Our Photography Courses Blog

The seven most useful bits of cheap photography kit, in price order.

Like most people bitten by the photography bug, we don’t have a lot of money to spend on gear, so here’s our list of the cheapest photography gear in price order!  On our photography courses we try to suggest equipment that’s cheap, and here is some of the cheapest!
£0.oo  Google Picasa – this free software does all the editing most people ever want to do, and even has a slightly creepy face recognition feature.  It works on both macs and PCs, and we’ve had children and people in their eighties using it on our photography courses.
£0.00  Polystyrene/styrofoam light reflector – those fold up reflectors that pop up are extremely cool, but they cost money.  We’ve used old pizza boxes to spread light in the past.  Just make sure the surface is vaguely white.  Anything will do, just point your flash at it and adjust accordingly. 
£0.05 Carrier bag and sweatshirt – for dodgy locations this is the best way to carry your expensive camera.  Even allegedly-stealthy camera bags are very easy to spot, but a tatty old carrier bag with a couple of items of soft clothing in the bottom will keep your camera protected without getting you killed, even in the scariest locations.  Don’t use a posh Harrods carrier bag, you’re missing the point!
£0.40 Tissue on the pop up flash - the pop-up flash on most cameras are pretty glary and horrible, but passing it through a couple of layers of tissue will soften it.    Most cameras allow you to change the power of the flash so even if your ancient tissue is too disgusting to allow the passage of light.  Look for flash exposure compensation in the menu. You’re nearly always turning the flash down, but you might need to boost it if your tissues are particularly ancient.  We’ve budgeted here for some spare tissues for personal use.
£3 Mini tripod – there is no doubt that tripods are really useful for photography, but that doesn’t stop them being an expensive, awkward hassle to carry around.  A little tripod like this can live in your camera bag (even your carrier bag) without taking up much space, but can still be used for good landscapes and long exposures.  You can even get good stability by squashing it against a vertical tree or wall, so it’s a very versatile piece of kit.  We went overboard on ours, paid £4.99 from Tesco.
£15 Power Inverter – From 12 Volts DC Car Cigarette Lighter Socket to UK AC Mains - buying loads of extra batteries for your camera and butch battery grips are often a waste of money.  If you stick one of these in your car you can recharge your camera batteries on the move without spending an extra penny, and charge your laptop as well.
£80 new,(£40-odd second hand) 50mm f1.8 lens – if you don’t have one of these, you really need one.  It has an aperture about ten times the size of the aperture on a standard kit lens.  This means you can photograph in poor light, get very fast shots and blur the background.  You can even do all these things at once to cut a long story short, just buy one!
Bee taken with 50mm f1.8 bought for £34 on ebay and edited with Picasa

Bee taken with 50mm f1.8 bought for £34 on ebay and edited with Picasa

Sadly, photography is dominated by people with more money than sense who don’t know what they’re doing.  Don’t let it be you!
Photography Made Simple’s photography courses aim to get you using the equipment you have, or can inexpensively acquire, to get the pictures you want!

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