Y'all, I'm just here to look out.
Black Friday deals get overwhelming every year, so let's talk about some key things to keep an eye out for.
Some of these things are "insider tips" and some of them are just reminders of what equipment you probably have been forgetting or avoiding buying, and now's the time.
If you're looking to buy for yourself, a photographer in your life, or to create a wishlist for your family, this list has just some ideas to think about.
Quick note: I am not getting paid for any of these recommendations I'm about to give. Which is really actually kind of a bummer for me. So if you could be so kind, please subscribe to my newsletter at the very bottom or just leave a comment at the bottom as a little thanks for putting this together. Pretty please and thank you!
1. Replace Your Batteries and Memory Cards
We do this for my agency twice every year, during Amazon's Christmas in July deals, and during Black Friday.
Now little caveat to set the tone with: these are tips based on my own experience as the owner of a content marketing agency and a commercial photo studio. Our agency shoots 2-8 hours 4-5 days a week, creating hundreds of thousands of photos and videos a year. Plus, we work in food and beverage, so things can get a little messy, to top things off. So our equipment may take a bit more of a beating than others.
Batteries and memory cards get wear and tear and become unreliable for everyone. You may not need to replace them twice a year like us, but once a year is not a bad rule of thumb.
Batteries start to keep less and less charge. We have some old batteries that don't make it through a half day shoot anymore. Why do we still have them? Because I keep forgetting to toss them, and it's a real problem.
I honestly think replacing cards and batteries every 6 months is a good rule of thumb, though. Who wants to be in the middle of a shoot with a client and have a write error? Or worse, who wants to be in the middle of the shoot and have a battery die? Or even worse, who wants to finish a shoot, and find out that half the shots didn't take?
We do video, as well as photography, and we find that we get "slow write speed errors" more when a card's nearing its end. We also judge its lifespan based on how beat up the label is. (See photo of cards above)
Also, pro tip: I name my new memory cards with the month and year I bought them, so "November 2023" so it's easier to keep track of new and old cards. I tried writing on the labels in the past, but it rubs off.
2. While You're At It, Grab A New Card Reader
Maybe we just buy crappy ones, but ours go out every 6-8 months. How you know yours might be on its way out is if you get errors when trying to import from your card into Adobe Lightroom, or even if you can't download to your hard drive directly. Or worse, it won't even read your card.
We usually find that when we switch to a new card reader, that stops. It can be super frustrating when it happens. So stock up now.
If you have a card reader you swear by, please please let me know. Hit me up on social media or drop a link in the comments for everyone to check out, because I have yet to find a reliable one that I loved.
3. If You've Been Wanting to Get Into Flash Photography, Here's the Black Friday Insider Tip
I hear so many photographers talking about how flash photography is something they're interested in, but they just don't know where to start and haven't pulled the trigger on the gear. Well now is the time.
Adorama is the place to check out their deals for flash, specifically. I can't tell you what they'll be these years, but you'll want to check out Flashpoint.
Here's the insider tip. Godox is the brand to get into for flash photography. And Flashpoint is Godox.
What does that mean?
Just what I said. Adorama sells Godox equipment under the brand name Flashpoint, typically for $100-200 cheaper. Now people out there will tell you that the customer service for one is better than the other, but hopefully you don't need to talk to customer service, and in my experience, it's never exactly fun, whether it's good customer service or not.
Flashpoint, in my opinion, is the gateway drug into flash photography, particularly off-camera flash. Specifically, their Godox/Flashpoint AD200 has turned many a "natural light" photographer into a studio pro over the years.
We actually rock Flashpoint around our studio because it's super affordable, and we don't take our equipment on location often. If you are a photographer often on location for large shoots, maybe look at eventually upgrading to ProPhoto, Elinchrom, or the like. But for what we do, it does the job.
I'll note that we have to replace our strobes maybe once every year and a half, when other equipment would definitely last longer. But again, for what we do, it works.
Okay here's a checklist for what you need to start flash photography:
1. Your camera brand, because that's important
2. A Light Stand
3. Pick your Mono Light based on your budget and needs, we recommend starting with the Godox AD200/Flashpoint eVOLV 200 because it's the cheapest yet most versatile for the price
4. Find your Trigger based on your camera brand
Don't make the mistake of buying a light without a trigger. Your camera needs a way to talk with the light, and that doesn't come with the light because it needs to be based on your camera body type.
Pro Tip: If you buy a Flashpoint Light and find a better deal on a Godox Trigger elsewhere, they talk to each other! Don't worry about the different brands. We have Godox triggers and Flashpoint lights at my studio, and they play nicely.
Obviously, once you find all these things, this is about Black Friday after all. Cross check for deals across all the internet, if you so choose. We just find some of the best deals for this time of the year come through Adorama for affordable strobe photography equipment.
Other Pro Tip that no one asked for:
In our studio, we don't need to change the light channel often, so I set each particular Flashpoint to its particular Channel (A, B, C, etc) then slap a label on all sides. The window that shows the channel is only on one side of the light equipment for all of it (on the end for AD200), and sometimes you forget which light you're trying to control, so if there's a label with the channel on all sides of the light, I don't have to run over to check.
4. Now's The Time To Buy Used Gear
I personally have no problem with used gear at all for the majority of our equipment. So now through the middle of January, I watch Facebook Marketplace like a hawk. Now's the time to swoop those camera bodies or lenses you've been looking out for. Someone knows they're about to get an upgrade and are listing their old stuff. Or people are listing gear they haven't been using to get cash to buy gifts. Either way, the used marketplace gets lit this time of year.
5. Video Gear for Vlogging to Make Reels and TikToks
Look, I know a lot of us creatives hate the idea of having to make videos. Honestly, I run an agency where videos are one of our main offerings, and I still hate having to do it for our own businesses.
But now is the time to finally pull the trigger. It's not going away in 2024, I promise, so it's time to figure out how to do it. And my advice is make the setup so easy that you can just go to your little filming area, flip everything on, and do the damn thing. If it's not super easy, you'll continue to make excuses about doing it.
So here are some quick ideas to make it a little easier on you while taking advantage of Black Friday sales.
1. Step up your video audio.
Go see what Black Friday deal those Magic Pop Mics are having, or grab a knockoff on sale off Amazon. Boom. Better audio, done. Don't even sweat it.
The setup for those things is insanely easy. I bought a knockoff because I am not really looking to suuuper upgrade my videos yet, and it does the job for my run-and-gun style right now.
2. Find an easy-to-manage vlogging camera
Find yourself a cheap camera for BTS video or for talking head stuff to post on social media. Maybe it's on FB marketplace, maybe it's an Amazon BF deal. But now's the time to do it.
The quality doesn't have to be anything crazy. You just need up to 29 FPS for talking head videos, 60 FPS if you want to do slowmo shots of BTS but like... why? Just speed it up for timelapses. Do you really need 60FPS for BTS?
So find a camera with decent FHD capabilities for at least 30 FPS frame rate. Don't worry about MPs, etc. Make sure the lens is going to do the job for the space you're working in, and make sure it can go down below F2.8. That's a personal preference, but I like that strong bokeh for talking head videos, personally.
The goal here is to have a dedicated, easy to use camera that you can just flip on whenever you have time. Frictionless is the goal. Easy, low friction.
I'm personally keeping an eye out for deals on Fujifilm XT-5. Why? I don't know. It meets my criteria for vlogging (6.2K/30p in 4:2:2 10-bit color) and it's a fun little street photography camera after hours, ya know? If I find any good deals for this particular camera, I'll be sure to share.
3. Don't Forget a Tripod
Honestly, for this, just hit up FB marketplace. Everyone will be offloading gear, and this tripod just needs to be able to stand up, the end.
4. Grab a cheap video light
I don't know how high of production you want to go, but just grab something that you are going to easily be able to setup regularly. The key to making this content is to make it as efficient and easy as possible, because then maybe you'll actually do it, right?
No one will judge you if you go with a ring light off FB marketplace. It'll do the job.
Then you can easily have this behind the scenes setup or talking head setup ready to go at all times, to get very easy content without it being a big hassle.
Pro Tip: Film your reels vertically using a Camera L Backet Tripod Quick Release Plate.
Everything is vertical these days, and this is our easy way to turn our tripod into a reel-making tool.
6. Don't Forget to Support Your Local Camera Shops
I shouldn't claim to be trying to help out the photography industry if I didn't rep local shops. Sign up for your local shop's newsletter and see what they're up to. There's a chance they do a whole store sale, including their used gear, which is then deals on deals. I'm telling you, used gear this time of year through January is liiit.
If you're shopping for yourself, or have a budding photographer or pro photographer in your life, do yourself, them, the photography industry a favor and shop local to support your local photography scene.
Alright Y'all, Good Luck Out There
If anything, this was just a friendly reminder to buy those essentials you need for your photography business to keep growing. No specific sales to check out (besides that Adorama Flashpoint pointer), but things you can specifically keep an eye out for.
But I'm serious about the vlogging. Stop dragging your feet. I do it, too. I'm literally taking my own advice and shopping for a dedicated vlogging camera right now. It's an unfortunate necessity these days. *sighhh
If there are any specifically good deals you know of out there, drop them in the comments and help us out. Everyone will appreciate it!
And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter below for more shtuff like this in the future. Let's grow the industry together!