If you're serious about your game, your photography game, and you're looking to spend a few bucks to help accomplish that, ignore the marketing hype about every new camera body that comes along on a frequent and regular basis and buy glass-- The best glass you can afford!
Nothing will improve your game, i.e., beyond learning more and practicing as much as you can, like good glass.
You think more megapixels is going to take you to the next level? Wrong. A better processor? Most likely not. Digital SLRs with all the state-of-the-art bells and whistles? Photographers, please.
Knowledge, practice, and glass is your ticket to photo Nirvana.
Beyond that, and assuming you're not strictly a natural light shooter, I'd suggest purchasing good lighting gear. Not just lights and modifiers, but also some quality grip equipment to help you deploy your lighting and wield your camera and glass like a Samurai warrior unleashing his deadly katana.
I know, I know, you're on a budget. Aren't we all? But, for some reason, every time Canon or Nikon releases a new camera body plenty of photographers seem to find the money to buy them. How do I know this? Cuz I'm clairvoyant! Actually, because I spend enough time on photography forums to notice the flurry of threads that announce the OPs' new camera acquisitions every time a new camera body is released by the Big Two. (OP being the Original Poster.)
And how about all those hyped-up rumor-mill posts that pop up all over the net, the ones about new camera bodies on the horizon? It's amazing how those rumors make so many shooters wet... from the saliva drooling out of their mouths.
Then, of course, the rumored camera is released, lots of people buy them, and those people then post new pictures snapped by their new cameras. Frankly, I rarely see much improvement over the old pictures they snapped with their old cameras.
I'm not down-playing good camera bodies. Certainly upgrading from a cropped sensor to a full sensor will usually show improvements in the shooter's photos. But still, those improvements are often marginal without the addition of good glass and effective lighting. Re effective lighting: I'm not referring to those, as I mentioned, who are mostly available and/or natural light shooters. But good glass, of course, will also and always "up" a natural light photographer's game.
Currently, I own three lenses: A Canon 17-40mm f/4L, a Tamron AF 28-75 f/2.8, and a Canon 70-200 f/4L. Optically, they're all great lenses and they adequately and effectively cover all the focal lengths I need for my line of work, i.e., from 17mm on up to 200mm on a full-frame-sensor camera body. (The Canon 5D.) For those times when there's other glass I need and don't have, I can always beg, borrow,
Besides a couple of Canon Speedlites, I also own 4 monolights: Three Novatron M300s and one Novatron M500. The Novatrons are hardy, robust, and effective. They are medium-priced lighting instruments: In and around the $400+ price range. They are incrementally adjustable, keep color temperature nicely, recycle quickly, offer plenty of practical accessories, and output enough power for the work I most often perform.
I have a decent-enough collection of light modifiers and controllers: A 35.5" Mola Euro beauty dish, a 5' Photoflex Octodome, plus various other soft boxes, reflectors, scrims, flags, and umbrellas. I also have enough grip to utilize most any and all of the lighting gear I own in a multitude of ways. Add to that some Pocket Wizards, a light meter, and other things I carry with me and I'm well prepared for most anything I do photographically. As a former Boy Scout, the concept of being prepared was effectively
Thanks to the good folks at Innovatronix, I also have some terrific portable power gear which means I'm very mobile with my lighting and grip, freed from the bonds of available A/C power!
If you're a hobbyist, do you need that much gear? Maybe not. But if you carefully consider what you most often shoot and where you shoot it, you should be able to come up with a list of things that will make your photos shine. And one of the LAST things on that list should, if you've done your homework and/or are listening to my advice, be the latest and greatest camera body from our
The pretty girl at the top is Kita from a shoot this past week. Kita was shot and lit almost identically to Charmane, who was featured in my last update. Like I mentioned in my last, I shot 4 pretty girls that day. MUA was Nikki. There are days when I feel like the Henry Ford of pretty girl shooters.
Here's another snap from behind-the-scenes showing the lighting, albeit this time I oriented the camera for a landscape aspect ratio shot. Man! My client's white cyc sure could use some paint!