The answer to whether photography is an expensive hobby is both yes and no. It's relative depending on what type of photographs you are taking and what you use. But for starters, you don't need to own a studio or Hasselblad H4D to learn.
New people discover my work everyday, and I'm not oblivious to the comments of those who think I was born rich with all my wants served on a silver platter. And also for the sake of everyone else who's struggling and wondering, I figure it really doesn't hurt to recap a bit and explain.
I bought my first camera when I was 18, it was a Canon 350D, priced at roughly US$1000 with the kit lens. I paid for it myself.
From 15 to 19 I represented Singapore for air rifle. I participated and won a decent share at my age then, the award and prize monies I received every year always went into my savings, save for the artbooks that I firmly believe were fundamental to my artistic development.
I earned my keep and took no allowances from my family. I trained five to six days a week after school all those years, on top of weiqi, micromouse and piano, it wasn't easy.
The childhood memories of our poverty and sufferings are enough to last me a lifetime no matter how things may have changed now. I don't think I'd regretted anything other than my existence, of being a burden to my mother, my family. If I could earn for myself, I'd do it, and never be a weight again.
These days a second hand entry-level DSLR goes for less than US$500. Trust me when I say you really don't need the newest model on the market.
And with the popularity of photography, I'd say most parents would get you a new one if you're well-behaved enough anyway. :D If they don't, a couple weeks of part-timing through summer break should more than settle it, just don't splurge on parties, dining, taxis and shopping. It's down to what how badly you want it, right?
I know it's easy to be a little envious about what someone else has, but take a moment to chill and think about it, about how you can work to get things for yourself just as well if there isn't someone to gift it to you. I'm sure you'll treasure your purchase even more when it's your own money, with a pretty good sense of satisfaction too.
Here're some shots taken using the 350D + kit lens with natural/available light:
|No, not Twilight, thank you very much.|
|The moment after...|
|Days of Our Lives|
|Headphones are Stylish.|
I had my doubts in the beginning—whether an expensive lens would make my photos better, whether getting lights will help, whether working with a bigger space will make it more awesome. Sure, they definitely make a difference, but as a beginner with barely trained eyes, there was a lot to be learnt with just the kit lens. All there is to do is to experiment and photograph a lot. (18-55mm is a pretty good range!)
Something else that was interesting to explore was light. I got myself a second hand 1kw Arri hotlight from a friend for US$500, and rented Bowens and Profotos when I had jobs. You'd be surprised at how much you can do with just a single light alone.
Some shots done in my family's living room with one light. I always had to clear our sofa away, and it made just enough room for all of these:
|This Side Up.|
|Newspapers are Good for You|
A real cheap studio kit from your to-go camera store costs lesser than US$300 the last time I checked (two months ago).
If you're not trying for 'studio' looks, a 50mm F/1.4 could be a good investment too, it costs around US$350. There's a beautiful depth of field when the aperture is opened wide, giving beautiful bokehs (blurs) in the background. (No examples with the 350D here, I didn't get a prime lens till much later)
The actual shooting stuff aside—wardrobe was pretty much just things from my closet. Also helped by the fact that I was doing fashion design, so I had a lot of incomplete pieces from sewing classes that were perfect for layering and photography. Again, basic stuff go a long way. In my first year I'd say it's more about learning framing, light and shadows than anything else.
Post-processing wise, there's usually a photo-processing software that comes with the camera you purchase. If you want to move on to Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One, or other programs, you are definitely encouraged to experiment. But to begin with, your kit one is probably more than good enough.
I like to use Lightroom for cataloguing because it's really easy and you can use it for processing as well. The student edition is only US$89.
So there you go, US$900's pretty much all you need for a start with enough to last a while. It's not free, but nothing so astronomical that you can't work and save for if you want it bad enough and try hard enough.
I hope this post helps and clears up some of the mysteries! You are also totally allowed to judge my lousy Photoshop skills on these way too old pictures. But wow, seriously, 18 feels like a lifetime ago now.
I'll do a part two if anyone's interested to see the rest of my equipment upgrade journey? Now back to packing~~
Related read for this entry: My Education