Fun on a Budget: Photography

When you have free time, but not a lot of money, it can be challenging to keep yourself occupied and entertained. Paying off student debt, auto loans and rent are just a few of the costs you may have that take priority over entertainment. Having fun and exploring new hobbies can be expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. Today I’ll be sharing with you my favorite hobby of them all: photography.

Believe it or not, Instagram is what heavily influenced me to get into photography. After getting my first smartphone, all I cared about was taking photos and then sharing them for the world to see. Because I was snapping so many photos, I’d drain my phone’s battery without making a single call or text. It was then that I decided to buy my first real camera. I did extensive research, comparing camera prices on the internet. I was very surprised that buying a brand new set-up wouldn’t set me back too much. The first truly professional digital camera was released in 2000 with a $5,000 price point. I was looking at cameras that had leapfrogged that camera in technology for as little as $100. I jumped on that price, and bought a Sony a100 on eBay, but only after checking that I was making the purchase from a reputable seller.

For $100, I was shooting portraits, landscapes, sports and wildlife. The a100 is considered an entry level camera, but consumer cameras now have far better image quality than professional cameras from just a few years ago. Whatever the situation, the a100 could capture it. And because cameras are now digital rather than film, you don’t have to buy anything else after your initial purchase. You can have fun time and time again for a one-time cost. 

I was a bit overwhelmed when I first started looking for a camera. There were so many options and different price points. There was Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus, Sony, Leica and more. Canon and Nikon both had reasonably priced entry level cameras, but after some more research I learned that Sony had bought out Minolta in 2006. This meant that Sony cameras could use old Minolta lenses from the days of film. Amazon and eBay have a ton of old Minolta lenses for cheap, so I decided to go that route.

I was content with the pictures I was taking when I first started, but I wanted better results. The $100 camera wasn’t the problem, but I was. I wasn’t too knowledgeable about all the settings and modes. I started browsing photography forums and turned to YouTube for tutorials. I watched Tony & Chelsea Northrup, Matt Granger and Jared Polin. I’m still subscribed to them today, and regularly check in to see what’s new in the industry. The more I watched and read, the more my photography improved. They would assign challenges, which got me out shooting. It was like taking a photography class for free, and I’d recommend it to anyone starting out.

Along with it being entertaining, photography can make you money. I shoot photos for fun, but do just enough paid shoots to pay for upgrading my gear. I shoot weddings, portraits, sporting events and everything in between. I’ve since upgraded from my first Sony a100 to the Sony a77, but I haven’t invested more than my initial $100. I’ve explored so many new places and captured so many memories, and I think it’s more than worth the money I spent on my first camera. It’s easily my favorite hobby.

If you’re looking for some fun on a budget, I’d take a look at buying a camera! Oh, and do you know of anything interesting around Maine that I should photograph? I’m always looking for that next shot!

Take care,

Jake