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Can't Buy It All? Rent!

Occasionally I rent a special lens for a particular job. For example, when shooting in a large church with restrictions that require me to stay in the back, I may use a 300 mm lens to get closer to the ceremony action. Because that's a very expensive lens and I use it rarely, I simply rent it when needed.

Renting equipment is a great option if you can't yet spring for that amazing 70–200 mm zoom, or if you need something out of the ordinary for a particular wedding shoot. It's also a wonderful way to test-drive equipment before buying. Most rental houses count a weekend as a one-day rental, so you can pick up your toys on Friday and play with them all weekend long.

I'm lucky enough to live near San Francisco, home of an amazing local rental shop, Pro Camera. The folks there know pretty much everything about every piece of equipment they rent, and they hear feedback from photographers of all specialties about how equipment performs in many different situations. They can suggest appropriate choices depending on my needs—for instance, helping me decide which strobe lighting kit would work best for that 50-person group shot—and they know which lenses are fast and sharp, and which are subpar. Experts like these are a tremendously valuable resource, and I can't recommend highly enough that you take advantage of your local rental shop, if you have one.

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