8 Essential Thrift Shop Tips for Photographers

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Thrift shopping has become an increasingly popular hobby for many, especially in the last few years. There’s a certain “thrill of the hunt” and adrenaline rush when you find what you’re looking for — or even better — an unexpected discovery.

Thrifting is one of my favorite weekend past-times when I’m not photographing. It’s a great way to find vintage camera gear, especially instant Polaroid cameras!

My Top Thrifting Tips for Photographers:

1. Get Out Early

My first tip is to get thrifting as early in the day as possible. Find out when your local thrift shops open and arrive as soon as possible. While most stores gradually sort and stock items throughout the day, never forget the popular saying: “The early bird gets the worm.”

2. More Stores = More Cameras

Keep Looking. Sometimes you won’t find what you’re looking for at your first stop… I rarely do. But it’s simple math, the more stores you visit, the better chance you have of finding something awesome. Don’t give up! If you’re having a tough day, take a break or grab a coffee, then get back to the hunt!

3. Look Everywhere

Dig through boxes, unlatch suitcases and open drawers. I’ve found camera gear hiding in some very unusual places sometimes. Be sure not to break anything while searching, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find something unique!

4. Get Crafty

This is one of my most valuable tips. While you’re out thrifting, don’t forget about unique props or outfits that could come in handy later. Whether it’s an cowboy hat or victorian-looking dress, or maybe an railroad lantern, keep a look out for things you’d enjoy photographing.

Maybe I need to do a thrift store outfit challenge? Let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d like to see!

5. Have a Plan

Be prepared. I like knowing exactly what stores I plan to visit on days I spend thrifting. It helps me better utilize my time and 

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to plan for lunch or a snack in between shops. You don’t want to get hangry while hunting. I also like to start my day off with a fresh cup of coffee.

6. Be Open-Minded

It’s great to have hopes and goals of what you want to find, but be open-minded. Like I said in Tip 4, keep a look out for other items you could use in the future. For example, I recently found the perfect wooden bar stool for my videos while thrifting for cameras … for only $2! Try not to get too tunnel-visioned on a specific item, or you might miss out on an unexpected treasure!

7. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Enjoy the thrill of the hunt! A day of thrift shopping is an adventure. While it’s disappointing to come home empty-handed, when you do make a discovery, it’s all the more satisfying.

8. Try Antique Stores

Most cities that have thrift shops usually have antique stores as well. Antique stores almost always have a few hidden vintage cameras. Just be warned, antique stores can be pricey. The same camera you may find for $5 at a thrift shop, could be $100 at an antique store. Just keep that in mind when you’re on the hunt.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learned a couple of useful tips you can use next time you’re out thrift shopping for cameras. You might also enjoy my 35mm Thrift Store Mystery Camera video below. Good luck thrifting!

Also, let me know in the comments what your best thrift haul has been!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. JT

    What is the best discovery you’ve made at a thrift store?

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