The Value of Pictures and Memories

By Carlos Portocarrero

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I love to travel and I love to take pictures. To me, the two are closely related. When I travel, taking a lot of pictures is how I capture those moments and take them home with me (I also just plain enjoy the act of taking them, which helps). It’s also how I share my trip with other people and whenever I want to relive some of those great times, I can just whip open my photo album and reminisce.

Taking pictures is also a creative activity — something that I like to do and gives me another way to express myself. But did you know it’s also a great frugal alternative to some other, more expensive hobbies?

Pictures are all I need

When I go on vacation, I rarely buy anything more than a t-shirt with the name of the place on it (I haven’t nailed down all my vanity quite yet). A lot of times when I get back home it hits me that I didn’t buy anything — then I download my pictures to my computer and that guilty feeling goes away. All I really need from a vacation to feel like it was worth it is my pictures. No need to spend money on anything else.

Aren’t cameras expensive though?

Right now is a great time to buy a new camera — the prices are just ridiculous. What used to cost hundreds of dollars is now affordable. I recommend that you put a little money into this and buy a good camera that will last. I have a Cannon G2, a relic of a camera by today’s standards. But when I bought it (around seven years ago), I paid $600 and it was a sweet little piece of technology. I saved all the money I had made that summer and spent it on this camera. You have no idea how hard that was for me to do — I even kept it in its original box for the first few months, wrapping it in it’s packaging after every use. That was my baby!

Seven years later, it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It has cool features I actually use, takes very nice pictures and is very durable. My only problem is that it’s a little big, but back then they didn’t come all super sleek and thin the way they do now (unless you wanted to sacrifice megapixels, which I didn’t).

As for megapixels (which basically tells you the quality of the picture it takes), the camera stands at 4MPs. Today’s models are up around 12 and are much smaller than my camera. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. My camera still takes great pictures, I’m familiar with most of the features (which means I know how to use them by now), and the size hasn’t really stopped me from taking pictures when I go somewhere (or am at home on a weekend). I gave M a smaller digital camera for her birthday that is much more convenient to record things like family events and such. I mostly use my camera for vacations or taking more creative (read: no people) shots.

But $600 is a lot of money!

It is, but not when you buy a camera that lasts this long. Plus there are all kinds of ways you can have your pictures make some of that money back:

  • Sell your pictures online: There are several stock photography sites out there that let you upload your pictures (provided they are “good” enough). That’s passive income right there!
  • Use your pictures to decorate your home/apartment: This one I love. When people ask “oh where is this/who took this?” and you tell them you did, it makes you feel like a regular Annie Liebovitz (or a sketchy paparazzi). Put your work in a nice frame and that’s it, you’re good to go.
  • Make it a hobby: Take your camera with you and take a walk around your neighborhood for three hours. Take as many pictures as you can and when you get back, sift through your shots and see if you got anything good. Download free editing software like Gimp and you’re all set. Right there you have a full day of spending no money while having fun and doing something creative.

Sure, you could go nuts and get all kinds of accessories and other things that could make this a more expensive hobby. And that’s OK if you really get into it and use everything. But you don’t have to. You can even go online to read up on photography basics and that won’t cost you a dime. My advice? Practice — it’s the best way to learn and get better.

Next time you go on a trip, think about what you really want to take away from the place. You could shop all day long and still not capture the essence of the place the way you can with a simple picture. And even when you’re not on vacation, taking pictures can make the everyday seem unique and interesting. And don’t let anyone out there tell you only pros take good pictures — they are wrong!

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