that slowly rubs off every time an external flash is attached or removed. If the hot shoe is used and worn, then the camera probably is too. Newer LCD screens also will appear smooth, and lack the hairline scratches that appear over time. A flawless LCD screen does not prove the camera is in new condition, but one with many small scratches indicates the opposite.

Check the Front and Back Elements of the Lens

If you’re buying a lens, take off both lens caps and hold the camera up to the light. Make sure theres no scratches or other imperfections in the glass on either side of the lens.


Ask the Seller to Pose for Portraits

The benefits of this are two-fold. First, this allows you to test the sharpness of the lens. Focus on the seller’s eyes with the lens wide open, and check whether the eyes are sharp. This also gives you an opportunity to have a photograph of what the seller looks like, as an extra precaution. Honest sellers might even be more than willing to let you copy down their contact information from their drivers license, as I’ve experienced a few times.

Test for Front and Back Focusing

Make sure the seller isn’t selling the lens because it focuses incorrectly. You can do this by focus testing the lens at the meeting. If you don’t want to bring something specifically to use for testing the focus, learn to do focus testing quickly on any sheet of paper with text on it.


Tips for Meeting the Seller

Try to meet during the day, since it’s both safer, and easier to examine and test camera equipment. Sufficient light will help you to more easily test the quality and sharpness of photographs. Of course, there’s always the general craigslist tips for being a “safe buyer”. Meet sellers in person at a public location, and with another person if possible. I’ve found that meeting in a coffee shop at noon generally works very well. I’ve even managed to make the process very quick and painless, since many times sellers will agree to meet me at the coffee shop just down the block from where I live.

In Conclusion

The things I shared in this article were certain things I picked up through the past few years of doing gear transactions through craigslist. It’s definitely not a comprehensive list of what to be wary of, and you should examine all the normal functions of the equipment to ensure that they’re working flawlessly. If there are other important things that I failed to include, please leave a comment and share!

Pro Camera Gear on a Student Budget

craigslistMy first DSLR camera was a Canon 20D that my parents purchased for me as a graduation present back in August of 2005. We went to the store expecting to purchase the camera for $1,599, but found that it was selling for only $1,299. Boy was I excited. Looking back, I consider purchasing that 20D the worst photo-related decision I’ve ever made.

When other photographers see some of the lenses I own (i.e. 24-70mm, 16-35mm), they often wonder how I can afford such expensive gear. After all, I was only an unemployed college student from a middle-class family. What most people don’t know is that I almost exclusively purchase my equipment used from sellers on craigslist. This article is about everything I’ve learned through years of buying and selling camera equipment on that site. If you have the money to purchase the gear you want new, then this article obviously isn’t for you. However, if you want nicer gear without paying absurd amounts of money (maybe photography is just a serious hobby for you), then these tips might be useful to you.

First of all, something I’ve found very useful over the past years is keeping a detailed log of equipment transactions, since it helps me to keep track of how much I’ve spent on this serious hobby of mine. I do this in a Microsoft Excel file, but any spreadsheet software or website (i.e. Google spreadsheets) will do.

Here’s the current state of my equipment log:


The columns I add entries to are “equipment”, “purchase price”, and “sell price”. The values in “expense”, “revenue”, and “net” (cheesy names, I know) are automatically calculated (i.e. expense is “=SUM(B:B)/2″). As I add purchases and sales to the log, I see how much money I’ve given, how much I’ve received, and what my net spending (or earning) is at the current state.

In the log above, you can see that I’ve spent a net of $3,584 on all the camera equipment I currently have. If I were to sell everything I currently have at very reasonable prices right now, my chart tells me that I would have only spent a total of $300-$500 on all the photography I’ve done since I purchased that 20D back in 2005. That’s roughly the cost of the point and shoot camera I used throughout high school before it finally broke during a trip to china! In fact, the reason I’m still at a net loss right now is because of the few bad choices I’ve made along the way (20D, 24-70mm, 70-300mm). If I had followed what I’m going to write in this article from the very beginning, I would have actually ended up making money while using professional gear at the same time.

So what have I learned?

Know the Street Value of Camera Gear

This doesn’t mean knowing how much a camera body or lens retails for. This means knowing the average price a certain piece of equipment is being successfully sold for on craigslist. After all, if you don’t know how much something is worth, how will you know when you see it being sold for a good deal? If you see multiple listings of a certain piece of equipment that are roughly in the same price range, then that’s probably pretty close to the street value.

Buy Low, Sell High

Now that you know the street value of what you want, avoid it. If you buy it at street value now, you’ll have to sell it at lower than what you paid for if you ever sell it later down the road. If you look at my equipment log, you’ll see that most of the time I sell something, it’s either for the price I originally paid or higher. I’ve often used a lens or body for quite a long time and many actuations before selling it for a good amount more than I paid.

Look For Packages

packagesIt’s pretty much always the case that someone selling multiple items together as a package must sell it for significantly less than the sum of each item separately. They are, in a sense, exchanging the extra money they could earn for the time they save by selling it all at once. This presents a great opportunity for the photographer looking for a good deal on a particular item in the package. If a package you come across includes a piece of equipment you want along with many pieces you don’t want, and is extremely cheaply priced, buy it all and sell off everything you don’t want. If the price was good enough, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying nothing for the gear you wanted after selling off the rest.

Always Sell Items Individually

This is pretty much the previous point reversed. Buying items in packages and selling them individually can get you free gear and maybe even allow you to pocket some cash with your free gear. Buying items individually and selling them in a package will probably lose you money.

Camera Bodies Depreciate Like Cars and Computers

This is what I wish someone would have told me before I started out, since I sold the original 20D I purchased for $1,200 a couple years later for $380. The moment you take the first photo on a camera you purchased new, the value of the camera instantly plummets. Furthermore, camera technology advances very, very quickly, and the next model of your new camera will be released within the next couple years. When this happens, your camera instantly depreciates even more.

The moral of the story is, buy camera bodies used and from a couple generations back (since depreciation will be much slower). Also, “upgrade” often (you’ll want to anyway, right?). This allows you to constantly move up in camera technology without paying extra money.

Professional Lenses Don’t Depreciate Like Camera Bodies

Lenses made for the Canon EF and Nikon F lens mounts are interchangeable and can be used on cameras from as far back as 1987 and 1959 (respectively) and as recent as the latest models. Lens quality and features do not improve nearly as fast as the camera bodies they’re used on, so it’s possible hold onto a professional lens for many years without losing much of its street value. The caveat is that if you accidentally break the lens this tip goes out the window, so take very good care of your gear. Always use a filter.

I’ve found that top of the line lenses (like Canon’s L series) depreciate least quickly, and probably won’t break or fail on you due to their spectacular build quality. As a result, I don’t own any EF-S or third party lenses, though I’m sure you could go for those and do just fine as long as you go for high quality ones that get good reviews.

Jump At Ridiculously Good Lens Deals

jumpEven if you don’t plan on adding the lens to your collection, you will be able to try out a wide range of lenses while pocketing money after you’re done with it. People sometimes pay to rent lenses they’re interested in, which seems funny to me (unless you’re pro, rich, employed, or all of the above). Why rent when you can buy, sell, and profit?

People also talk of variations in sharpness and quality from lens to lens. This is definitely true, but is all the more reason to buy lenses used on craigslist. Some people buy and return a lens repeatedly in order to find a “good copy”, but buying and selling the lens on craigslist will help you do the same thing while potentially putting money in your pocket.

Never Sell Interchangeable Accessories Along With Your Gear

A couple years ago when I sold a copy of the 70-300mm, I threw in a B&W filter along with it, thinking I didn’t need it anymore. B&W is a pretty high-end brand when it comes to filters. When I needed the filter again in the future on a different lens, I didn’t have it. Don’t include things like filters, extra batteries, or extra memory cards when you sell off gear, since you can keep those things for future use (and they don’t really add value to what you’re selling anyway).

There’s More To Come…

If following the guidelines I laid out in this article was as easy and straightforward as I made them seem, then I’m sure a lot more budget conscious photographers would be following these tips to save money on their gear. The truth is, there are definitely a lot of risks, dangers and things to avoid that I’ve come across and learned from as well. My next post will deal with how to know when to buy and when to run away from the deal. That’s the second part of this two part series, so stay tuned!

Update: My new article on how to make safe and smart decisions for used gear on craigslist can be found here: A Guide to Buying Used DSLR Gear.