Jonathan Eastland took this picture on a 1985 Channel yacht race that cost him two Nikon cameras and a split nose. Not surprisingly, he’s decided it’s cheaper to buy extra back-up kit than insure all his gear. Image © Jonathan Eastland.
Photojournalist Jonathan Eastland has been in the business for nearly 50 years, shooting around the world for Associated Press and for his own business. He explains, in BJP's 11 Tips for 2011 series, how renting gear and buying secondhand is the way forward.
Photographers, just like any other artisans, need specific tools for specific jobs, so work out exactly what you need. And do think about what you need, not what you want.
When I was younger and needed a camera, I’d go out and buy it. A few years later I got an accountant who pointed out that all I was doing was spending hard-earned capital on tools. Of course the tools matter, but what earns money is what you produce with them, so he suggested I buy kit on lease purchase or lease rental agreements. I’ve done a lot of that. It means that you don’t buy the kit outright at the start, and end up getting it for a much-reduced rate over time – even with lease rental kit, I’ve found dealers have often been willing to sell the kit for a nominal fee at the end of the agreement. Elements of both approaches are also tax deductible, so it makes a lot of sense.
I occasionally buy used kit, both from online auction sites such as Ebay and from second-hand dealers. I prefer to buy from dealers. Online, you’re never completely sure that what you buy is what you’re going to get, and the kit can be damaged in transit. If it’s being sent from overseas, you may also have to pay VAT and duty on it. Buying second-hand from a dealer might cost more, but the best ones will go out of their way to give good service, particularly if you have built up a relationship with them. One dealer I’ve known for years shipped a replacement body to me in three days when the one I was using broke on an assignment in Australia. That’s the kind of service you need when you’re running a business.
Currently there is masses of analogue stuff available online, less at dealers, except at bigger outfits such as Ffordes in Inverness
(www.ffordes.com). For a while it made sense to buy analogue kit because prices for equipment in mint condition were so low but, in the last year or so, lab processing and printing costs have risen steeply. It’s now less economic other than for occasional use so, while I love the quality of film, for my business, I’ve had to go fully digital.
Once I’ve bought a camera I tend to hold onto it, because you don’t get much if you sell them, and I do use them all every once in a while. I buy extra bodies and lenses rather than getting equipment insurance because my insurance premiums are sky high – I specialise in marine photography and it’s easy to trash your equipment. For me, it’s cheaper to buy the extra bodies. I’d advise all photographers to look carefully at this. If you’re working in a studio and you lock it up every night, it makes sense to have insurance. If you’re working in a war zone, there’s no way. But whatever you decide, make sure you have professional indemnity insurance.
Sort out your indemnities, then take a long hard look at your equipment.
This article, and the other 10 tips from our panel of experts [to be published each day until 31 January], were first appeared in BJP's January issue, published on 05 January 2011. It's still available for purchase from your nearest newsagent until 02 February 2011. To find your nearest newsagent, check our Store Finder.
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