Photography on a Budget

Looking through IG, you always see photographers in these amazing places. Iceland, Patagonia, Faroe Islands, etc. The first thing most people say “must be nice to ba able to afford that trip”. You have to realize that most people cannot afford this. They go on these trips using credit cards and putting themselves into more debt. The few that are giving workshops in these locations are making some money while traveling, but most are there for vacations. Doing photography within your budget is a much better way than building debt all for some IG and Facebook likes.

I went to Iceland for 2 weeks, rented a camper van and spent almost $7500 for 2 of us. The reason we went is because we could afford to pay cash for the trip. The big expense was the van at $4500 since it was the off season and 30% off peak season price.

This year, things have changed for me. I focused on paying off my car at $21,000. Completed that task and wanted a new gravel bike. That was $4400 which I saved and paid cash for it. Now I’m building my savings back up. I was able to do this because I dropped my 401K contributions from 12% to 4% and stopped putting into my IRAs. After about 8 months I had saved the money to pay off my car. It hurt to write that check but I am now debt free except my mortgage. Without the car payment, I’m able to increase my 401K to 15% and max out my IRA. It is taking longer to get my savings account back up with the retirement contributions but that is fine.

By going through this process, I had to make the choice to not go to the Palouse, Olympic Peninsula, Columbia Gorge, etc. or other locations for photography. This year has been spent doing more day trips. Finding new waterfalls to shoot, walking around Seattle, and exploring more local areas. Realize that children do what feels good and adults need to do what is right for the future. Going on the normal trips was not in the budget this year.

Many people think they always need new and better gear. I can’t get good Milky Way shots because I have a crop sensor (wrong, crop sensors work just fine), if I only had a better lens, if only had this or that. Well, does this and that fit into your budget? If not, then you don’t need it. It took me several years to upgrade to a full frame camera. Even then I bought it used off Craigslist. I used my Canon SL1 for Milky Way shots, backpacking, Palouse trips, etc. Who cares what equipment you have. If it works and you don’t have credit card debt because you wanted more stuff, you are way ahead in the game.

Do I make a lot of money so I could afford to travel, pay off my car, etc? No, I work for the federal government. I live within my means. I don’t spend more than I make, I put money into savings every pay check, and if I can’t afford to go somewhere or buy something using cash, I don’t. The bottom line is that if you enjoy photography and want to get better gear or travel to new locations, start a written budget, save up enough cash, then buy the new gear or travel to the cool location. Live within your means and remember, the Jones’ are broke so stop trying to keep up with them.