These Tips Will Help You Choose Starter Gear On A Budget

By Katelyn Umholtz

One of the most intimidating factors in photojournalism is the price of getting started. To get the job done right, visual journalists rely on expensive gear and that can be tough to afford, especially for recently-graduated college students.

Rob Luckett, a specialist for Public Relations Corporate Communications Division of Canon, said there is one thing to consider of at any point in one’s career.

“Quality is not inexpensive,” Luckett said. “You rely on your gear daily. Think of your camera gear as your tools. Just like a mechanic has to rely on his or her tools, they have to work.”

But, how can you ease into this expense when you’re still paying off the college loans? NPPA members and working visual journalists Jeff Haller of Mobile, Alabama and Will Nunnally of Chicago give tips to help students and recent graduates on how to get quality gear without breaking the bank.

Used gear

Used camera sales companies like KEH, which Haller used back in the ‘90s, and Adorama offer preowned gear at a fraction of its original price.

“I bought a lot of used stuff when I first went to college, and when people ever ask me, that’s what I usually recommend doing because you can save a lot of money,” Haller said.

Quality audio

When picking and choosing what to spend more money on, particularly when buying video equipment, Nunnally said good audio should be a priority. When he started out just ten years ago, he didn’t own an expensive camera, but he made sure he had the right equipment so sound could be heard by his viewers.

“If you’re going to splurge on something, get a good audio recorder and sound equipment,” Nunnally said. “People will forgive a lot of things visually, but people don’t want to watch something with bad audio.”

Quality lenses

Because lenses last longer than camera bodies, Haller said it’s best to invest in some good lenses over the actual camera. Choose a 50 f/1.4 over the kit zoom lenses, he said, because it works better in low light.

“I have lenses that are ten years old and still use them everyday,” Haller said. “Even though that seemed expensive at the time, they’ve lasted a long time and it averages out.”


Even though Nunnally said he doesn’t usually rent gear, it can be an inexpensive way to get video equipment, especially for specific assignments. This is useful for freelancers, who can work the cost into the invoice so their client pays the rental ticket.

“I think clients are more likely to pay a rental fee just because the equipment is so much more expensive,” Nunnally said.