10 Questions To Ask Before You Buy Camera Equipment

Do you ever fall for the “shiny object syndrome”? In other words, do you buy camera equipment on a whim because you fall in love with it based on a recommendation?

As a photographer, I think we can all agree we’ve fallen into that trap a time or two. I remember one time we were at a photographic convention, and the speaker talked up a new line of lighting equipment. We headed into the tradeshow area, and proceeded to purchase the entire system. Then most of it sat in our studio, unused at the back of the room.

Before you head out and spend this month’s profits on that new lens you’ve been eyeing, ask yourself these questions first.

1. Why do I need this new piece of equipment?

Is this truly a need, or is it a want? If you truly need something, it will ultimately benefit your business, and hurt your business if you don’t have it. A second camera body, for example, is a necessity.

2. How will this change my photography?

Some equipment will instantly change your photography, and allow you to be more creative. Moving from camera flash to a studio lighting setup will allow you to create depth, and give you a more natural lighting source whether you are in the studio or out.

3. How often will I use it?

Is this piece of equipment going to be sitting on a shelf, or in the front pocket of your camera bag? If you need it for the occasional client, there may be other options. But if you can use it again and again, every week of the year, it may be worth the investment.

4. Will I still want this item tomorrow?

Tradeshows are easy to catch you up in the excitement of wanting something new. Step back and sleep on it if you can. Evaluate the true purpose of this piece of equipment, and see if you still feel the same way in the morning.

5. Is there something else available that does the same thing at a lower cost?

Before you buy an expensive lens, can you find one that’s almost as good for half the cost? I was reading on Art Wolfe’s blog that he travels with just a few lenses, and he prefers his Canon 70-200 f4 over the 2.8 version because its just as sharp and much lighter – and less than half the cost.

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6. Can I rent it first to try it out?

If you’ve never worked with a piece of equipment before, are you sure you’ll like the results? Why not rent it first? Yes, it may cost you quite a bit to rent it – money you could put towards the purchase. But if you’re debating on a $2,500 lens, the $100 rental fee could end up being a lifesaver if you decide its not what you want after all.

7. What do other people say about it?

Do a quick Google search on the piece of equipment you are debating on. What do other people have to say about it? Not only can this lead you to deciding against a purchase, it can also give you a much stronger reason to go ahead with it. Or lead to other opportunities that may suit you better.

8. Is there a new version coming out soon?

If you’ve ever purchased something new like Photoshop, only to have the new version released a month later, you know how frustrating it can be. While you can’t always wait for the newest version if you need something now, it never hurts to ask the salesperson if they expect a new release, and whether it will be included if you buy today.

9. Where is the money coming from to buy this item?

Is this purchase going to drain your savings account? Or is this just a normal business expense coming from your monthly sales? The bigger the impact it has on you financially, the more you should question whether you need it or not.

10. Will this help me increase my sales?

Are you buying this item to help you put together a new revenue area within your business? For example, are you buying studio lighting so you can move from weddings to portraits, and now have the capability of bringing in clients seven days of the week? If you need something to expand into a new area of photography, it’s a good sign this is the right purchase for you.

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