Inexpensive Things to Spark Your Photography

September 11, 2020  •  1 Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you're doing fine today and are safe, healthy, and inspired. As you all know I sometimes have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), the act of buying expensive gear to take photos with. This blog is about inexpensive things that can spark your creativity instead of buying a new body or lens. I got this idea from a podcast that I listen to, "The Digital Story," by Derrick Story who gave his ideas of inexpensive things, so I'll  use some of his ideas and some of mine also. It only takes something different to spark creativity, and you can think of these ideas as anti-GAS items. Most of these things are less than 100 dollars, or at least in that ballpark, and can spark some kind of creativity. We all can get in a rut sometimes where we seem to take the same kinds of photos that we always do, or we just get bored and don't even pick up the camera. This could be for weeks or months on end, but we must recognize it and do something to correct it. Sometimes it's big gear that we need, like a lens or a new body, but it can be something small too to get those creative juices going again. So let's start with the list. This list is in no particular order, just what popped up into my head first.

1. A new LED light. I have just done a blog on the Lume Cube 2.0, but there is also the Mini from them also. Any brand will do.  These lights are portable and can be used in all kinds of situations, like tabletop photography if you're worried about going outside or for extra lighting when you're out in the woods for fill lighting.  They can also be used for light painting while doing astrophotography. It's just something to get you thinking more creatively.

2. How about a new camera strap or attachment system? I am not a camera strap guy. I don't like the camera hanging around my neck or shoulder, but sometimes its more convenient to wear one. I use the Peak Design system for all of my straps. Personally, I use a wrist strap 99 percent of the time, but what I like about the Peak Design system is the ease of changing or taking the straps off with their unique attachment system. When I'm using a tripod, I don't like to have the strap dangling from my camera giving me movement if the wind is blowing, so I can easily detach it from the camera in a second. They also make easily-detachable and secure clips to put the camera on a backpack strap or your belt, which makes hiking or whatever else you're doing hands-free and allows you to easily get into different locations.  I think a new camera strap or system or even a case, like a leather half case, can get you looking at the camera differently and taking it with you more, thus taking more photographs and being more creative.

3. Neutral Density Filter, A ND Filter can be a very creative tool, used to slow down the shutter to create motion blur. It's commonly used on running water but can be used on all kinds of things like clouds and other moving subjects. This tool, which can be commonly found for $100 or less, comes in different degrees of density measured in stops. 10 stops is darker than 3 stops. I carry 3 with me a 2, 6, 8 stop filter. Usually, the more expensive the better the filter.  I use Breakthrough Photography filters, but there are others that will work fine. A ND filter can make a ho-hum scene, like a barn with puffy clouds, look mysterious with streaking clouds coming over the barn. It can even make people disappear. If you're at a busy crowded scene, you can put on a 10 stop filter and let it go for 20 seconds or more, and the people that are moving just disappear. It's a magical tool and every photographer should have one.

4. Small tripod or stand. I have a platypod plate that I got, and it's like a small tripod that will easily fit into your bag and will give you a stable platform on the fly.  You could also get a Jobo tripod that is small and will do the trick. Small tripods come in handy, and when used usually give you a different perspective of what you're shooting, usually from down low. Go out and try to take only tripod shots from a little tripod and you'll discover a whole new world that you've just been passing by. You can easily get one of these devices for 100 bucks or less.  Make sure to size it to your camera size.  If you have a large DSLR, you will need a larger one than if you're shooting a mirrorless camera that is smaller.

5. New Software. Try getting some new software to add to whatever you're already doing in your editing software now.  I am a Lightroom and Photoshop user, but I purchased Luminar editing software and run it as a plugin in Lightroom. It has features that Lightroom doesn't, and I can easily go back and forth between Lightroom and Luminar. It has lots of AI (Artificial Intelligence), so it can do stuff like replace skies, make fog, make sunbursts, and lots of stuff for portraits also. It runs about 80 bucks and is worth every penny.  It can super charge your creative mojo while you're editing.

6. How about a vintage lens?  Maybe an old lens from the system you're using or another company. Manual focus is a plus. If you're using a mirrorless camera, you can get an adapter for 20 or so bucks and put almost anything on your camera and use it. You can easily pick up one of these from a pawn shop or yard sale or eBay and really cheap also. I use a vintage Nikon macro lens for my macro work on my Sony. I have a cheap adapter that I got for under 20 bucks and it works great. So I have a macro set up for about 150 bucks that has a max aperture of f2.8. These old lenses can really make shooting fun. Everything is manual so everything slows down. These are film lenses and may not be as sharp as the newer ones, but they have character that newer lenses don't have. _MSP9732_MSP9732

7. 5x7 Picture Frames.  Simple, cheap black picture frames are a great way to get you started taking photos again. I have about 10 or so in my little office/studio/gear closet/laundry room. LOL This is a room I took over after my daughter moved out of the house.  It's what I call "my room."  I have a little photo gallery, and I change the photos every couple of months. I'm way behind on this. But photos look good in a plain black frame. Everyone has some sort of printer that they can print a 5x7 on. And while I'm talking about printing, there are all sorts of different types of paper you can print on, and different papers will give you different looks. These plain frames are cheap, and printing your best work from the last month or so and displaying it (even if it's only for you) is kind of cool. So this one you got a two for one - frames and papers.

As you can see, there are all kinds of things that you can do to get your photography jump started.  I've listed a few, but I'll bet you have a few more that could help someone or yourself. Most of all of these things can be purchased from Amazon or any of the photography sites like B&H or Adorama. So get your creative MOJO going again and get out and start shooting. Until next week stay safe, healthy, and creative. 





Great read Max!! The only thing I might add that is around $100 bucks or so would be to take an overnight trip somewhere. For us non-campers, get a cheap hotel room and allow yourself to go a little further away. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to get your Mojo back. New gear is great but getting out of town helps too. :) that’s what I’m trying to do!!
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