With the pace of technology and the internet, it is hard not to be tempted to buy new gear every so often. I have a long wish list myself. But when you’re running a business, you cannot buy that new camera or that new lens on a whim. So how do you decide whether you should pull the trigger on that purchase? Here’s a list of questions to go through before making the decision.
1. Can I afford it?
This should always be the first question. If you cannot afford it, then no need to go any further. But how do you know if you can afford it? Every year, you should be making a budget, with expected purchases, and some room for unexpected purchases (in case you break something for example). If the purchase fits in your budget, then you can afford it. It doesn’t matter if you have the money on your bank account because you might need that money to replace something next month.
2. Can I keep using my current gear?
If you’re buying gear to replace something you have, then you need to seriously ask yourself this question. How will this new piece of equipment improve upon your current one? Here, I want you to think in quantifiable terms. Do you need a faster frame rate to shoot sports? Do you need a more powerful light because your flash isn’t cutting for large rooms?
You don’t need a new camera every two years. You just don’t.
But if you just saw that new fancy camera at a trade show, think twice before you buy it. You don’t need a new camera every two years. You just don’t.
3. Should I rent it instead?
If you’re a regular reader, you know I love renting. In a lot of cases, renting gear makes more sense than buying it. A good way to decide is to ask yourself: how often will I use that gear? If you’ll need it on most photoshoots, then buy it. If you’ll use it every couple of months, then renting will make more sense financially.
Renting can also be the way to start using gear you cannot afford yet. I am currently renting strobes for my interior photoshoots, because I do not want to make a big purchase right now. When cash flow allows it, I will invest in a more permanent solution.
4. Will it bring in more money?
Here, I need you to be honest with yourself. Will using that gear allow you to attract new clients, or to get jobs you couldn’t before? It is a tough question, as not a lot of gear will actually attract new clients. Most clients do not care what gear you use.
Here’s an example: when I started my business, I was using a crop sensor camera. For months, I shot with it, because I did not want to spend the money on a full-frame camera. Clients never asked about my gear. I sold photos taken on my D7000 without any problems. Now, I knew upgrading to a full-frame sensor would allow me to use tilt-shift lenses, which are key in architectural photography. I waited until it fit in my budget. And when I did, I even sold some used gear that wasn’t key to my business to finance it.
So, be honest: do you really need that new gear?