Should you buy used gear?
Before I decided to start a photography business, I was a hobbyist. I bought my camera with a lens kit and that got me rolling. After a while, I started acquiring additional tools like my speed light, filters, lens, PC and editing software. I usually take this equipment along during holidays to take family pictures or whenever I am volunteering to cover an event in town, but most of the time it’s when we go travelling or camping that I bring my camera with me. Eventually, Simon’s sister recommended I consider starting my own photography business to at least help cover the expenses of buying this equipment. And to top it off, the branch manager from the financial institution where I currently work also suggested that I should throw my name in the hat to cover the graduation at the local high school for 2019, which I did. All of this convinced me to start my own business and to get more gear for my home studio.
I am sharing my experience in the hopes of offering anyone who is interested some helpful insight. Since I already had the basic tools for photography, such as a camera, PC and software, I also needed to get additional equipment to get set up for a small studio, so my hunt for affordable stuff began! Photography gear is expensive, especially brand new, and so I thought the best way to build up my selection since I was just starting was to buy used. I am frequently checking Facebook Marketplace as well as Buy & Sell group and Kijiji. At first, everything was going smoothly. I was able to purchase items that were in very good, lightly-used condition for half of the retail price. This led to me becoming confident and trusting that all sellers were basically the same. That is, until I met this girl from a Buy & Sell group who was selling all of her studio lighting and backdrops for a quarter of what you would normally pay because she decided to close her studio and no longer needed the equipment. I thought to myself, that is perfect!
I coordinated with her through Facebook messenger, and every time I attempted to set up an appointment to check out the items she was always busy. That should’ve been a red flag. She had so many excuses that at first I thought were valid, until one day she suddenly said we could meet at a specific address. But when I arrived, she was no where to be found. She messaged to say that she was doing renovations in her other house, so I went there. That was during the winter time, so I only made sure the lights were working and did not bother to carefully check the entire setup. I was in a hurry to get home because a storm was brewing and I didn't want to end up stuck on the road that night. Giving this stranger my complete faith, I went home expecting that I would get exactly the items that she had posted online, but to my disappointment, they were a much cheaper brand than advertised.
So I tried contacting her to ask for a full refund in exchange for all of her stuff back, but of course she refused. I messaged all of the administrators from the Buy and Sell pages where she had these items posted and told them about my experience. They all blamed me for not checking the items and told me these transactions are "buyer beware." After ridiculing me and taking her side, these admins blocked me from the group. It was a hard lesson to learn. Shaken by the whole ordeal, I told myself after this experience that I would never buy another used item ever again. I felt that nowadays, if somebody fools you, you as a victim will be at fault for trusting that person, and we are giving fraudsters a free pass to exploit the unwritten rule of buyer beware.
I am thankful to have a very supportive partner who did not think I was stupid for my mistake, as well as good friends and work colleagues who listened to my story and did not judge me for my mistake. Everybody just encouraged me to be careful next time and to take extra caution whenever I’m buying something used. Sad to say, but the reality of the world is you cannot fully trust just anyone.
After that terribly unpleasant experience, I was still able to acquire additional used gear through Kijiji and Facebook. The only difference now is that I am taking extra time to examine the items that I am buying. I would say if you are just starting up, whether as a hobbyist or a business, there’s nothing wrong with getting used gear, you just need to be very cautious. Take time to really check the item. Check all of the buttons as well as functions, and be sure the item that you are getting is the same as advertised. If you eventually decide to upgrade, you can always re-sell these items. Of course if you have the means to buy brand new gear, good on you! But if not. you could alternatively look into lease options from camera shops or get a business loan from your bank. You have a few options to get access to good camera gear, you just need to be smart in choosing the way to go.