Is growing your business' brand and image among your 2016 goals? Professional photography makes an incredible difference.
But bootstrap budgets usually don't cover frequent professional photography. The ability to create your own eye candy is an unbelievable asset in the start-up world, especially in the social media era. And making striking images is also good creative fun.
From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, powerful photography gear is at its lowest prices of the year. The pricing, packages, model numbers, and specs may threaten to overwhelm you.
Not to worry! Before starting Lusterity, I owned a family portrait business for five years. Below is my advice--not for my fellow pros--but for entrepreneurs who want to get the highest impact gear for the most affordable price.
1. Buy the cheapest DSLR body possible. Today's "low end" model is more powerful than the best pro cameras a few short years ago. Skimp here and save instead for the best lens possible. No need to fret over megapixels or low light ISO levels. They're all amazingly powerful.
2. Skip the kit lenses. Sometimes, especially with holiday deals, having an included lens is cheaper than just the body. If that's the case, take it! Otherwise, don't pay for a mediocre lens.
3. Get a 50mm prime lens. Nicknamed the "plastic fantastic," this is the best learning lens available. As a prime lens, it does not zoom. This is good because when you're starting, holding some variables constant is really useful. Also, this small, lightweight lens works well even if there is very little light. It creates those gorgeous images with one sharp point and everything else soft and dreamy. And price rolls in just over $100. Winner!
4. Make sure you're social-media ready with WiFi. The newest camera bodies build it in. But you can add it with an EyeFi card. If you have a DSLR and then only post to instagram with your phone, you're losing out on the whole point of the better camera! This thing renewed my love for my DSLR.
5. As soon as you can afford it, buy a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. This is the expensive bit, buy you're investing a workhorse. It can be used for product shots. It takes a nice portrait. And it performs on-the-go, capturing events and people. Worried that you don't know what 24-70 and f/2.8 mean? It doesn't matter too much for now, but remember that 24-70 is the focal range, and this is a happy medium zone--this is neither wide angle nor substantial zoom. Depth of field is indicated by f/2.8; smaller numbers are better and f/4.0 is not the same thing.
6. Finally, protect your nice new lens with a good UV filter. These are clear, quality glass covers that can be removed and tossed if they get scratched. A good piece of insurance, and in my opinion the only add-on insurance worth buying (don't get scammed by a high cost protection plan)!
Let's do the math. In Canon, the entry level body is the Rebel. Last year's SL1 and T5 or T5i are still on the market. Listed today at $349, these are perfect. This year's model T6 or T6i add wifi, yay! They may be in more of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, so keep an eye out. The 50mm is $110. A Sigma 24-70 2.8 lens is $799 (go with Canon and it is $1,799--but that's what I have had for eight years and still love!). The EyeFi card adds another $60, plus the high-quality protective filter is $70 more. It should all total under $1,500. And the same basic set up exists in Nikon, too. The technical and cost differences between them are minimal.
What about those thinking as much or more about family memories or travel plans than entrepreneurial endeavors? Great news. My advice about what to buy when you're getting started is exactly the same. The only change might be to give the kit lens a second consideration, especially if you get one that has a substantial zoom. You won't use it much for professional images, but you might enjoy it on the sidelines of the soccer field or from the cheap seats at the school play.
With that, the easy part is done. Now the fun... learn to use your new gear!
P.S. All the included links go to B&H Photo and Video. They're an independent (huge) business in New York. They had nothing to do with our article; it's just a reliable source for shopping and reviews.
P.P.S. Lusterity will offer get-to-know your DSLR classes in early 2016. Sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know the dates and locations!