PHOTOGRAPHYAWESOMESAUCE.COM-2Raise your hand (in the comfort of your own home where nobody knows) if you’ve seen those Facebook posts that say the following.

“Share photos taken with the 85mm 1.4 please. Thanks!”

Or maybe they say this.

“Looking to buy a new lens. What should I get? What is your favorite?”

Or maybe it’s this.

“I have an 18-55mm lens and am looking to upgrade. What’s best?”

Maybe it’s just me, but these questions are tough to answer. I’ve been around the block when it comes to lens purchasing. I’ve made so many mistakes when I’ve based my purchases off questions I ask or see in Facebook groups or elsewhere online. I’ve never bothered to count how many dollars I’ve lost when I purchased a lens and then found out it wasn’t the lens for me and had to sell it for less than I purchased.

What I didn’t realize is that lenses are truly an investment. The technology doesn’t age as fast as that of your DSLR. So lenses are here to stay. They’re a big purchase and one that should last you a very long time without a need to upgrade it. That means we shouldn’t just run out and buy the next big thing or whatever your neighbor uses because she takes great photos. Here’s a few common mistakes I see happening when photographers are considering a new lens purchase. A lot of these are mistakes I’ve made and wish I had known better, so I’m passing this on to you.

  1. Not Doing Research – You should always be reading, watching videos and researching a big purchase like a lens. Remember, it’s an investment. Learn how it works and what people like and don’t like about it. It can give you a lot of insight.
  2. Not Knowing Your Style – Doesn’t it feel awesome when you get a new lens? I just get excited to get out and play with it. I’ve often times made the mistake of buying something because I heard it was great only to find out it really didn’t suit my style. If you love big wide landscapes then the 200mm 2.8 is probably not an awesome idea. Or if you love traditional cropped portraits, you may hate the 24mm 1.4. You need to really take a look at your style and where you think its going in the future and chose a lens that accentuates it instead of the newest trend.
  3. Buying a Lens Someone Else Has Because Their Photos are Amazing – No. Just no. Don’t do this. We all know that the camera and lens don’t make a photo. You do. Lenses are just tools. Ultimately so many factors come into play when creating an amazing image. Your camera body and your posing of clients. Plus a true understanding of the type of light you love and how to work with it. Just because someone else has a specific lens doesn’t mean you can create the same imagery they do. Remember. Lenses don’t make photos, you do.
  4. Not Trying Before Buying – I know it’s a pain in the booty to pay to rent lenses before buying. You’re probably sure you’ll like the lens, but don’t want to loose the $100 on the rental when you can put that into something else. I know exactly how you feel. Trust me though. You need to rent the lenses first. Rent different brands of a focal length you want to try. Make sure you rent it on a weekend where you have scenario that’s very typical for you within a shoot. Don’t rent it when you’re not working. You actually need to get out there and try it. Compare it to other ones you’ve tried and see what you like. I really thought I wanted the Canon 24mm 1.4 for example. I rented it and it was just blah. I had second thoughts about purchasing it. So instead of purchasing it anyway, or skipping it altogether I rented the Sigma version. That one wowed me. It’s now my most-used lens ever. If I had just passed on trying it, or given up, or not tried it at all – I would’t know what I was missing out on. Always try before you buy. A new lens is expensive. It’s an investment. You wouldn’t buy a car without testing it first, please don’t buy a lens without testing it first. Make a wise educated investment instead of one on a whim.
  5. Not Giving a Lens a Second Chance – I don’t mean you need to forgive it like you did that ex-boyfriend who needed a second chance. What I mean is your style changes. It’s constantly evolving. I told photographers for ages how much I hated the focal length of 85mm. I just thought it was so traditional and boring. I like to shoot wide. So that level of zoom was just too much. I rented it and tried to give it a chance and it was just awful in my opinion. However, years later I kept researching and tried it again. I fell in love. My style just needed to develop more. Don’t rule out a lens forever because you may change your mind about it later.
  6. Not Saving for a Better Model – I’ve totally bought the cheaper version to save money and I’ve been sorry many times. Of course sometimes it still works out great, but consider saving a tad bit more to invest in the better model. You won’t be sorry for it if you do.
  7. Buying New When I Could Have Bought Used – Since lenses don’t age as fast as a camera body does they hold their value for a long time. They also don’t have “mileage” the same way a camera body does. I buy all my lenses used now. You can get like-new quality for a much better price. My favorite place to buy used is Lens Authority. It’s Lens Rentals’ used gear store. They have the best customer service, the best prices and the best quality in one place. My favorite!

It’s easy to just run out and buy a lens. It’s fun to have that new toy to play with. It’s exciting! Make sure you take the time and invest in a lens that you truly know you’re going to love. It will help you put time into the right parts of your business and not waste time purchasing something that doesn’t work out.

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Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

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