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What Gear/Accessories Would You Buy with a $500 Windfall?

In: 
Published: 14/02/2020

Jerry, from Sarasota, FL asks:

“My wife just surprised me with a $500 gift certificate from B&H and I’m really grateful, but I truly have all the gear that I really need, including back-ups for everything. I don’t want to apply the certificate on a major purchase because I don’t to spend additional money on top of the certificate--especially at this time of year, when business is so slow. If she had just given me cash, I’d have gotten some coaching or bought a few videos. I’m really stumped. Any thoughts?”

Wow, a nice problem to have, Jerry... plus you have a kind wife who supports your profession! If I’m being honest, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m holding out for some major gear. That gift certificate barely makes a dent on the 50mm tilt-shift lenses I have on my wish list or the new Canon mirrorless camera I'm waiting on. Maybe, I’d use the certificate toward an upgrade on my monitor but that would mean I’d be paying out of pocket for the difference, so that doesn’t really fit your criteria.

So, if I just wanted to stay within that $500, that makes it more difficult. Like you, I’ve got back-ups of everything and I have enough flashes/lights to hold a good garage sale. I'd have to give it more thought but if you were to twist my arm, I’d probably use the gift certificate to replace some things that have some wear-and-tear on them (i.e., camera bags, light stand bags, etc.) and maybe another Pelican case for when I get the major gear upgrades that I mentioned earlier.

It’s a good question Jerry, so I’ll put it out to the community... I have no doubt you’re going to get a bunch of great suggestions of stuff to buy for the real estate photographer who has it all! Thanks for writing in.

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

14 comments on “What Gear/Accessories Would You Buy with a $500 Windfall?”

  1. I recommend spending some time looking through B&H's web site. They sell so many different things that aren't cameras/lenses that you may find something off the beaten path.

    My first thoughts were a lot like Tony's. It's not enough for a big purchase such as a new lens or camera body. Some superclamps or magic arms could be of interest if you still want photo gear. A big pop out background that you can use for making portraits with a white or black background. You could get one that's a 5in1 so it doubles as a big reflector or flag. The portrait aspect is going to be a big push for me this year. I figure that it's a quick $50-$75 for a basic business portrait if I photograph the agent on the site of a property I'm making listing photos of. We could even walk outside and make a nice environmental portrait if the property has a nice exterior location. That's a couple of looks for very little effort.

    Another thing to get might be a battery analyzer for rechargeables if you are using AA's,AAA's or 18650's so you can check your battery inventory to see if it's time to start buying replacements. If you can find some black C-47's, those are handy. Not the airplane, clothespins. I got a high quality black one as a give away at last year's WPPI convention but the people on the stand didn't know where they came from, blast them. IIRC, I wasn't interested in whatever they were showing. How's that for dilemma when your give-aways are more interesting than the products/services you are selling? I hope to go again in a couple of weeks and score a couple more of them.

  2. That’s a tough one. I too am in the position where I already have everything I need. However, each item on my list of “wants” eclipses that budget.

    Ken brings up a good point though that there are lots of things B&H sells that aren’t necessarily photography things. Leatherman multi tools, goal zero solar panels and batteries etc.

    On the other hand, perhaps there is something that will allow you to expand your services. You can get a basic gimbal or slider setup for $500 which will allow you to get into video, or perhaps a 360 camera that will allow you to get into virtual tours.

  3. That's an easy one, as said, b&h has many things that are great. Pick out something for the two of you, something that includes or is for her. What are her interests? Audio, video, a laser scope for her favorite 243, or a home surveillance thingy, you get the idea, I know most of their stuff seems for the man in us, but when my ex isn't riding her Harley, she's on her Ducati.

  4. Sell it on Ebay for 5% discount. Thank her so much. Don't tell her about the Ebay sale. Buy a really good bottle of Scotch. Buy her some flowers. Save the rest for rainy day. Just saying...

  5. I would want a piece of gear for photos and video that would help me stop taking my main gear to family events and vacations. This could mean a gopro, a nice phone, or a compact mirrorless.

  6. This is the perfect budget for the non-shiny things most photographers really need more of: GRIP!
    Head down to your local discount fabric store and get several yards of poly poplin or other black cloth (in the photo world we call it Duvatyne or "duvy" but it's way more expensive at B&H than it is at Joanne's Fabrics), and also several yards of sheer curtain material. Now you've got blackout cloth, and a nice big silk, on the cheap. When I say "several yards" I mean B-I-G; you want to be able to cover a floor-to-ceiling window 20' long if need be. But get a more reasonable-sized piece too, for the smaller windows. Next, head over to the hardware store and stock up on A-clamps, so you can hang all those rags quickly on location. Those items alone are worth several thousand dollars in lighting equipment. Killing the flat, behind-the-camera light will make the scene in front of you look ten times better, and doing it with subtractive lighting is much faster than anything else.

    If you live in a metropolitan area, there's sure to be a "grip house" or lighting rental place which is where you'll go to buy gaff tape (get both black and white), sandbags, and lots of little specialty clamps. Pick up a couple sheets of 1/2CTO gel there, too. And look at the collection of scrims -- someday you'll want those for softening and sweetening the light on your dining room tables etc. etc. Google "Grip Lighting [your city]" to find this place. You'll be returning often. It's also a great way to find assistants because everyone working there is also a PA part time.

    If none of this appeals to you, then take that $500 and get yourself a membership at every art museum in your area, and visit frequently. You'll have money left over to spend in the gift shop, where you'll find books that will make you crazy with the desire to approach your work differently. You'll be amazed at how you'll be remembering those cubist paintings when you're shooting a kitchen!

  7. Think Tank Photo Airport Advantage Roller Sized Carry-On

    $250-ish

    Big enough to carry everything you need, but small enough to keep you from wanting to buy a bunch of unnecessary stuff.

    Plus you've still got about half the card left over for the inevitable.

  8. @Scott, It's a B&H gift card so he's stuck with what they offer. Back when I had a manufacturing company I used the small Pony clamps to hold parts into some tooling while the glue set. You can buy the name brand Pony clamps in bulk from Jorgensen (Jorgenson sp?). The Home Depot/Lowes imports can be junk. You may wind up with more than you need, but getting a case quantity gets the wholesale price. I still have loads of the smaller ones left and I use them all over the place.

    I was going to suggest a Lynda or Kelby subscription or some CreativeLive or Phlearn courses until I remembered the B&H restriction. It might still be exchangeable with somebody holding a workshop.

    You can never have enough grip. You may winding up finding you don't have enough storage space.

  9. Here's some things I'd consider applying it to that you can find on B&H:

    Magmod Stuff - I like the Magbounce and the Magsphere. Getting the actual accessories the magnet things that wrap around you speedlights adds up. But they have it on B&H. So I'd get some.

    Promaster Specialist Series SPCM428K Cine Monopod Kit (2442) - this is a GREAT monopod. And expensive. The radius of the feet make it very stable. Once upon a time I mounted an ad200 to a standard footed monopod. It came crashing down when set on carpet. Scared everyone to death. Even me. This monopod is different because the spread of the foot is so wide. I can now confidently put an ad200 on a monopod without a sandbag. I'm not carrying sandbags to a real estate shoot. Period. So this is my solution. I don't see it on B&H. It's on Amazon. So I'd call them and see if they can get it in. Couldn't hurt, right?

  10. The last 3 things that really changed my shooting was a
    ]Geared Head
    L-Bracket. ( i shoot portrait mode so much more now)
    and the AD-200, handheld flash.

    But overall the Arca Swiss geared head (more than $500 but you can find a head for less than Arca Swiss) has changed how I shoot. Its been a gamechanger.
    Otherwise,if you dont have one yet, maybe a drone?

  11. Are there any aspects or areas of service you'd like to try out/get into? If you don't offer video, that's a great amount to throw at a gimbal. As some others have mentioned, get some upgraded lighting gear or accessories that can step it up a notch or give you a quality of life improvement. Geared head, L bracket, faster SSD, video card, 360 camera.

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