[buzzsprout episode='524821' player='true']One of the toughest things for a new photographer is the debate about buying camera gear. Should you go into debt to build your kit? Should you rent or borrow gear? Or just make do with whatever you've got?

sage justice buying camera gear

In this episode, I talk with Sage Justice, a wedding photographer from San Diego. Sage admits that he has a problem with buying too much camera gear and I thought he'd be a great person to talk to on the topic of building your kit. Perhaps he's made enough mistakes in buying camera gear he can save you some trouble!

(Sage Justice Instagram)SUMMARY:

Why don’t you tell everybody about yourself? What is your thing? What do you do for work and fun? [00:00:43]

  • My name is Sage Justice, I'm a wedding photographer, also shooting couples portraits and lifestyle.
  • I like live music and love to hang out on weekends when I don’t have work.
  • Working out and out and going on hikes is my jam.

Talk to me about when you started shooting weddings, how many years ago was that? [00:02:59]

  • In 2009 I got my start.
  • I had Nikon D5000 with a kit lens 18-55. I progressed to second shooting where I moved to Canon 5d-II with 24mm and some lenses here and there.
  • A few years later in 2012 I started first shooting full time.

How was it that you landed on wedding photography of all the different things that you could choose to shoot? How was it wedding photography that drew you in? [00:03:40]

  • When I started in 2009, I was shooting night life but it wasn't lucrative at all. I got paid about $15/hour.
  • I talked to a friend and he was shooting weddings full time and he said: “If you want to be a full-time photographer, wedding photography is the only way you can make it.” That stuck with me. It translated to me doing most of my work shooting weddings.

Today we are talking about buying camera gear. When you started out as a photographer, what was in your gear bag? What was your first kit? [00:05:21]

  • For starters, I didn’t do it the right way!
  • In the beginning, I had a Nikon D5000 and an 18-55mm and I had this bird watcher of 55-300mm or something crazy. I was doing research and buying more lenses and trying to figure out whether to invest more in the glass or upgrade my film camera.
  • When I realized I wasted a lot of money in doing that, I sold everything off.
  • I went to get a Canon 5D Mark II and I got a 24-70mm. when you start out, getting a 24-70 and a 70-200 is very essential.

How was it that you went about buying your camera gear? Where were you on the scale? Slow, fast, or in between? [00:07:53]

  • It was really slow in buying camera gear.
  • I got a 24-70mm and then I realized I wanted to do more portrait photography so I ended up getting another film camera.
  • Once I started accepting money for shoots, I felt it was necessary to buy one thing at a time.
  • LEON: when I first started out in wedding photography, I rented a lot of gear. I wasn’t in a position to be buying camera gear at that time. I decided to invest in a nice Canon 70-200 2.8L. That was my first pro lens I bought.

Did you ever rent gear? [00:11:24]

  • Honestly, I think that’s the best route to go when you're first starting out. But I never personally did. I felt that if I was going to waste the money renting something, then I might just as well put it towards the lens.
  • The down side of renting is that it can get pricey.

Did you borrow gear from friends in the beginning? [00:13:10]

  • Yes, and that also held me back from renting gear. My mindset was “Why should I spend $100 to rent a lens when I could just bug my buddy and get it for free?”

Looking back, how would you have built your kit differently? [00:14:24]

  • I would have done a little bit more research on which camera brand I wanted and why I wanted to get that route. Let's say Canon for skin tones or for better-looking portraits and Nikon for autofocus or ISO or whatever.
  • So, it would be better to take a few months, rent a body and see what you like rather than wasting money on one brand and reselling everything off to buy another.
  • Some of this depends on what genre photographer you are. Do research and buy camera gear you won’t have to change in a year.
  • Better to spend the money to buy good gear than to buy the cheap stuff and later dump it in the closet. It will save you the hassle of dealing with the cheap, lesser gear.

Now, that you like having a ton of gear if you were to shoot a wedding with only one lens for the entire day, which one would it be and why? [00:18:47]

  • Shooting a wedding with a lens, I would use my 35mm 1.4 glued to one of my bodies almost the entire wedding.
  • LEON: I have stopped shooting weddings for many years when I did shoot weddings I shot weddings with one lens because I had a second shooter with me and the purpose was to capture overall the vibe and look and feel of the event. I switched lenses but the majority I shot was with my 70-200mm 2.8L.

What are your thoughts on prime lenses versus zoom lenses? [00:20:46]

  • I am against using zoom lenses for weddings because with primes you're always using your feet to actually zoom. Just moving around finding different angles puts you in your zone and lets you be more creative than you'd normally be. It also makes me feel less lazy. I've always felt that with the zoom lenses I'm cheating.

There is a famous video of a photographer who was walking backward and falls into the lake off the walkway. If you're the photographer, do you have a backup kit in the trunk that is ready to go? [00:23:55]

  • Yes. Exactly. It's important when you're doing paid work always have a clean backup.

What is your philosophy on memory cards? Some like to have the largest memory cards possible and there are other people who think it's risky so they want to have only small memory cards. Where do you land? [00:24:28]

  • I have approached it from both mindsets.
  • With the cost coming way down, I don’t really see the point of doing of small cards these days. We can have up to 256 GB cards.
  • Personally, I like to shoot on 64 GB card but I typically shoot most of the wedding on 164 GB card.
  • When you're shooting weddings with smaller cards, the risk of having a corrupt card or lost card is amplified.

Everybody is loving the Fuji or the Sony mirrorless cameras, have you tinkered with them? Do you think you will ever add one to your kit anytime soon? [00:28:23]

  • Yes obviously, mirrorless is the future. It's just a matter of time before DSLRs are out.
  • They are fantastic cameras with great color but for certain instances in you can't use them. Thus, I would still be rocking the DSLR till all limitations are figured.

What's the one item that you're excited to acquire if there is something? [00:34:10]

  • Now, I'm in the process of selling my strobes. I'm looking to buy the Flashpoint XPLOR 600. I've seen reviews both have similar features but XPLOR has a built-in transceiver and has high-speed sync.
  • They are great and affordable for what they offer.
flashpoint-xplore buying camera gear