Saving Dough on Photography Gear

Q: (via email) Chase. I’m basically in love with Profoto lighting. But I’m a kid that has bad credit and photo is my life. Any suggestions on how I could get some Profoto lighting?

A: Yep. Rent it. Seriously. This goes for almost all killer, pro gear. And here’s the thought of the day:

Most rental houses are closed on Sunday. Also true is that you can normally pick up stuff at your local shop at 3pm(-ish) the day before you’re actually “renting” it. That said, consider reserving your rental for Saturday; pick it up Friday at 3pm. Nerd out with it, practice, learn, do a shoot or whatever Friday night. All day Saturday it’s yours. Sunday too. Return the gear Monday by 10am (or whatever the store’s policy says) and you’ve just had your way with this stuff for almost three days for the price of one.

Don’t tell them I sent you.

(BTW, today is Friday.)

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To Mr. Anonymous: yes, this flies in LA, FOR SURE!

Fe, Sammy’s has the same policy. Rent on Friday as of 3pm, pay 1 day and keep in until Mondag 10am.


Just a small tip, if you buy a camera body (or any essential part of your standard equipment pack), try to buy it at the same store where you can rent out other equipment. As it goes on your account, you’ll actually be able to rent stuff without having to put down a deposit.

Yes, I’ve known about this for years and use it when I can. But I’m fortunate to be just outside NYC.

Another bonus, look at the holiday schedules. Most places give you great deals when they are closed for a few days. Example, if closed for a week, they may charge only 3 days. Add Chase’s weekend advice and you can get great mileage out of it with good planning!

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Brittney says:

So YOU’RE the reason Glazer’s rentals is open on Sunday now.

The part that always burns me is the 12 hour drive to the nearest rental outlet!

Another way to save a ton of money if you are a college student is to take advantage of the MAC Groups student discounts. There are huge discounts that can be had on Profoto gear. You can get a Profoto 7b for $2700. They also have deals on Pocketwizards, Mamiya, Tenba and all the rest of the MAC group companies.


Also: As Chase knows, the editorial world runs under a perverse pricing system that essentially penalizes you for owning your own anything. Get used to renting so you can bill it.

Even better: Adorama, because they’re orthodox Jewish and only open for part of the day on Friday, lets you have a single day rate if you pick up on THURSDAY. You can spend half your week with the greatest toys at minimal cost.

haha is this my email?

ken says:

Also… plan to take advantage of the religious observant rental businesses. It usually adds a day, sometimes more, to the same rate.

For those that are not lucky enough to have local camera stores that rent check out. the following sites that rent online and ship.

I have used BorrowLenses (they happen to be local to me) and they are awesome.

dreadthis says:

David I agree with you. I was on a trip to Phoenix and they wanted the full price deposit to rent the equipment. In K.C. there’s no deposit. So the next time I have an out of town gig. I’m just going to rent the equipment here and take it with me.

David says:

This is great advice, you can also do this to test out equipment before buying it.

One problem I have run into though (here in Canada) is that the story requires a deposit large enough to cover the cost of the equipment. So if you don’t have a credit card (or one that isn’t maxed out) or the cash on you then you may not be able to rent the gear either

Cody H. says:

@ Paul,
Growing up in tiny town, I feel your pain. But a little tip, I don’t know if everybody does this but Glazers Camera here in Seattle will ship rental gear anywhere in the US. You pay for the shipping but if you have an important gig, or just wanna play with a pro lens for a week, It’s totally worth it! -C

Brian Larter says:

He’s right, it’s a great way to access expensive gear on the cheap.

Jacob says:

So, so true! Whenever people are talking about purchasing an “odd” piece of equipment (a guy in the flickr groups was looking at buying a T/S lens), I always send ‘em to the rental houses. Like Julia said – $30 for three days with a $1600 lens… you can rent it quite a few times before you hit the purchase price…

Paul says:

That’s a problem with living in a B, well, C, possibly D list photography town like Portland, Maine. No rental shops, and nothing closer than Boston, AFAIN.

There a ton of photographers in town, but most of the commercial guys tend to shoot MF digital, so there would not be the market for a Canon or Nikon rental house, most likely.

Sad sad sad.

Colin Lenton says:

Also – for the young student with bad credit and no money -

Get yourself an insurance policy that covers your gear you already own AND your rented equipment. Pro gear adds up fast so if you’re serious get covered for at least 50k – 100k worth of gear.

Its really difficult for most people, student’s especially, to have a line of credit open large enough to cover the retail price of a pro light kit, or medium format back for a weekend.

With the insurance, only your deductible will need to be held on your credit card.

Julia says:

Yes this is so true! I saved a whole lot by renting a sweet Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS lens from a local camera store while in Portland, Oregon for the weekend. It cost $30 from Friday evening through Monday morning. I took over 1,000 pictures with that lens over the weekend! Even more amazing is that the store has some deal where if the lens you want to rent hasn’t been reserved or rented out by late afternoon Friday, you can get it for half off, I think. That’s amazing.

Liz says:

Anon in LA – try Samy’s Camera or Calumet. :)

shizon says:

This is absolutely true! It’s what I’ve been doing since those pro gear are not in my budget but I’m a nerd who loves working with the best. Oh and say you needed the gear for more than three days, some rental places (esp. in CA) let you check out the gear for a week and they charge only for a three day check out. Cool, huh?!

Anonymous says:

Hmmm. How did I not know this? I don’t think this flies in LA. I’ll give it a whirl and report back.

StepToTheMic says:

Genius. I’m so on this.

Does anybody know if PC&E; in Atlanta rents on this schedule?

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