8 Capital Improvement Ideas for Professional Photographers

Year-end tax buys that can change the direction of your photography

The end of the year is approaching, and your accountant may have told you that it’s time to spend some money on your photography business. Here are eight ideas that will benefit more than just your tax returns.

If photography is both a passion and a business for you, then your accountant may have advised you that now is a good time to spend money on gear because there may be tax benefits come April 15 of next year. If that is the case, here are eight ideas for camera equipment that just might help shift the focus of your business and your creative approach to photography. Of course, you should consult with your accountant to make sure this is a good idea for you tax-wise, and how much you should spend to maximize the tax benefit.


Get a New Camera
Evaluate your current cameras. Are they getting old? Has new technology provided you with a compelling argument to add a new one? If you don’t have an HD video-capable DSLR, such as the Canon 7D  or Nikon D300s, now is the time. Higher demand for video, driven by more video-capable web sites, means more opportunities and sales to augment your still photography business. A DSLR with a sensor that has better low-light high-ISO sensitivity, such as the Nikon D3s, Canon 1D Mark IV, or Pentax K-5, may open up new picture-taking opportunities for you, again leading to new business.

Swap Your Optics

Is it time to add a new lens? Perhaps you have an older version of a lens and a newer version with better optics or more effective anti-shake capabilities is out. A good example this year is the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM, which replaces the 70-200mm f/2.8L USM. Better lens coating and shake reduction make up the substantial price difference on this classic photojournalist and sports photography workhorse lens. Or, consider going back to basics and buying a fast prime lens (to go with your new low-light high-ISO camera) such as the highly-rated Nikon 50mm f/1.8. For very little money you can get a very capable and optically superior lens—a good idea if your capital budget is limited this year.

Downsize, Gear-Wise
This was the year of the interchangeable-lens compact camera. Is it time to buy one? If you are a photojournalist or documentary shooter who needs to work as unobtrusively as possible, a little camera with a big sensor, like the Sony Nex-5, Panasonic GF-1, Samsung NX100, and a choice of lenses might be a good investment. You might also consider the Leica X1 or Sigma DP-2s—both of which are nearly pocket-sized and have a fixed lens but use APS-sized sensors—for specific applications.

Become a Strobist
The hyper-realistic multiflash trend caught fire this year, and if you haven’t gotten aboard that bandwagon, you might want to now. Sophisticated wireless flash technology has made it easier than ever to control multiple flash units and bring portable studio light just about anywhere, and multi-flash kits, such as the Two Canon 580 EX II kit with transmitter kit. When you couple shoe-mounted flash units with one of many increasingly sophisticated light modifiers, such as those provided by the Flashpoint Q Series, you’ve got a compact multi-light powerhouse.

Turn Yourself Into a HotSpot Hot Shot
So, here’s how this works: Get a Portable Personal Wi-Fi router, such as the CradlePoint PHS-300. Connect it to your 3G or 4G cellphone via the USB data connection. You can now use your Wi-Fi on your computer to connect online, anywhere. Even better: Using an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card, you can upload directly from your camera to your pre-selected online destination from anywhere within reach of a cellular network. Caution: Make sure your cell service provider’s data plan is unlimited. Otherwise, you might end up with some major additional data charges, and that wouldn’t be good.

Take a Tablet
Are you still mousing? If you don’t have a pen tablet as your main image-editing pointing device, you’re missing out on a powerful digital darkroom tool. Pressure sensitive, a typical tablet like the Wacom Untuos4 Large Tablet will give you far greater control and nuance when using paint, erase and healing functions, and when working with mask layers.

Upgrade Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop CS5, as Diane Miller wrote in her review, is a must-have upgrade if you’re doing serious image editing. Intelligent fill, the ability to change aspect ratio without squishing an image, and the significant improvement in the software’s user interface make this a good end-of-year investment. Already upgraded? Consider plug-ins, such as Nik HDR Efex Pro, which gives you intuitive control over high dynamic range images  or Nik DFine, which seeks and destroys artifacts from high-resolution images in low light.

Go Retro
Spit in the face of progress and get a film camera. Why not? There are plenty of high-quality cameras that used to be considered state-of-the-art that you can pick up now for a fraction of their original price, thanks to supply and demand (lots of supply, little demand). Browse our used department for bargains! Experiment with funky toy cameras—Lomos, Dianas  and Holgas . Load up on film such as Kodak’s new (and very scanner-friendly) Portra 400 or old standbys like Ilford HP5 Plus  and shoot away! What about shooting large format? Experiment and set yourself apart from the competition.

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