If you're like me, you understand the difference between gear that's out of this world and gear that's a waste of money - even if it wasn't that expensive to begin with.
And while there are some things you can get on the cheap that will work great (Yongnuo speedlight, anyone?), there are some pieces of kit that you really get what you pay for.
The question is, when should you splurge on gear?
Here's a quick answer: don't spend your money on bigger, newer camera.
You've probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating...
You can do much more with an entry-level crop sensor camera and a great lens than you can with a top-of-the-line full frame DSLR and a budget lens.
Too many beginner photographers fall into the trap of thinking, "If I just had a better camera, I could take better pictures."
When it comes down to it, there's plenty of other photography accessories that will have a greater impact on the photos you take than the camera body you use.
Let's take a look at a few of my top choices.
A Great Camera Bag
As someone that has bought terrible camera bags in the past, believe me when I say, splurging on a great camera bag is a great choice.
The difference between a budget bag and a top-shelf bag is like night and day.
Not only is a great bag, like the Holdfast Roamographer shown above, something that will last you forever (and therefore save you money in the long run), but it's impeccably designed to help you keep your gear safe and organized.
Here's what I mean...
Where a budget bag might have just one large compartment for all your gear, the Roamographer has a removable camera insert that has padded cubbies to prevent your lenses and other valuable pieces of kit from banging around.
And since the insert is removable, the Roamographer can pull double duty as a weekend bag or a carry-on. Talk about versatility!
Budget bags often have impossibly uncomfortable straps that cut into your shoulder and make carrying your camera gear a painful process - especially as the day goes on.
Not so with a well-built bag.
The Roamographer has a shearling lined strap that hugs your shoulder in complete comfort. And if you don't want to use it as a shoulder bag, pair the Roamographer with the Holdfast MoneyMaker dual strap camera system, and you can carry the bag on your back while carrying up to three cameras up front, right at your fingertips.
Again, that versatility makes a top-end bag well worth the price.
And if that's not enough, you can also carry up to a 15-inch laptop inside the Roamographer and a tripod outside, safely secured by carrying straps.
This thing is straight up gorgeous, too.
In other words, if you're going to splurge on a photography accessory, a camera bag is a great item to do it.
Though there's more cost up front, as the years go on and you still have an excellent bag that keeps your gear safe, is incredibly versatile, and comfortable to carry, you'll thank your lucky stars you opted to invest in a quality bag!
A Fast Memory Card
I fully admit that splurging on a big, fast memory card isn't as exciting or sexy as getting an amazing camera bag...
But just as a good bag will help you improve your workflow, allow you to carry more gear, and be more comfortable for longer periods of time, a good memory card will allow you to keep shooting long after lesser cards have filled up.
What's more, the faster the read/write speed of the card, the faster you can take photos and download photos when the day is done.
That's less time spent sitting around waiting for your gear to do its job and more time you can spend actually taking or editing photos.
The SanDisk SDSQXBG Extreme Plus 128GB UHS-I card shown above is shockproof, X-ray proof, and temperature and waterproof.
What's more, it has up to 100mb/s read speed and 90mb/s write speed, so there's no lack of quickness, either.
It can be used in anything from your phone to your full frame camera, too, as it comes with an adapter to fit a variety of camera systems.
A Good Prime Lens
Let me start with this caveat about lenses: You don't have to splurge to get a good prime.
In fact, one of the cheapest lenses out there - a 50mm f/1.8 - can be found for around $150 (and sometimes much less).
This Nifty Fifty is a great investment without breaking the bank, so if you need to upgrade from your kit lens, a 50mm f/1.8 is a great choice.
However, there are even better lenses to buy that don't have as friendly of a price tag. But even though they're more expensive, the extra money will pay dividends in the quality of your photos.
For one, you get what you pay for when it comes to lenses.
A good prime lens will be much sharper, have a far bigger aperture, and give you faster performance than the budget kit lens that came with your camera.
Secondly, better lenses have less vignetting, less chromatic aberration, and less distortion. Again, that means your photos will be higher quality.
If I had it to do all over again, the first prime lens I'd splurge on is a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens shown above.
Sigma has absolutely stepped up their game with their lenses in recent years, and their Art line of lenses has quickly become one of the best collection of lenses available today.
Sure, they aren't cheap, but boy is the extra money worth it!
Even better, Sigma makes a 35mm lens for Canon and Nikon systems to please the majority of shooters out there.
With low dispersion glass, internal focusing, a hypersonic motor, and a huge f/1.4 maximum aperture, this lens has the features you need to expand your photography game into new realms and crush it.
Putting It Together
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the gear you can splurge on.
However, in my experience, these three items have been some of the best investments I've made.
I'm able to shoot more, shoot often, and get better results having this gear than I could without.
Perhaps making smart investments like these will get you similar results!