Photography is expensive. For someone who is just starting out in the business, the cost of purchasing the right equipment might seem astronomical. When the camera itself can be a thousand-dollar investment, it pays to know where you can cut costs until you get your feet solidly on the ground. Every professional photographer has been there, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of when you find yourself needing to improvise your equipment.
Below, I’ve come up with a quick list of things you can do to “fake it until you make it”:
Reflectors and Light Absorbers- There are several ways you can improvise a suitable reflector or light absorber. One way to do it is to buy a reflective car sun shade from your local automotive or hardware store. These come in all shapes and sizes, they are inexpensive and as effective as proper photography reflectors. Another thing you can do is buy a cheap piece of white Bristol or poster board. These cost literally pennies, and are effective in a pinch. For a light absorber, when you have too much light reflecting off your subject matter, a piece of black Bristol or poster board works nicely. Average Cost: $1-$20.
Weatherproofing for Cameras and Lenses- If you are shooting outside on a wet day, but don’t have a way of protecting your lens, you can use a simple unlubricated condom. Simply cut the tip off and slide the condom onto your lens. To weatherproof your camera, a produce bag from your local grocery store will do nicely. All you do is slip the camera into the bag, and cut a big enough hole in the bag for your lens. Average Cost: Free- $10.
Lens Sunshades- If you are shooting outside on a bright day, it pays to have some kind of a sunshade for your lens to cut down on lens flare. In a pinch, you can use a large or extra- large paper disposable coffee cup. Simply cut out the bottom (inside the ridge), and slip it over the end of your lens. Average Cost: The price of a cup of coffee.
Backgrounds- When you don’t have photographer’s backgrounds available, there are a couple of things you can use instead. Cheap bolts of plain cloth make decent backgrounds, and they can often be bought at department stores, or on sale in fabric stores. For smaller projects, a piece of Bristol or poster board will usually do nicely. Average Cost: $1-$10.
Lighting Equipment- Proper photographer’s lighting equipment can cost hundreds of dollars. In a pinch, you can buy work lights at any hardware or home renovation store. With a clip mounting, you can attach the light anywhere you need to, instead of buying a stand for it. Work lights are usually strong enough to give off enough light, but not so strong that you will need to compensate for it in any way. The only down-side is that you may need to buy an extension cord to compensate for the short cord. Average Cost: $15-$40.
Macro Lens- Proper macro lenses start at about $100, for a previously used lens. If you have already got a telephoto lens, you can improvise a macro lens in one of two ways. First, fit your telephoto lens onto your camera. Set your aperture so that it is completely open. Then, turn a smaller lens around and tape it (backwards) onto the end of the telephoto lens, taking care not to get the tape on the glass. Another way to do this is to use a macro adaptor ring. These nifty little things fit onto the end of your lenses and will allow you to attach your smaller lens to your camera backward. The only thing you need to bear in mind is that these methods need your camera to have manual focusing capability. Average Cost: $2-$40
The art of photography, whether you do it as a career or a hobby, can take a chunk out of your bank account. By learning how to improvise some cheap but effective (if a little “ghetto”) alternatives, you can save yourself a lot of money and still come out with an impressive finished product.