It’s almost turkey day here in the US, and that can mean only one thing for photographers: Black Friday sales. Depending on your level of experience, you may be eyeing those ads for yourself, or you may have friends and loved ones looking to you for guidance about some of these deals.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all advice I can share with you, I’ve got some thoughts that might save you or someone you know from a purchase you’ll regret.  First, let’s start by bursting the holiday shopping bubble a bit.

  • Sales are usually for entry-level products.  If you see a “doorbuster” sale, or the like — especially in a color, glossy catalog — it’s almost always for entry-level stuff.  If you know that’s what you want, that’s fine, but give some thought to whether this is is a kit you’re going to outgrow in a few months.
  • Bundles are usually full of fillers.  There’s nothing wrong with getting lens cleaning cloths or whatever thrown in with a bundle, but make sure you’re not valuing a bundle by the visual effect of seeing a giant pile of crap together in a photo.  In a lot of cases, these bundles come with no-name filters, super-cheap tripods, etc., and you’ll wind up replacing these bits very quickly because the quality just isn’t up to par.  Again, if you’re really getting stuff you want in the bundle, that’s great, but don’t get glossy-eyed just because you’re getting a giant box filled with (mostly) junk.
  • Watch out for fly-by-night vendors.  If you see a deal that looks too good to be true, there’s a decent chance it is — especially for new equipment from Canon, Nikon, etc., who have tight agreements with authorized dealers about pricing.  Try googling the dealer with the offer and if you see results like these, run away.

Having dispensed with all the bad news, there may be a silver lining for you on Black Friday, after all.  There really can be good deals to be found at reputable vendors.  Know what you’re looking for, and what a competitive price is, and if you see a deal, you’ll know it.