The working professional and the weekend hobbyist are both affected by the recession. Most of the photographers I know are spending more time evaluating their needs and comparison shopping than ever before. It’s important to ensure your money is wisely spent.
But while it may seem smart to buy less expensive equipment when times are tough, I’ve learned the hard way that cheaper products can cost you more in the long run.
Losing Shots Costs Money
What’s more important than price is reliability. One of the worst experiences I’ve ever had was buying a cheap flash and hoping it would do what I needed.
On my first booking after the purchase, I learned my lesson. The flash took a long time to recycle and the ready light lit long before the flash reached full power.
I lost money that day — by not getting the shots I could have acquired had I used a better brand.
Now, I have Nikon and Metz flashes in my kit. But I also keep the more costly “cheaper” one as a reminder.
Buy It Once
Years ago, I was shopping with a friend for a CD player. I was worried about my household budget, so I picked up the least expensive model in the electronics store.
It was on sale for an unbelievably low price.
As I hefted the box toward the counter, I looked at my friend and he looked back at me, tut-tutting and rolling his eyes.
He offered a piece of advice that has stayed with me:
“Buy it once.”
Having not heard the expression before, my brow furrowed in confusion as I made headlong toward the checkout counter.
A Different Kind of Instant Gratification
My friend then went on to explain what he meant:
“Almost every time you buy something, you have a choice between buying a cheap item or a more expensive one,” he said. “Your natural impulse may be to spend less to save money — even though you may know, deep down inside, that the cheap product won’t last as long.
“It’s a form of instant gratification — no different from making an extravagant, unnecessary purchase. Only in this case, you are choosing the gratification of saving a few dollars today over the smarter decision to buy quality.”
I put down the CD player. My friend was right.
When I thought back on many of my past purchases, I realized that the life cycle of my “bargains” often was about half (or less) that of higher-quality products. Double that bargain price, and suddenly it’s not such a great deal after all.
But the price of purchasing lower-quality photographic equipment goes beyond your out-of-pocket costs.
There is the cost of missed shots. There is the cost of disappointed clients. And ultimately, there is the damage that your field failures wreak on your confidence and enthusiasm.
So the next time you are shopping and want to be frugal, think about the long-term costs — and buy it once.