If you want to get into photography, most people know that you will need a few pieces of equipment. A camera, obviously, a few lenses, maybe a tripod, a bag, some editing software for your computer. That's pretty much all you need, right? That is if, like me, your main thing is outdoor activities like landscape or street photography (I'm not talking about studio photographers who should be prepared to sell their first-born to get the money needed for the proper lights, screens, and whatnot).
Wrong. As any photographer who has spent more than 10 minutes on Facebook knows, you are far from done. At least according to the hundreds of companies and individuals who make a living off photographers and who must spend millions targeting their ads at gullible people like me.
I'm not ashamed to admit that over the years I have spent a good deal of money on things that I later regretted, and that a lot of it was due to my inexperience and naivity, not to mention my general tendency to not do proper research when I buy stuff. So don't misunderstand. I blame no one but myself. I'm sure the makers of the products below had nothing but good intentions to help out their fellow photographers.
So here goes: my top 5 money wasting photography purchases...
At one point I fell in love with the idea of carrying my lenses in a belt around my waist like some camera gun slinger, so I ordered a belt along with a selection of lens cases that could be strapped to the belt. After several weeks the items arrived from who knows where, but most likely China. Judging from the belt, it was certainly from a place where a typical male waistline is about two thirds of what can be found on your average middle-aged Western European amateur photographer. Only by sucking my gut in to near implosion was I able to latch it. Needless to say, the subsequent photo excursion to the local forest was an unpleasant experience. Afterwards the belt was never used again, and I decided getting camera lenses out of a regular camera bag isn't such a hassle after all.
Lenses for cell phone
I should have known better. You can't attach a $10 lens to a cell phone camera and expect anything resembling a useful image. I bought a whole kit of various lenses. A fish-eye lens, a zoom-lens, and an even longer zoom-lens. The quality of the images they produced was in all three cases abysmal. I never put them on again after that first attempt. Now, if you read the description of these types of lenses on places like Amazon, they all but promise you that your cell phone will now be all the camera you'll need, and they show sample images that I guarantee were not taken with those lenses. Now, I can't rule out that if you pay a little more for cell phone attacheable lenses, and if your expectations aren't too high, you might get a decent result. But it will still be so far from what you can do with even the cheapest kit lens to a real camera, it's not even funny.
Over time I have learned that Lightroom presets are a big industry, and for a while I was an easy target. After all, presets were part of what opened my eyes to the power of RAW files and Lightroom. So this is not a knock at presets per se, but it seems to be a way to make an easy income for many photography gurus out there. And that would be okay if presets were really a miracle cure to turn your average images into masterpieces that they are made out to be, but they are not. Notice that every time you see advertising for Lightroom presets, the example images they use are absolutely stunning landscape photos with perfect light and composition. Unless you are a world class photographer who go to the most spectacular locations on Earth, that is not how your pictures will look by applying a preset. And if you are, you probably don't need presets to make your pictures look good. And don't fall for their trick when they will sell you 2,000 presets at a 95% discount. No one needs 2,000 presets. No one can even keep track of 2,000 presets. And I guarantee that whatever the price was supposed to be without the 95% discount, it was never listed at that price, let alone worth it.
This was some sort of Kickstarter project that I supported. It was a storage device that - through AI image recognition - could automatically tag your images as they were uploaded. That sounded like sweet music to me. A device that would make the tedious task of image tagging your images a thing of the past. Boy, was I disappointed. It turned out the only way you could add images to Monument was through a cell phone app, which in reality meant that it only worked with pictures you had taken with your cell phone. Since 90% of the pictures I keep are taken with my real camera, this made it pretty useless from the get go. On top of that, it turned out the "tagging" was extremely superficial... and most of the time downright incorrect. A few weeks after setting it up, my phone app stopped uploading to it for inexcplicaple reasons. I half-heartedly tried to fix it, to no avail. Then I took it down and put it in my box of unused electronics never to be looked at again.
Over the years I have subscribed to a number of online photo services that promised exposure, sales, not to mention fame and fortune if you would just upgrade to their paid version. Picfair is one such online service, but they are merely an example. I could have mentioned others. But unlike many other more versatile services, the whole idea with Picfair is to be a sales platform for photographers. Now, you'll probably say that my pictures just aren't good enough for anyone to buy them, and that's not an unreasonable claim. They may not be. But when, despite using pictures that according to Picfair's guidelines are in demand, and tagging them using my librarian expertise and their own tagging guidelines, they still get zero views over the course of several months, something isn't adding up. I do realize that just putting them on a photo service like Picfair isn't enough. You have to do your own leg work, too. But again... zero views. Not zero sales (well, that too). Zero views.
These examples of my bad investments in photography products and services should not necessarily be seen as a warning against those particular products. I'm just one person. Others may have had their life revolutionzed by the Monument storing system, or if you are not overweight like me, maybe a lens case belt has been the exact right thing for you. But it never hurts to be aware of the tactics used in marketing, and to be a little better at doing your research before you submit your credit card information.
Oh, and if you are interested in any of the above-mentioned products, let me know. I'll give you a 95% discount.