“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” ― Dorothea Lange
Cameras are a complete minefield once you want to do more than take family holiday snaps. I was really squinchy about spending money on an expensive DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, and when mine arrived I was really excited to try it out, but I hated using it at first (I was terrified of breaking something) and it took me about 1,000 photos before I actually knew how to adjust the settings without having to take loads of sample pictures. After a weeklong trip to Aberdeen, however, I was completely in love with the superior picture quality of the DSLR compared to my old Fuji Finepix-S Bridge Camera, and after a few months it became second nature to get the settings adjusted perfectly.
1. Identify your budget.
What can you reasonably afford to buy? Are you looking for the cheapest thing that takes pictures (in which case you might like a bridge camera)? Or are you making an investment in a potential future career? Do you want something with all the features or do you just want the pictures to look like they weren’t taken on a cameraphone?
DSLR cameras start at around $399 for the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D which is an entry level DSLR and is missing a few features you might require (such as a lens), and prices go up to $3249 for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III which comes with one lens and is generally agreed by photographers to be the very best camera that Canon make. On top of these costs you will need lenses which I will write a separate post on.
2. Identify what you’re going to use it for: video or stills?
Some cameras don’t do video or don’t do it well – some don’t have microphones, or don’t have a jack for your microphone to be attached. The Canon EOS 600D, 650D and 700D are all good for Youtubing but some of the older DSLR cameras don’t record video at all, so would be a complete waste of money for a Youtuber, however, they still take great (not outstanding) photos so a secondhand older model could be excellent for a budding photographer who was strapped-for-cash.
3. Take a look online to see what you can afford.
Amazon.com is a good place to see how much the different cameras cost. Canon and Nikon tend to be the most expensive but they have the best features and are compatible with a wider range of add-on equipment. I haven’t seen anything done by a professional photographer who didn’t use a Canon or a Nikon camera.
4. Read reviews.
I was on the verge of buying the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D before I read a review saying that the viewfinder was fixed, not movable. As someone who does self portrait, timed shots and presents Youtube videos, this was unacceptable to me, and I’m glad I found this out before I bought the wrong camera for my needs. I finally settled on a Canon EOS Rebel T5i which is everything I want it to be. Your mileage may vary, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the sheer amount of choice on the market.
5. Buy camera.
Buy it from a reputable store which you’ve heard of or which has a physical location. There is a LOT of fake crap on the market and some of it is VERY convincing. I’ve not seen any fake camera bodies or lenses, but when you’re spending that amount of money you need to keep your wits about you. I love ebay bargains, but I’d never buy a DSLR camera from ebay, or any website where the description is written in broken English, because you need to buy it from somewhere which will take action to sort out a bad transaction. A second hand camera can be a great bargain, but it’s very easy for someone to sell something because (for example) they dropped it, and you won’t know it doesn’t work until you’ve handed your money over, at which point they can claim you dropped it. For this reason, if you are buying a secondhand camera, get it from a physical shop and test out the camera before you buy it. If they’re giving you excuses such as “the battery isn’t charged” then walk away from that purchase.
6. Write a review so other people know how good (or bad) it was.
If the site doesn’t accept reviews, unless it’s the official manufacturer’s site, I wouldn’t buy from there. A good review lists two or three good points and two or three bad points. Why waste time even writing a review that looks like any of these:
“Havn’t tried it yet but I’ve still givn it 5 stars.”
Have you got any other tips for buying a camera? I’d love to read them in the comments!
This is my 100th post, and I just want to say how amazed I am that you guys read stuff wot I write.
This is another of my wedding articles, today we talk budgets; this is probably the most serious, judgemental and opinionated post I will ever write. Remember folks, this is my opinion, if you don’t like it, there are trillions of mainstream wedding websites filled with articles that can suck you back into the safety of the lunatic idea that £5000 to £10,000 ($10,000 to $20,000) is a budget wedding. It’s an idea that many of my friends’ weddings subscribed to. This article will be unashamedly one sided in favour of not wasting money, because I pride myself in trying to show brides-to-be that there is another way, that you don’t need to buy into the stuff you were culturally conditioned to accept, that one bride – this bride – had a modern wedding for vastly under £1000. Yup. I’ll write that in words in case you’re lost. My wedding didn’t come near costing a thousand pounds. Yours doesn’t have to either.
As a child, I think I only ever drew a wedding picture once. I didn’t like them because the dresses had to be white which meant you couldn’t colour them in. That was super-boring. I preferred drawing princesses in huge flowing dresses of yellow, green, blue, purple and orange. Never pink. I think my mum threw out all the pink crayons before they ever got to me. I might have been four. You know what else I wanted to do when I was four? Be an astronaut and eat chocolate and live in a castle and have hair that was blonde and longer than my feet. In Hawaii. I also wanted to be the greatest composer who ever lived, learn how to sing like Pavarotti and for it to snow every day. I also wanted to go to Argos more often, because it meant we sneaked chips from the chip shop when my dad-who’s-not-my-dad was at home growing peas in the garden. I also wanted to be a mouse and drive a tank and hang out with Berk from TrapDoor, Snuffy and Big Bird from Sesame Street, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and play Lego with them.
My point is, four year old me had no freaking clue what was reasonable or practical. Being an adult is about having major fun and happiness but in ways that are possible, do-able, and ensure you get to have future fun and happiness. That’s why they let us cross the street on our own. Basing your financial decisions on something a four year old came up with results in such disasters as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl In 3D. It’s worse if you were the four year old, because one day you will wake up and be unable to believe that a responsible adult (future you, in fact) actually threw inconceivable amounts of money at turning one adult day into something better suited to a little girl’s birthday party. And forced a boy to go along with it.
While researching things for my wedding I came across loads of “budget bride” articles and websites and every single one of them had a “budget” in mind that was a) many times what I was willing to spend and b) treated it like it was the booby prize. Oh, you’re poor, but you can still fritter the money you don’t have on a wedding, said the subtext. A dress for £500. A starter ring for £600. A cheap theme.
We knew from the outset that we absolutely did not want a super-expensive wedding. Our relatives assumed that we wanted a low cost wedding because we didn’t have much money. We were both bringing in a comfortable amount of money at the time, and I didn’t really know the word “minimalist” so couldn’t articulate why I/we felt so strongly that we didn’t want to waste £5,000 or more on a one-day event.
I had a lot of conversations that ended with me being steamrollered into tears by relatives trying to throw money at me and suggesting more and more ridiculous and extravagant ideas. One example was when a relative asked to take me dress shopping, after I’d bought my dress, and when I politely declined (she knew I had a dress already), she said “but that’s not your real dress, is it? Five hundred pounds is a good price for a wedding dress.” I pointed out that it was my real dress, and that it had cost ten pounds. She then asked if my £10 wedding dress needed any alterations, because she would like to pay for that. I have never needed a single clothing alteration in my life that I couldn’t do by myself with my sewing machine or my bare hands. I politely tried to explain that we were happy paying for our own wedding, that we were very flattered that (assorted relatives) wanted to take an interest in the wedding, and that we were fine for money. I will discuss how we survived the relatives a lot more in a separate article, later.
Additionally we had just bought a house (the sale completed in mid-September) when we started making these big wedding decisions, and we’d just ploughed all of our life savings into our deposit, so we could take out the smallest possible mortgage, which meant we weren’t very keen to make another large-scale expenditure any time soon.
I looked around at wedding ideas and made some pricing enquiries before finally settling on a complete budget of £500 (with a £200 tolerance, because weddings always go “over budget”). We felt that this would enable us to have the wedding we wanted, on our own terms, without having to pay for it in ten years’ time. My biggest way of saving money on the wedding? Buy most of your stuff from China. I didn’t buy my dress from here because Chinese sellers seemed singularly incapable of producing a dress that was anything like the pictures, but my veil and shoes came from China. I wrote an article about this for Offbeat Bride, which details what you need to know about buying from China. You can find it here. Naming specific sellers to recommend is pointless because they often have multiple selling IDs and the one who was good at one point isn’t necessarily going to have what you want to buy in the future.
As a side note, Offbeat Bride is an excellent resource if you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement for your non-standard wedding. They aren’t geared up towards the sort of budget that I had, I’d say they’re representative of all budgets, but they do have a wide range of different ideas and whatnot. I will refer to them more in future articles because they really helped me keep my sanity and if you’re doing a non-standard wedding I highly recommend you sign up to their forum because the Offbeat Bride Tribe is the most supportive wedding community you can find; my favourite part is that there is a total embargo on talking about weight loss. No-one’s asked me to say that, they don’t even know I’m writing articles on weddings, but they are amazing so go check them out.
There’s a lot of scaremongering about how you can end up with a disaster if you spend less money on a wedding, but I am here to tell you that, while that’s possible, it’s also possible to have an awesome wedding. It comes down to how much work you, as an individual, are prepared to do and how flexible you are about the whole thing when it comes to specific wedding ideas, and at the same time how rigid you can be in the face of mainstream criticism. This is where Offbeat Bride really came into its own for me – there are loads of examples of weddings that attracted a lot of mainstream criticism, but the brides went, “this is how I’m doing it.” You also need to be a bit cynical about anything you buy from overseas (see my article on buying from China). My £10 dress was anything but a disaster:
Other ways I saved money included driving myself and my future husband to our wedding in my own car, cooking all the food myself (because there were no vegan caterers that remotely covered my area), buying a pre-loved ring (my ring would have cost about £1700 brand new), and using a public park as the celebration venue.
What I found really hilarious during the budgeting phase was the amount of articles saying “20 ways to spend £500 on your wedding” which always began, “got an extra £500 to spend?” and always featured 20 items which were always *just over* £500. Because they haven’t squeezed enough money out of a bride until she’s actually had a heart attack from the pressure of all that money.
That was another big reason I didn’t want to spend on the wedding – with a huge expenditure, non-refundable deposits and items that are out of their refund period, comes the weight of having to live up to that expectation. To perform, to be perfect, and most of all… to not back out of it at the last minute. These were stresses that I didn’t need, especially since I quit teaching in February 2014 due to a newly-formed anxiety disorder that was directly caused by my previous teaching job.
Seriously though, who even thinks to themselves, “well I spent £15,000 on the wedding, it is a little over-budget, but y’know what? Sod it, I’m gonna buy me a £589 glass bowl to put fruit in. … and some fruit to put in it. Because it’s my wedding.”
I felt a bit sick when I saw what some people had spent money on for their wedding. I felt even sicker when I saw the amount of ebay listings for the shoes I was after, which had the line “bought new for my wedding but I ended up buying another pair so they are unworn.” These shoes retailed at over £100 brand new. I couldn’t buy them in the end, the consumerism was just too tragic. I felt the sickest when I saw the wedding drama that some people had created for themselves by demanding tens of thousands of pounds from their poor parents then getting all bitchy that mom or dad wanted some kind of say in what that money got spent on. If I gave someone that kind of money, I’d want it invested. This was the stirrings of the start of my journey into minimalism.
The thing that really gets me is that people don’t actually notice all that crap that clutters up the modern wedding. Ask your average wedding guest what they thought of the seat covers, the tablecloths, the *insert superfluous accessory or item of decor here* and they’ll maybe notice one or two if they were unique or interesting. Mostly they won’t care. People who you should care about go to weddings to see other people get married (and party together afterwards). The rest of them don’t matter.
We didn’t really save up or put money in a separate account or anything, we just used money as we got it to buy things as we found them, and kept track of it in a spreadsheet that looked like this:
At the end of the day, no matter what all the mainstream wedding media tells you, you can have a beautiful, moving, happy and, especially, memorable wedding without gorging yourself by frittering money away.
This was for about 80 guests, by the way.
Is there anyone else out there who is totally unwilling to waste gajillions of pounds on something that was generated in four-year-old crayon pictures; drawings that should stay where they belong – on your parents’ fridge?