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  • Austin James Jackson

6 Ways You Can Save Money as a Landscape Photographer

Saving money is an important life skill, especially for photographers. If we aren't spending money on the newest camera, lens, or software, we are spending money on travel. As you know, the more money you have for travel, the more great photos you can get!

This week's blog post covers some of the ways I've been able to save money on landscape photography gear over the years.

1. Buy a "step-up" ring for your lenses.

Almost all landscape photographers carry a polarizing filter in their backpack. A quality polarizer for a decent sized lens usually costs upwards of $100-$200. If you have 6 lenses that all have different filter sizes, this is a significant cost to you. If you're a photographer that also carries ND filters, you're reaching deep into your pockets to find the cash to outfit your whole lens lineup. Not to mention all of those filters that you now have to carry.

The best way to save money here is to buy a step up filter on Amazon. Let’s say that the largest filter you need for any of your lenses is 77mm, but you also have a lens with a filter size of 49mm and 72mm (keep in mind that filter size is NOT the same as focal length). On Amazon, you can go buy a step up ring that is 49mm on one end and 77mm on the other. This will allow you to put your larger 77mm filter on the smaller lens. You can also get a 72-77mm step up ring, and use the same filters for all of your lenses. The step up rings tend to be $3-$10, so that is a huge savings compared to spending hundreds on different sizes of filters.

Keep in mind that you will have to buy the filter to fit the biggest filter thread that you have, since you can always get a step up ring, but a step down ring would not work.

Utah badlands, shot with a step-up ring
Shot at 70mm, I didn't have the correct filter size for the polarizer I wanted to use. Luckily, I had a step-up ring, which allowed me to put a bigger polarizer on the smaller lens.

2. Buy cheaper memory cards.

If you’re really trying to cut costs, you may want to stick to buying cheaper memory cards. Price variation in memory cards is mostly due to the speed of the card. A more expensive, faster card will write quicker, meaning it will take longer to reach your image buffer. The main reasons someone would want a faster memory card would be to shoot in 4K video or lots of burst photos.

I own one nice memory card that is fast that I use if I am going to be shooting 4K video or burst photos, but all of the rest of my cards are slower cards. In general, I’m usually not firing a photo more often than every few seconds. Most cards will be able to handle this frequency of shooting, you’ll just run into the buffer if you’re shooting on burst. So, if you don't do much video or burst, a cheaper memory card may be a viable option for you!

While the specs on the fastest and most expensive card may look nice, keep in mind that memory cards far exceed the speed of cameras. Even if your memory card has an incredibly fast write speed, the camera can still only write so fast so you probably won't even be able to utilize the benefits of a really expensive card.


3. Use knockoff products.

That sounds terrible, but I use tons of knockoff products. I use an L-bracket that I bought on Amazon, and saved about $100 by doing so. If I wanted to buy the L-bracket specifically designed for my camera, I’d be looking at $120-$200. Another knockoff item I’ve used is smaller insert bags for my camera. If you buy from a popular brand (such as F-Stop), these bags are generally $60-$100, but on Amazon, you can find the same thing for a third of the price or better.


4. Buy 3rd party batteries.

Camera batteries are so expensive! For a full frame DSLR, batteries generally run between $50-$80 a pop! That means if you shoot a Sony like I do, you're in trouble (we need lots of batteries)! Most landscape photographers carry anywhere between 2-10 batteries with them at a time, so you can see how the costs add up. I've found Wasabi brand batteries have worked wonders for my cameras, including my old Canon 6D and my Sony a7rii. You can find the link to the exact batteries I use here.

The one common thing I've heard about 3rd party batteries is that they have a shorter lifespan. Don't confuse this with the battery life on a single charge. A shorter lifespan means that they may only last a year or two, while another battery specifically made by your camera manufacturer potentially lasts longer. However, I've been using my Wasabi batteries on my Sony a7rii for almost two years and notice no difference between them and the Sony brand batteries I have. They are about a quarter of the cost, and even if they don't last as long, I still prefer them because I usually upgrade cameras every few years anyways.


5. Buy 3rd party lenses.

Are you aware of all of the companies making camera lenses? Generally speaking, Canon, Sony, and Nikon lenses are going to be quite a bit more expensive than other brands such as Rokinon/Samyang, Tokina, or Sigma. I've been able to save a lot of money by checking out what some of these other companies offer for my specific mount. If you do some research and read the reviews, you'll often find little to no difference between lenses other than the brand and the hefty price difference. When I'm looking for a new lens, I always check these companies out first to see if they have what I am looking for.

Colorado fall sunset, shot with a Samyang 35mm.
Shot with a Samyang 35mm f/2.8. A cheap lens that adds a lot of value in my kit.


6. Learn from books!

I've learned so much information from books, and the amount of information you learn versus the price you are actually paying for the book is such a steal. I've read quite a few books, and I'll recommend two of my favorites for you to check out. I learned so much about both Photoshop and composition in each of these books. Invest in yourself, and purchase books to learn!

The Landscape Photographer's Guide to Photoshop: A Visualization-Drive Workflow by Guy Tal

- This book has so many useful Photoshop tips and tricks, and Guy talks all about his non-destructive editing method. He also talks about composition, and gives a lot of valuable information that I did not previously know about!

Adobe Master Class: Advanced Compositing in Adobe Photoshop CC: Bringing the Impossible to Reality with Bret Malley by Bret Malley

- Even though I am not into digitally compositing and digital art like Bret Malley, this book has TONS of great information on painting in light, making selections, blend modes, and shooting to edit. This book will teach you a lot about the fine details of Photoshop!

These tips are ways that I've been able to save money on my photography journey, and I hope you'll find use of some of them. After all, money saved is money you have to spend on visiting more destinations and planning more trips!