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30 money-saving ways to shoot on a budget

by Clarence D. Staley
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From hard-won pro tips to amateurs’ crafty workarounds, we share 30 great ways to save cash while getting great images

If you let it, photography can be an expensive hobby. Once you start investing in the latest camera bodies, lenses, lighting and accessories the £s soon start to add up. We all like to save a few quid here and there, and just because we don’t have the ‘professional’ kit or the money doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to get the shot. When times are tight and you’re being squeezed left, right and centre out of your hard-earned cash, it doesn’t mean that your photography should suffer. As long as you have a camera body and lens of some description then these tips will apply to you.

Based on tips from AP staff, various photographers and members of the public – we’ve laid out 30 of the very best money-saving ideas so you can keep the money in your pocket while being happy with the results you get from a shoot.

From hard-won pro tips to amateurs’ crafty workarounds, we share 30 great ways to save cash while getting great images

If you let it, photography can be an expensive hobby. Once you start investing in the latest camera bodies, lenses, lighting and accessories the £s soon start to add up. We all like to save a few quid here and there, and just because we don’t have the ‘professional’ kit or the money doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to get the shot. When times are tight and you’re being squeezed left, right and centre out of your hard-earned cash, it doesn’t mean that your photography should suffer. As long as you have a camera body and lens of some description then these tips will apply to you.

Based on tips from AP staff, various photographers and members of the public – we’ve laid out 30 of the very best money-saving ideas so you can keep the money in your pocket while being happy with the results you get from a shoot.

A4 DIY bounce reflector

Ian Pack (www.packshots.biz)

This will cost you £2 to make. Ian says: ‘A bounce card or reflector will soften the light from your Speedlite. Very useful when there’s no suitable wall or ceiling to bounce light from. This one is very easy to make from a sheet of self-adhesive white craft foam for children, 2mm aluminium florist’s wire and bright silver plastic. The white side gives a softer light, whereas the bright side reflects light with more contrast.’

Gaffer tape

Ian Pack (www.packshots.biz)

‘At £5 per roll, Gaffer tape is essential, with untold uses. It comes in large rolls which are cumbersome to carry. I use the plastic or card-receipt roll cores from a local supermarket and transfer from the large to a smaller, more convenient roll.’

Child’s armbands

Tina Claffey (www.tinaclaffey.com)

If you want to get down low but don’t have a tripod that does the job (or you don’t want to get it dirty), then a great tip is to use a child’s armband as support. Tina Claffey revealed that she uses this technique to AP Acting Technique Editor Tracy Calder when photographing super close-ups in bogs! Tina is the author of Tapestry of Light – Ireland’s Bogs & Wetlands As Never Seen Before.

Large backdrops

Annerley Johnson

Annerley Johnson shared on Facebook: ‘I buy king-size plain cotton sheets from cheap supermarkets and rig them to curtain poles at clients’ houses or on location with large, hair-clamp-style clips. These type of backdrops are easy to wash, and tumble drying them works fine; non-iron sheets are even better. It’s a makeshift studio in a carrier bag!’

Backgrounds for product shots

Claire Gillo, AP Acting Technique Editor

‘If you’re after an interesting background or surface to shoot an object on, then wallpaper samples and fabric cuts are the perfect solution. Many DIY stores only charge a small fee (or free) to take samples. Fabric, when bought by a couple of metres in a haberdashery, can be as little as pennies depending on your selection. Another favourite of mine for close-up, still-life subjects is to shoot my subject against bright colourful card. My kids love it too as once I’m finished they then add the creased or damaged pieces to their arts and crafts box.’

Foil lids

Sue Hartley

Sue Hartley was happy to share her tip on Facebook with us: ‘Foil lids from takeaway-style containers make great mini reflectors for fungi, flowers and so on, being white on one side and silver on the other. I always keep a couple in my bag!’

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