How would you spend $80 to improve your photography?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by mikemason, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. For Christmas I have been given $80 to spend on "something photo related." I'm an enthusiastic amateur with no particular specialisation. I like taking pictures of the mountains (I live in Calgary, close to Banff National Park) but also of the kids, friends, stuff round town, touristy things when I travel, all sorts.
    My current gear consists of a Nikon D80, 18-70 AF-S, 35/1.8 AF-S, 50/1.8 AF, 55-200 AF-S VR, an SB-600 flash, a 6-in-1 circular reflector, a fairly decent Manfrotto tripod + ball head, a good backpack, er, and some books.
    I have $80 to spend, in theory. Photography is a hobby and I have a regular job and all so I can spend a little more if I want, but I'm curious to see how I could best improve by spending a small amount of money. A new lens is probably out of the budget so I think I've dodged that one.
    I've thought about maybe one of the following:
    • Monopod?
    • DxO Optics Pro?
    • $80 of professional lab prints for my existing photos?
    • $80 of petrol to drive around taking photos?
    • Cheapest point-and-shoot camera I can find so I always have one with me?
    • Something else?
    How would you spend $80 to improve your photography? (Or mine!)
  2. Your ideas are good; one to add: membership in the local art museum (if you have one) so you can see all the photography !
  3. One of my personal "must haves" is the Hoodman Loupe. I can make corrections to exposure and composition in the field. To me, the only thing that matters is the final image. Yes, I chimp, a lot. The DSLR is just a tool.
  4. Go into town and take a picture of someone homeless, then buy them a good meal and whatever you can get for $80. Now take their picture again and see how much better they look. May not improve your photography but it will improve someone elses life and your self esteem.
  5. Things I would have on the list that are less than $80 (assuming you are not already equipped with them):
    • polarizing filter for at least on of your lenses
    • camera strap
    • more SD memory
    • rechargeable batteries/charger for flash
    • extra camera battery
    • sensor cleaning kit
  6. membership to, three year even....
  7. Take an unpaid day from work, buy back your time. It is by far the most valuable thing we have in this life.
  8. membership to, three year even....​
    Amen to that Mac!
  9. In line with Ken, I would suggest a subscription to a magazine like "Lenswork". A book more about the art of photography rather than the tech stuff or photoshop tricks. Nothing wrong with those books, but you asked about somthing that would improve your photography.
    To me a publication like "Lenswork" is a great source of inspiration. It is all B&W of course, so you may want something different. They also offer a CD version of the publication with several audio interviews and other multimedia stuff to add to the content.
  10. Go somewhere with the camera. Fuel, food & prints.
  11. I'd get a clamp to take that flash off the camera.
  12. I support Charles Heckel's idea. Here is the lowest price most versatile camera bracket I have worked with. A super bargain. You just add a coiled cord from Nikon to your nice Nikon flash (they do good flashguns) system and get light high up and off camera for those children shots indoors or out.
    Bogen's solid bargain price all purpose Flash Bracket with 17" of height adjustment and lots of good reviews, read some of them. Enough change left to subsidize the necessary Nikon TTL coiled cord I betcha....
  13. Wow, thanks for all the responses so far!
    I have a light stand and umbrella for taking the flash off camera, and I do have a polarizer for the wide zoom.
    Lenswork looks excellent. I subscribe to Photo Life currently (Canadian content, lots of good pictures). Anyone have other suggestions? Online photo training membership of some sort?
  14. the homeless feeding suggestion gets my vote. you would feel much better and hopefully, the resulting pictures would be stunning as well.
  15. Mike,
    I'd suggest a hand-held incident exposure meter. You might have to go second-hand at the amount you mention.
    I remember how much my photography improved after I began using one.
    Let us know what you finally do decide.
  16. A session with a good model
  17. Inspirational photobooks?
    MP3-player so you can download inspiring podcasts?
  18. david_henderson


    Three months subscription to to iron out all the issues you might have with image editing, organisation , and colour management.
  19. Maybe a polarizing filter and some gas to get you somewhere special to take more photos.
  20. Learn to use what you have. I would consider books specifically on composition and lighting. Total less than $50. And use the rest to join a local club to shoot with other photographers. Its eye opening to shoot the same spot with several people to see what you missed or they saw. Some local clubs have photos judged as well. Submit photos here for review. That all will be less than $80 and will really improve your eye. Because you are asking this question, I am expecting this would help the most. If you had a gear need, you would know. An understanding and sense of composition and lighting effects most images. I understand Hemingway told Ansel he liked his photos, and asked what kind of camera he used. Ansel replied he liked Hemingways books and asked what kind of typewriter he used.
  21. Buy a couple of books by Sebastiao Salgado and see what photography is all about.
  22. A circular polarizing filter to fit your largest lens and a step-down ring to use the same filter on the other lenses, or a mini photo excursion. Another possibility is a subscription to a magazine that runs the kinds of photographs that interest you, a subscription to, and a membership to a local camera/photo club.
    Whatever you decide, have fun!
    Michael J Hoffman
  23. I would go along with the idea of getting a art book and take the rest of the money and just shoot. The more shooting the better. Until you make a lot of mistakes you will not grow. Just get out and have fun!
  24. I love Dave's idea about the Parks Pass. Plus books & magazine subscriptions.
  25. As an extra to the 80 for the annual parks pass, a backpacking tent and sleeping gear to go along with your annual parks pass, that way you can be in Banff for first light. Also Wiggett's book on Banff is highly recommended. Also start budgeting for snow tires, snow shoes and x-country skis for the off season. :)
  26. Thank you everyone for your suggestions.

    I decided to go with a monopod because my main lens doesn't have VR, and hiking with my tripod wasn't pleasant last time I tried it (well, it was probably hiking with a bunch of equipment that I didn't use that was the problem, but I'm blaming the tripod...). Most of the bloggers I read bang on and on about having good support so now I have no excuses.

    I did not know that I could use a step-down filter to put my 77mm filters onto a smaller lens, that's an excellent idea and I will keep an eye out for one. The 18-70 is my usual lens but I'm pretty sure the two primes (35 and 50) would be sharper if I were at their particular focal lengths.

    I also decided to join, so I should have a subscriber icon above this post if all went well. I have uploaded a few photos to my portfolio. Nothing earth shattering but hopefully not too terrible either. Any comments appreciated!
  27. I'm sure you'll find your monopod very useful. I know that I appreciate mine, from the ease of carrying around to the minimal investment for such an important tool.
    Great decision, also, on joining P.N. I enjoyed perusing your portfolio and look forward to more.
  28. I realize I am late to the party, and you have made your decision. But, should you find yourself in this situation again, I would say (absolutely) one of these:
  29. I agree with Robert Shultz. Color calibrating your monitor is crucial. Then after that get the Base leveler (LOL)
  30. I like the photos in your portfolio Mike, especially the portrait of your dad!
  31. I would buy a book or 2 from a master I like the style and study the images carefully....and no equipment....
    • business cards
    • camera bag
    • books on my specific style of photography
    • shoot & process a handful of rolls of film, make wet prints
    • darkroom chemicals or a better tank/reels
    • 8x10 or bigger prints to hang on the wall
    • hoods for any lenses I don't have hoods for

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