Garage Sale Gold

Garage Sale Gold

It’s that time of year again! I can already smell the must. Yard sales are popping up around the neighborhood. I’m not much of a picker; I have plenty of my own old stuff already. But I can’t pass up a great old camera or photo trinket. I’ve probably made more bad buys than good but since even the non-working ones look good on my shelf, it’s a win-win. Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way that might help you avoid rummage sale remorse.

  1. Know what you’re looking for. Sure, we’d all love to find a priceless Leica and, let’s be honest, sell it for a handsome profit. But looking for a usable charmer or inspiring décor piece is just as much fun. Make sure your budget reflects your purpose. I’ve never been disappointed with a $10 camera, even if it’s a paperweight. But I’ve immediately regretting spending $50 on something that was probably worth it, only to realize that I’m never actually going to carry it around and shoot with it.
  2. Know what works. Stick to cameras that you’re at least somewhat familiar with so that you can test them. Even with no batteries, the film advance should be smooth and the shutter should fire in bulb mode. Better yet, keep some common batteries in your pocket. LR44, PX625 and CR2’s cover a pretty wide swath of old 35mm cameras. If you plan to shoot it, check the foam around the film door. It can deteriorate regardless of camera wear and if it lets light leak in, your shots are shot.
  3. Know the market. Search to gauge a top-end selling price. That’s not what you should pay at a yard sale but, if you can confirm it works, it’ll give you an idea what a reputable dealer would charge for it after it’s all cleaned up. They try to buy them for half that value. eBay is a better indicator of private seller values but it can be tough to find accurate examples depending on how rare your find is. Filter for completed and sold items to get some history.
  4. Know your weakness. If you’re a sucker for vintage cameras, then you’re a sucker. I have a soft spot for Yashica Electro 35s even though they’re not great cameras, not yet really vintage, and not particularly unique. But they look like they know what they’re doing and apparently, I like that. You know how they say people look like their dogs? I look like this camera.

And finally, know that you may not find much. In the context of most household sales, camera equipment usually claims coveted prices and even though sellers want to get rid of them, they tend to over-value. Negotiating is key and usually part of the fun. But walking away, especially from a stubborn seller, can be just as satisfying.

How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old

How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old.

How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old. Like most grade school aged children, mine own tablets and can swipe my phone faster than a New York City pickpocket. But they rarely use the devices’ cameras. The most recent photo in either child’s camera roll? A series of 38 selfies with a blurry dog-looking thing from over four months ago. Other parents I’ve surveyed tell me this evidence is typical. We assume they haven’t yet developed an interest in photography. When they do, the device with a camera is ready and waiting.

But if you’ve ever handed an actual camera to a kindergartner, for example, you know there’s more to it. And the older the camera, the better. One with a viewfinder and no screen really gets the gears turning. After they realize what it is (and that there are no games on it), the purpose sinks in. They discover a different tool that invokes a whole different curiosity.

Here’s how I spawned the shutterbug inside a six-year-old boy. I’d keep an old digital camera handy and anytime we left the house, I’d set it in the back seat. He couldn’t not pick it up and within a couple weeks he was taking it out of the house of his own accord. Sure, that was usually when his other device was off limits, but I say any interest counts. Sometimes, he’d take 38 pics of the seatback out of boredom. But often he’d take real pictures. And he got better fast. I’d watch as he would stop, compose, capture, and retake until he found an angle he liked. The results were far more thoughtful than anything he’d shot with an iPad. I didn’t try to explain the menu or functions unless he asked so he discovered most on his own and now frequently uses exposure compensation to improve a shot.

Since then, I’ve let him wrangle my DSLR, complete with a gigantic vertical grip attached. It’s obviously cumbersome but he knows what he’s doing and, more importantly, why he’s doing it. The pictures he takes are important to him and although most are viewed on his device and shared between family, a select few have found fame on his older brother’s blog. I think we’ll venture into printing soon.

I’m not surprised that he’s become a pretty good photographer. I’m surprised that maybe he already was. Sometimes all it takes is the right tool.


How to discover the shutterbug inside a six-year-old.

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