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While everyone wants to shoot pictures like a pro photographer... they can't always afford pro equipment. This can be a major stumbling block for many beginners to photography. Just how do you acquire all this stuff? Never fear! There are a number of ways in which you can accumulate photography equipment on a shoestring budget, from DIY projects to a little poking about on the internet. Here's a basic guide:
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Before You Begin
Think about what you really need to take good pictures. Is that ring flash really all that necessary, or can it wait until later? What needs replacement first, your lens or your tripod? Draw up a list of your photographing priorities, with what you need the most near the top... and the things that you just really really want near the bottom. With a little thought, you might discover that your needs are actually less than you think they are, which will reduce precisely how many items you're looking to acquire considerably—or at the very least, you'll be able to consciously allot their acquisition for later down the line.
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Where You Shop Matters
While you're doing all this poking around, you have probably noticed that the internet is a rather large place—especially when it comes to photography equipment. Speciality and general websites abound for selling equipment in all states of use, and independent sellers on broad websites such as eBay or Amazon abound.
Generally speaking, you'll get the best deals on those larger sites, where many small sellers are competing against others. That's not to say that great deals don't exist on smaller sites—but starting big and then working into smaller sites if you don't find what you're looking for is the more efficient way to go.
Be very careful. Look closely at seller ratings and make sure that other buyers have been satisfied. Also, reading the fine print of any given offer is a must: they might be sneaking in some unexpectedly high shipping prices or the like. Here are 5 tips for buying photography equipment on eBay.
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We all want that cool new gadget. However... cool new gadgets tend to run on the expensive side. If you can stand the patience, wait a few months after the product comes out. The price usually drops quite drastically after the initial rush of buyers.
A further advantage of waiting a few months before pouncing is that you'll be able to observe the incoming tide of user reviews, and see if this is actually the product you want and that it truly works as advertised. There's precious few feelings worse than having wasted money on a product that you don't actually want—especially if you don't have much money to begin with. A little thought goes a long ways.
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If you wait long enough before buying something new, chances are you'll also stumble across the product—in a used condition. Be careful, and pay attention to what the seller has to say about their product. Oftentimes, a product will have barely been used, and is being sold merely because the original buyer didn't like it, or has been only ever-so-slightly used. Usually, even such lightly used conditions translate into deeply discounted prices.
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Other times, however... used equipment might be being sold because it's actually broken. Hopefully the seller alerted you to this fact—otherwise, you might just have a long net war in front of you. However, there are certain advantages to shopping for broken equipment, if you're a little daring.
It depends, of course, on both what part is broken on the particular piece of equipment, and your own technical know-how. Is a repair feasible? If you're just gluing a stud back onto a tripod, then no problem. Repairing a scratch on a lens... maybe not so much. It's up to you and your own discretion, but it's hard to get much cheaper than a broken piece of equipment—usually, the most expensive bit about it is the shopping! Even if you're not particularly tech savvy, repairing a broken piece of equipment might not be as daunting as you might think. There is a lot of easy to understand repair guides for common breaks available online. For instance, here is a basic guide to repairing and replacing LCD screens.
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Not Shopping At All: DIY
Feeling really daring? Well, actually, you don't have to be all that daring to make a piece of camera equipment for yourself. DIY projects for a virtually unlimited variety of photography equipment, taking from ten minutes to a few hours to complete, are free and plentiful online. It might only cost you a few dollars to have a piece of equipment that works just as well as one professionally made for hundreds of dollars—and maybe even a bit better, since you can often customize it to your own personal use. Check out this list to get you started on making your very own DIY professional photography kit: