Is Photography an Expensive Hobby? 3 Stages of Cost and Expenditure

Introduction

Photography is one of the most popular hobbies on the planet especially as we all have our very own mini camera in our pocket in the form of a smartphone.

This still doesn’t stop people from wanting to invest in a proper camera kit which is why we wanted to talk about whether it’s an expensive hobby and ways you can avoid spending excessive amounts of money.

Photography doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, especially if you plan what you want to achieve with it as this can help control your expenditure better.

Some people prefer landscape photography, others prefer portrait, and some go for ultra-closeup form factors such as macro photography.

Picking a niche usually helps keep your budget down as you won’t need tons of equipment just in case the moment strikes where you “might” use it.

We’ll expand on this more below to find out whether photography is an expensive hobby or not but first, let’s look at the 3 stages of photography to get a better understanding of the costs.

3 Different Stages of Photography

In photography, you usually have three different stages of photography levels that can influence your expenditure.

Amateur, intermediate, and professional photography are the three stages which should help you gauge your needs when pulling out cash on new equipment.

For example, if you’re an amateur photographer then you should really stick to a specific area of photography to get to grips with it first. Once you have better knowledge then you can eventually branch out to other areas and accumulate more gear.

Here are 3 examples of equipment packs that you might want depending on your level of expertise:

Amateur Photography (Stage 1)

  • Expected Costs ($500-700)

If you’re an amateur photographer then we recommend getting an entry-level DSLR such as the Canon EOS Rebel T7 with a standard 18-55 mm lens (usually included) as this will give you enough variety to experiment with what you prefer.

This will usually give you enough flexibility to create some decent closeup shots and long-distance depending on your adjustments.

It also means you can get to grips with some of the other camera functions such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus, and auto-shooting mode which can all serve their purpose in the right moment.

Aside from the cost of the actual camera and lens, you’ll also want to grab a decent SDHC card for storage as it’s easy to take lots of pictures that consume lots of memory. In fact, this is why most photographers have more than one.

Lastly, you’ll want a waterproof camera bag to store your camera and accessories in as well as a strap to keep it from falling.

Optional extras include things like a tripod but it isn’t necessary from the get-go if you’re just wanting to take some quick snaps.

Intermediate Photography (Stage 2)

  • Expected Costs ($1000-2000)

Next up is the intermediate range of photography which is usually what students or semi-professionals fall into the category of.

Things are probably heating up for you a little bit and you more than likely have a better grasp on how to handle your equipment or what you’re wanting to achieve with it.

By this point, you’re more than likely going to want a full-frame mirrorless camera such as the fairly recent EOS RP that launched at an aggressively cheap price point for such a powerful piece.

It’s an absolutely stunning piece of kit and DPReview have done an amazing review on YouTube. Check it out:

As an addendum, the more the quality goes up on the camera the more memory it’s going to be consuming when taking pictures.

We recommend grabbing an extended capacity SD card (SDXC) with fast read and write times for optimal performance.

If you plan to do any video work then we also recommend grabbing a dedicated shotgun mic to optimize the audio quality of your recordings.

Professional Photography (Stage 3)

  • Expected Costs ($2000-100,000+)

Professional photographers are usually employed full-time making money from their camera work or may even have their own dedicated business that provides photos and videos for a wide range of projects.

Professionals will usually have a very good grasp on the intricacies of the industry and how to get the most out of their equipment.

With that said, if you’re making the leap from intermediate photography to professional then we can still offer our recommendations on what to purchase.

Without a doubt, the Sony Alpha A7 III has made waves in the photography and videography world for having such an amazing price point with tons of features to take the perfect snap.

It also does well in the vlogging world and famous YouTubers like Casey Neistat have praised it for the amazing image quality and image stabilization it features when touring around New York.

You’ll be happy to know that it also features some useful functions such as dual memory card slots meaning you can optimize your storage capacity even more.

5 Ways To Reduce The Cost of Camera Equipment

1. Pick a niche

Picking a niche within photography is very important (even if you’re a professional) as it will allow you to focus your spending on the right lenses, equipment, and augmentations to enhance what you’re doing.

Without a niche, you’ll end up accumulating tons of lenses and other bits that will never see the light of day which can quickly become a hole in your pocket.

2. Do your research

Before you invest in any kind of camera equipment or expensive products, you should do some research about the product to find out what features it includes and whether it will achieve what you want it to.

For example, if you want to shoot in low light conditions then there’s no point in getting a camera that has poor ISO adjustments or poor light sensitivity.

YouTube has become a great source for finding out tons of information about your chosen camera product and what it entails.

3. Learn your equipment

Learning your equipment fully before upgrading is very important to prevent rash spending as we know how easy it is to do on new electronics.

Some cameras may just need a better lens rather than buying an entirely new camera unit which is why it’s important to learn the theory behind photography and how to maximize the results of your shots.

It’s also worth noting that photographs can be enhanced through digital means which can also prevent further expenditure if you know how to work the software side of things.

4. Borrow

If you’re studying photography or have any family around you then it may be worth asking to borrow some camera equipment to achieve the results you want before spending the money yourself.

The saying is true that if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Most older people will have camera equipment that you can use as they’ll have had more need for it over the years to take some shots whilst on holiday or for hobby purposes.

This can come in really handy for those moments were you’re low on cash but need to get some good snaps for whatever you’re doing.

5. Spread the cost

Many big retailers and camera shops will now offer you the option to spread the cost of your equipment which can really help if you need a specific piece of equipment but can’t afford it upfront.

Finance is a risky business in the long-term so we would recommend serious caution as this can escalate quite easily into debt.

FAQ

This image shows an evocative image of a camera with the headline "Frequently asked questions"

In this section, we’re going to look at some commonly asked questions regarding the costs or expenditure involved in photography.

How much should you spend on your first camera?

Your first camera doesn’t need to cost the earth but we still recommend getting a camera that will last you a long time as to make it a good investment.

With this in mind, we recommend grabbing an entry-level DSLR such as the Canon EOS Rebel T7 as it comes with a whole host of useful features, costs relatively little, and can help you get to grips with some important camera functions.

This will set you back around the $500 mark on average which is actually not too bad for a dedicated DSLR.

With that in mind, don’t forget other associated costs such as the camera accessories and equipment that could cost another couple hundred dollars.

Are expensive cameras worth it?

Expensive cameras can be worth it but they can also be massive money sinks if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

We always recommend doing thorough research on the product you want and the features it includes to avoid disappointment.

If you’re a beginner you shouldn’t need to spend thousands of dollars to take decent snaps with and should focus on trying to make the most of an entry-level DSLR camera first to learn the ropes.

Is a camera a good investment?

Cameras are a great investment as they allow you to immortalize special moments in your life between yourself and friends or family.

Just think about how much we would miss if we couldn’t look back in time to remember how we were or what sort of interests we had back then.

Cameras, when treat well, generally last a long time meaning it’s one of the most affordable hobby investments you can make in the long-run and will help you to save those beautiful moments.

Is it hard to get into photography?

Photography is mainly about perception, and thus, can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

The simple act of pressing the button to take the snap is essentially you doing photography.

It’s important not to underplay the small steps you make when you’re learning photography; as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

With that said, there are plenty of free resources out there but one of the best tools you can use to learn photography is YouTube which gives you information with visual context.

This is especially important in photography as you’ll want to know the results of certain settings which isn’t easy if you’re just reading text from a page.

With that said, if you’re going to get any book then we recommend getting this one as it will give you a complete beginner’s guide to photography.

Conclusion

Photography has varying levels of expenditure depending on how seriously you take the hobby.

If you’re just an amateur then you can usually get away with a more basic DSLR camera to help reduce the cost.

Alternatively, if you think the hobby may become more serious then the cost can eventually escalate to thousands of dollars.

It’s often a matter of perspective regarding how important you consider photography to be as a hobby or interest.

Only you can make the decision but ultimately, photography is affordable for a wide range of people with varying needs.

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