with Courtney Slazinik
The Good and the Bad Photography Purchases of 2011-Lessons Learned

Whether you are in business or just a hobbyist, it is very important to make wise purchases for your photography. It’s unbelievable how big the photography market is. Sales people prey on beginning photographers and try to suck their wallets dry.

I will admit that I was definitely one of those beginning photographers that they preyed on. In 2010, I learned to shoot in manual and started my photography journey. At the time I didn’t know about all those amazing things for sell on the internet and only made one (a very good one) purchase that year. 2011 came and I was getting pretty good. My goal was to open a photography business by the end of the year. That is when it all started and unfortunately my bank account showed it.

I would like to make a disclaimer that just because I consider something “bad” doesn’t mean that the product itself is bad. It just wasn’t right for me, I had already purchased something that was very similar or it didn’t pertain to what I wanted to do. A “bad” purchase for one person can be great purchase for another. The point of this post is to help you make an informed decision before you purchase a product.

In my opinion and I know Courtney’s as well, forums can be your best friend. I am a lifetime member to Clickin’ Moms. That was one good purchase I made last year. I was a member in 2010 but upgraded my membership in 2011 and I do not regret it. Clickin Moms also offers great workshops (more on that later) and the wealth of information there is A-MAZ-ING! Everything you want to know about photography you can probably find there. If you can’t, start a post and ask. I’m pretty sure someone will have an answer for you.


Posing Guides
Oh posing guides, how they suck you in. I’ve bought a lot and did I need to? Certainly not. Did I like them? Only one. Posing guides are tricky. You don’t know what you are getting.

My favorite posing guide I actually bought on a Black Friday sale. It was my second to last photography purchase for the year and it was one of my favorite. I read reviews online, some people loved it and some people said it was too basic for them. I took a chance and it was scary, but oh was I happy. Although good, the other guides weren’t my style or were repeats from previous things I had obtained or I already knew.

If you feel confident in your posing and think a posing guide will help you, it probably will not. Go with your gut, it’ll know what to do. Also, if you are low on spending money and you really need new ideas, use a website named Pinterest. Oh, the poses you can find on that site! You can check out some of my boards to get you started by clicking the button below.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Card Templates
The best piece of advice I can give someone on templates is to not buy a template because it’s on sale, buy it because you need it. I have so many templates I don’t use and some I just plain don’t like anymore. From now on, I only purchase a template that I know will be used for someone. Or better yet, switch out the digital paper and you’ve got a whole new one! But if I’m not going to make money off a template then it’s not worth my money.

Workshops are addicting and can be amazing!!! I owe a lot of my photography to a few courses I took through Clickin’ Moms. However I will admit that I took some other ones I wish I hadn’t because I already took something similar. Really learn about the course, read as many reviews as possible and don’t overload yourself with them. I took three workshops in a row and regretted it. I was so burnt out by my third workshop that I didn’t put my all into it. We all know you only get as much out of as you put into it, so it was kind of a bummer.

Columns Left to Right: Natural Light 101; Shooting 201; Shooting 301

I could go on and on about this topic. The money I spent on actions/presets makes me want to cry. Pretty sure I could buy a new lens with the amount of money I have spent. So sad. I will tell you one of my resolutions in 2012 is to not purchase a single action/preset. Yes, my purchases were that bad. My personal opinion is to learn a clean edit first. Once you have that down then look at actions and see if you really need them. Take the money you want to spend on that action and buy a Photoshop book or do a workshop. More than likely you can learn to do what the action accomplishes on your own without purchasing it.

Last but definitely not least. Save your money for good equipment. These will be the best purchases you’ll ever make. In 2011, I upgraded my camera and purchased/upgraded my lens. I have not regretted it for one moment. If you want to make one good purchase this year, save and buy something for your gear.

What were some good and bad photography purchases you made in 2011???

  • January 12, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Wonderful advice!

  • Kim C.
    January 12, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    So helpful, thank you!

  • January 12, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Great advice! I really didn’t spend any money on anything this year except a new lens. I went for the good deal instead of what I really wanted and now, even though I like the new lens, I wish I would have saved up more to get the lens I really wanted. Oh well! Live and learn!

  • January 12, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    I (thankfully) haven’t made any bad purchases this year! My big purchases (the Canon Rebel T2i, and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens) were both good purchases and I don’t regret them at all! I guess I could have lived without a couple of the smaller things though, and if I could go back I for sure would have bought a bigger camera bag!

  • Christi
    January 12, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    Thanks for the great tips.

  • January 12, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Do you have any advice on good gear to buy? i have a camera and a 50mm lens but don’t know what to buy next. a zoom lens so I can get more wide angle shots? an external flash for low light/indoor shots of my kids? a wireless remote so that I’m in some of the pictures? Since I’m a newbie to DSLRs over the past year I now want everything but dont really know what gear will be helpful to me at this stage :) And I certainly can’t buy it all!

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:11 PM

      Hi Hannah, I replied to your comment via email earlier today. Let me know if you don’t get it or have anymore questions. I think the wanting everything will never go away. My wishlist is still very long. :) I want lots of lens. hehe

    • Kat
      January 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      If you are thinking about a wireless remote, try the Deal Extreme website. Free shipping, and you can get off-brand remotes for a few dollars – and they seem to work! They also have other cheap bits and pieces, so you can try something new for not too much investment.

      (I don’t get any kickbacks from this, just sharing what I’ve learnt!) :-)

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      I’d also say, think about what you really want to capture. Make a list of that and then you can see which gear you need to achieve those images :O)

      • January 13, 2012 at 3:44 AM

        Thanks everyone! This is really helpful. I love the idea of writing down specifically what I want to capture. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Off to write my list now : )

        • January 13, 2012 at 6:20 AM

          Also you may want to check that all the equipment you want goes with your camera, I really wanted a wireless remote then figured out my camera doesn’t take one. I’m also looking at upgrading my lenses/camera body. Some lenses only work for cropped sensors and not full frame. So if you’re planing to upgrade your camera keep this in mind. I recently heard of someone that got a full frame camera for Christmas then realised none of her lenses worked with it. You can Google all this info, heaps of comparisons available.

  • January 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    What a great post! I bought my first DSLR in April of 2011 year – Canon T2i – LOVE it. I wish I would have JUST bought the body and bought another {better} lens for the ‘everyday lens’ other than the 18-55 kit lens it came with. The kit lens is at best “OK”. I am glad I did not get the one that came with the kit zoom. I know I would have been disappointed.
    I did however purchase my thrifty 50 (1.8 50mm) and I use that to shoot 95% of the time…. so I guess no real loss?! Santa got me a speedlight – and I have to say, I love love love using it! THat was a huge bonus!
    My next purchase will need to be researched & saved up for! I really would like to get an all in one lens like that Tamron 18-270 I see everywhere… I have a few months to reseach so that I do choose the right lens for me like you talk about above! Thanks for all the great tips – I love your blog and always read everything you write! :)
    I also joined Clickin Moms a couple weeks ago – so far, I have to say, it is very overwhelming with so much great information! I can’t wait to really dive in and check out some of the awesome articles & tutorials!!

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:07 PM

      Great list Skye! I think everyone has the kit lens regret. ;) It seems like such a good deal. I’m glad you’re loving Clickin Moms. I know it can be a bit overwhelming. My advice is to pick a subject and read up on that before moving on. Oh and make sure to take some time away from the forum and practice what you learn. It’s easy to get caught up on there and forget to actually practice. hehe ;)

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      I COMPLETELY agree with Melissa! Focus on one thing and get off the forum to practice it :O) Great advice! Also, have you seen this thread? It was a good starting point for me – http://www.clickinmoms.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42937

      • January 13, 2012 at 3:04 AM

        Yeah! That makes sense, thank,s for the link to “WHere to get started” over at CM …. !! :)

  • January 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    The list of camera gear under your tab “My Camera Bag”, does that contain your updated equipment?

    • January 12, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Yes, that contains my (Courtney) updated gear. Melissa, who is one of the contributors, wrote this article and I’m in the process of adding her gear to the site as well. Feel free to ask her any specific question you have about gear. She is super helpful!!!

  • Amanda
    January 12, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Thank you! I made some good and some not so good purchases last year too. I just got over excited and kept thinking I needed more stuff! I will have to remember this info for 2012:)!

  • January 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Love this list, Melissa!
    Upgraded my body
    Bought a 50mm 1.4
    Clickin’ Moms Film Art Presets
    Camera bags – Libby and B-hobo from Kelly Moore
    Two Clickin’ Moms workshops (best $$ spent)

    Several posing guides (completely agree they were unneeded)
    A couple of ebooks I could have done without

    That is all I can think of now! Thanks!

    • rachel
      January 12, 2012 at 11:25 PM

      what a helpful post! great perspective from both of you :). courtney, would you mind sharing which ebooks you found to be the best for you and why? i remember you recommended the ones on cm and would love to hear your thoughts.


      • January 13, 2012 at 2:14 PM

        I just recently purchased “For the Love” by Jinky Art – http://jinkyart.com.au/store/?page_id=216 It has some serious eye candy! I like the challenges/projects. There are also some tutorials at the back.

        I also purchased “It’s My Atmosphere” (which I haven’t really tackled but have heard AMAZING things) and “Shooting from the Shadows” which is awesome for low light shots!!! Sarah is a wonderful teacher and I have taken one of her workshops and wait no so patiently for her to offer more. https://www.clickinmoms.com/store/product-category/elearning/ You know I LOVE anything from Clickin’ Moms :O)

        Hope that helps!

  • January 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    I did a lot of my purchasing back in in 2010. The best thing I did was upgrade my Canon Rebel XTi to the Canon 5D Mark II. I absolutely love it! This year, I bought a bunch of shutter buddies. I absolutely love them, but still haven’t been able to use them to the fullest in a shoot.

    My unnecessary puchase is muslin backdrops. I thought studio shots would be an interesting endeavor. (that was before i discovered Photo Prop Floors and Backdrops). I really just need to define what my style is and be comfortable with that.

    By the way, love all your posts!

    • January 13, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Wendy I big puffy heart love my Mark 5D II. Full frame is amazing, isn’t it. I can not wait to for the 5D III to come out and hopefully knock our socks off! :)

  • January 13, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    Such great advice!!! I have to start taking better advantage of CM. Like have to.

  • January 13, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    Great post Melissa, so many good points! There are also so many free actions available, although I bought one good B&W set, that I love. And I started making my own posing reference by checking out photos I like and paying attention to their pose. I’m looking to upgrade my equipment but I’m actually stuck in indecision because I don’t want to waste money! I think I’m definitely going to look into clickin moms this year and a workshop.

    • January 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      What black and white set did you buy??? We’d love to know!

      • January 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        Thanks Sara! Free actions are wonderful. Pick apart your favorite ones and see what makes them tick. It’ll help you get to know your editing software better and help find your style.
        What equipment do you currently have and what do you primary shoot? I would love to help you make a wish list for new equipment. :)

  • Laurie
    January 13, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    What an awesome post Melissa! I look forward to getting to know you this year!

    My best purchase: Very late in the year…I upgraded my 50mm to the 1.4.

    Worst purchase (for me): Lastolite Ezybalance Card. It didn’t do the best job with setting a CWB. I find it easier using Kelvin.

    I have found with photography as with most things…you get what you pay for. If there is a big price difference, there is probably a reason!

    • January 13, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      Great point, Laurie!! I definitely agree…you get what you pay for!!

  • January 13, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Hi Laurie! I’m excited to get to know you as well and read your posts! :)

    I completely agree with Kelvin, it is my new best friend. I’ve completely thrown out CWB.

  • January 14, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    I guess I bought four things this year – all but one were fantastic purchases. The jury’s still out on the last one:
    1) My first ever DSLR – Canon Digital Rebel T3 with kit lens (not such a great lens but I don’t think you can buy body without lens for that model) – fabulous purchase, so glad that I saved money on the T3 instead of T3i or T2i – picture quality is the same.
    2) My J. Tote cute camera bag/purse – this is what actually makes me use the camera because I can have it with me a lot of the time
    3) Canon 50 mm f/1. 8 prime lens for $120 – great, great purchase – so much better pics than with the kit lens, but not good for group shots
    4) One of those Wi-Fi memory cards that transfers pics automatically to your computer when it was on a great sale on Amazon – still haven’t set it up

    I wanted so many other things but held back. I want to really get comfortable using what I have before moving on, and I want to make wise purchases. I think my next step will be taking some sort of classes, but that will be later this year, because I have lot going on right now and wouldn’t be able to devote adequate time and energy to it. And then I really want a better all purpose lens so I don’t have to change out between my two lenses all the time.

  • pam
    January 14, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    I agree with everything you said! About the only thing I didn’t get were posing guides. Thank goodness I read several reviews before spending my money. I am also not going to by any more actions or presets. I’m going to spend 2012 learning to use the ones that I have, or even better still, learning how to do what they do, without them.

    • January 14, 2012 at 10:58 PM

      That is great Pam and exactly what you should do with your actions. In all the sadness (of losing money, ha!) one good thing came from those actions, I figured out how they ticked. Now if I want a certain effect I can do it on my own instead of searching for an action. Great way to turn a negative to a positive! :)

  • February 2, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    This is great. I’ve really started my photography journey and am currently a member of CM. I want to take a few workshops through them, and am saving up my pennies for that and for a new camera lens.
    I just bought CS5, which I am SO excited about, as well as a book that came highly recommended. I think that will be IT for purchases for a while :-)
    It’s so easy to get sucked in though… things I WANT, things I may not NEED, but oh, new shiny stuff for taking/editing pictures? Alluring.

  • Bethney
    February 9, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    I have a question about clickin moms but I can’t seem to find the answer on their site. If you are a lifetime member does that include access to classes? It says that you won’t be billed by CM ever again….but a class is $300 so a $195 membership to include classes can’t be right can it? Does the membership only include access to forums etc? I’m cofused haha!

    • February 9, 2012 at 5:04 AM

      Hey Bethney, the lifetime membership does not include a class. What I think you’re talking about is that lifetime members get first access to classes. So when they announce their workshops lifetime members are able to sign up right then and there while the rest of the forum members and public have to wait till registration begins. Does that make sense?? So it’s nice when you want to take a highly anticipated class that will more than likely fill up. Also sometimes lifetime members get fun little things. Like last year I got to giveaway a lifetime membership. Which was awesome! I know they’ve done other little things for us that I can’t think at the moment. Maybe Courtney can chime in on that one. ;) Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

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