Photography as a hobby can be rather expensive, especially when you want a high-quality camera and lenses. You can spend thousands and thousands of dollars without blinking. But you can also rent equipment, and there might be a few good reasons to do so.
Starting with photography doesn’t stop with buying a camera and lens. Perhaps it’s enough for the first couple of months. But then, you realize it’s impossible to shoot birds in the garden or animals at the zoo. You need a longer tele lens. If you like to shoot flowers, a macro lens will be something you long for. Perhaps you like to shoot portraits, so a flash will give you more possibilities. Before you know it, you’ve spent thousands of dollars, and the wishlist may even grow longer.
My First Wedding With a Digital Camera
Back in 2006, I was asked to shoot a wedding. It was about one year after I bought my first DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 20D. It wasn’t my first wedding, though. I had already shot weddings for some years with my analog camera, so I knew how the Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens, with an aperture between f/3.5 and f/5.6, could make it difficult in less-than-ideal light situations.
At that time, I had already bought the expensive Canon EF 70-200mm f/2,8L IS lens, and I didn’t have any money to buy another f/2.8 lens. Development, if I accepted the wedding shoot, I had to get myself the proper lens. So, I decided to rent the equipment I needed.
Renting photography equipment wasn’t normal at that time. But I managed to find a small company that offered the equipment I needed. This way, I was able to rent a second Canon EOS 20D, an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, and a couple of flashguns. It was enough to bring my wedding photography into the digital age.
The following year, I continued to rent equipment if I needed it. I found it to be a cheap way to use expensive lenses and cameras. Despite the benefits of renting, I did buy that wonderful EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens after a while. I had learned how much better this lens performed compared with the EF-S 17-85mm IS lens and decided to make it my normal walk-around lens.
A Good Reason for Renting a Lens
Those days are long gone. I have been lucky to make some money from my photography, enough to invest in the cameras and lenses I need for my photography. So, there is almost no reason for me to rent photography equipment anytime soon. But not everyone is in this position, and unless you’re a wealthy person, most photographers will have to save a lot of money over a very long time before another expensive camera or lens can be bought.
Let’s imagine you like photographing birds and wildlife. For that, you need a long tele lens with a focal length somewhere in the range of 500mm or 600mm. You see all those photo enthusiasts with lenses that cost as much as a car. How can you determine if such a lens is worth saving for? Simple, just rent one for a weekend.
Try it out, and find out yourself if you want to carry a 4.5-kilogram lens on your photography adventures. Perhaps you discover how inconvenient such a lens is, and maybe a much lighter lens is a better choice. Who knows, perhaps you would like to use that 500mm lens only once in a while. Why not rent it for those occasions. It’s much cheaper to rent it a hundred times, instead of buying it.
A Reason for Renting a Camera
My first digital wedding is a good example of a reason to rent a camera. If you need a second camera body once in a while, just rent one. I know a lot of photographers have a second camera body but almost never use it. Sometimes, you see these cameras appear in the secondhand market. It says: “as good as new, only used as a backup camera.” Why not rent one for those rare occasions when you need that second body?
If you already rent a second camera, make sure you always try to get the same model you own. Don’t choose a completely different one, because it will become a big frustration if you don’t know the controls. After all, there is little time available to learn the new controls and settings. That is why I choose a second Canon EOS 20D instead of the wonderful Canon EOS 1Ds back in 2006.
If you’re in the market for another camera, renting can also be a good choice. This way, you can try it out for some time to find out if it is to your expectations. There is less risk of spending too much money on a camera that isn’t to your liking.
Reasons for Renting Studio Equipment
Do you like photographing models? It’s fun to do, and shooting outdoors with ambient light gives a lot of opportunities. But sometimes, it’s also fun to use strobes or even studio lights. On those occasions, it might be wise to rent the necessary flash equipment, complete with a background system, a good battery pack for the flashes, and light modifiers. Buying those things will cost a lot of money. If you use it only occasionally, renting is the best option.
Bottom Line: When to Rent and When To Buy
Although renting equipment is a money-saver, it will become more expensive in the long run. Renting the same sort of equipment over and over means you are using it a lot. By that time, you have discovered it’s your kind of photography. You know what you want, what you need, and it will be great to have it on hand at all times. Because renting means planning, making appointments, and losing time when collecting the equipment or returning it. In that case, it might be wise to buy it for yourself.
I own most equipment I need for my photography. But when I want to use some exclusive lens just once, I’m sure to rent it. So, if you meet me on a safari in Africa, I probably will be shooting with a large and heavy Canon EF 500mm f/4L lens. It won’t be my lens, but it will be a rented one.
How about you? Have you rented photography equipment? Please share your story in the comments below.