Hope for your financial life and beyond

How An Expensive Camera Purchase Ended Up Being Worth Every Penny

Like you I enjoy summer vacations and think travel should be a part of any budget. Actually vacations at any time are great. We just end up taking most of ours during the summer as a reward for my wife making it through the busy tax season. Come the first of June we are (she is) ready to head somewhere.

This summer we had our sights set on a brand new destination – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We’ve done Disney before and the beach and the cruise ship – all multiple times. So, with the kids getting older, we wanted to venture into new territory – places with new scenery and new adventures to create new memories.

We knew heading out West (from Georgia) would be expensive. Plane flights for six, rental car for 10 days, hotels, meals, activities…you can see this is adding up quickly. We also knew though the West would provide incredible scenic views – mountains, rivers, wildlife – all of which we would want to capture. However, all we had to use were the cameras on our iPhones and an older Canon PowerShot Elph 110HS.

There is nothing wrong with either of those for capturing basic pictures. But neither of them would do for bringing out the most vibrant color in images nor for when distance from an object or its movement is a factor in the quality of the photo.

So as part of our vacation budget, we saved to make a camera purchase. The one we chose was pricey but as you will see it was worth every penny.

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

After a lot of research for our camera purchase, the one we choose was the Cannon EOS Rebel SL1. It’s not top of the line by any means but was a considerable upgrade in camera technology for us. It came with an 18-55 mm zoom lens with image stabilizers. Fortunately at the time of our purchase Best Buy had a promotion where you could get an additional lens at a discounted price with the purchase of this camera. So we also bought a 55-250 mm zoom lens.

The final total once the camera, lenses and camera bag were tallied up was $827. We were completely fine with that because it was part of our vacation budget that we had been saving for since last fall.

Now I’m not a big camera guy. It’s not a hobby and I have no desire for it to become one. But I simply loved using this camera. We took over 1,200 pictures on our trip of which we ended up saving around 700. (Filtering out those 700 to show you some of the best was really tough.)

As you can see from these images, this camera purchase brought our vacation alive. I don’t believe these images could have turned out better with an iPhone or our older camera.

Wildlife Everywhere:

Per the park rules, you are supposed to stay 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards from everything else. So getting these was no easy task.

But on day one we got this great shot of a grizzly using the 250 mm zoom lens:

Grizzly 1

And the next day captured another one from across a river near Cody, Wyoming.

grizzly 3

Of course we saw bison and elk everywhere.



But also little creatures, like this squirrel and marmot (both of which were real fidgety and wouldn’t let us anywhere near them).

squirrel 2


But the real prize came when I captured these on our float trip down the Snake River by the Grand Tetons. Yes…that is two bald eagles in one shot.

bald eagle 1

The one slightly hidden in the tree above came into real good view:

bald eagle 2


We saw so many beautiful landscape features while on our trip. Here are just a few:

The 308 ft. Lower Falls, the largest in the park that leads into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.


the gcoy

With the incredible speed at which this camera takes pictures, I was able to zoom in on these mud bubbles (being created by the volcanic heat below the surface) and catch them in mid-burst:

bubble 2

bubble 1

Can you see the horse head in the rock face? (taken near Cody, Wyoming).

horsehead 1

At the summit after hiking Mt. Washburn:


The Grand Prismatic Spring near Old Faithful. We climbed up an off-the-beaten-path trail to get above the spring for this picture.

prismatic sping

In the Grand Tetons on the Snake River:

grand tetons on snake river

grand tetons 2

On our last night there we captured this gem at sunset:


A Camera Purchase Can Provide Never Ending Value

The point of this whole post is that sometimes we forget the ancillary items that can make a vacation great. We still would have experienced a great vacation but the purchase of this camera created so much excitement during the trip. I would have been frustrated in those special moments when images presented themselves had I not been able to capture them. In fact, at one point I wished I had purchased an even larger zoom lens.

For us the camera purchase was worth it. We are in the process of putting together a book of pictures using Shutterfly that we can print out and keep around the house. The images will provide us never ending value as we continue to see them and remember all the fun we had as a family.


 Questions: How do you feel about photography? Do you feel it helps add value to your vacations/events? Would you be willing to pay for a camera upgrade if you were taking the trip of a lifetime? Anyone ever used Shutterfly before to put together a photo book?

I hope you enjoyed that post. Want more?
Sign up to receive my blog posts via email and get your free gift...
99 Ways to Spend Less and Save More

Privacy Guarantee: I will not share your email with anyone.


  1. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    Rule of thirds works 99% of the time, Brian. I love every picture you have here. It’s like it was shot by a real photographer! Congrats!

  2. Gorgeous photos! I love photography and although I have no idea what I’m doing, I’d love to learn all about it someday. It’s my impression these days that even fairly “basic” cameras have some pretty advanced functions, so that would probably suit me fine. But it sounds like this was a great investment for you and your family.

    • For what we needed it did great. Should have seen some of the professional photographers in Yellowstone though. Some of those lenses attached to their cameras had to be worth thousands of dollars.

  3. My husband is an avid photographer and enjoys learning new photography techniques (he’s been big into HDR for several years). On our honeymoon in Hawaii, he wanted to stop every 2 minutes and take photos. I got pretty irritated because it felt like we were never experiencing the moment – just photographing it. In the end, I figured if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I started taking pictures of him taking pictures 😉

    I don’t know if it’s the blog or what, but I’ve developed an interest in learning how to take better photographs myself. I did get a nicer camera as a gift last year, but I’ve yet to make any use of it!

    • “…never experiencing the moment – just photographing it.” I think that’s a very important point and extends to even taking video of moments.

  4. I’m planning to buy a GoPro camera, it’s an expensive one and I think it’s very worth it. Oh, btw, you have an amazing pictures Brian. !

  5. Amazing pics! I completely agree that travel is worth spending on, and photos are the best (most frugal!) kind of souvenir. I bought a new camera just before a “trip of a lifetime” to China and South Korea and I was so happy with the purchase. Five years later, I still use and enjoy that camera. Well worth the money!

    I haven’t personally used Shutterfly but my dad uses it all the time and loves it. The books look great – very professional and he says the service is easy to use.

    • “…frugal souvenir…” You are right Ali…I hadn’t really thought of it like that. We won’t be buying another camera anytime soon so you can look at it and say the money we spent will be spread out over a number of years as we enjoy this camera.

  6. These are amazing pictures Brian!! My dad got into photography a few years ago and invested in a good camera and we are all thankful that he did because the photos from our family trips, especially last year’s when we went whale watching are truly priceless.

  7. What a coincidence! We also swung through Yellowstone (2 days) and Grand Teton (1 day) last month and took tons of photos with our nice camera! We bought it last fall after waiting/saving/shopping for about two years. I haven’t been through the photos from that part of the trip yet but I hope a few turn out as well as yours did! Those are some amazing wildlife shots! It’s about the photographer’s eye as well as the camera and I know you must have been very patient to get those shots. Our list of wildlife spotted wasn’t nearly as long as yours, it seems. Did you do any editing on these?

    • We went to Yellowstone really early in the season (first week of June) before many schools were out. The crowds were down as well as the temperatures which I think contributed to the wildlife being more visible. From everything we heard some of the wildlife tend to retreat deeper into the park once the crowds come in mid-summer. None of those pics were edited (other than being resized to upload them to this site).

  8. Beautiful pictures, Brian! For not being a camera enthusiast, you took some amazing pictures! I absolutely believe cameras and pictures are a must. My memory is good but I love looking back at pictures and really reliving a moment, not to mention capturing the girls at a specific age. Glad you had an amazing vacation!

    • I really couldn’t believe I was able to get the ones of the eagles. When I saw the close up of that one in the tree I got goosebumps.

  9. I just loved looking at your pictures! My sister-in-law recently moved to Colorado with lots of open land. She has a very expensive camera and is posting her pictures everyday. She is continually getting compliments on them. I think a nice camera is worth every penny if you anticipate using it in the future. For myself, I’m not so much a camera buff. so my 35 mm will have to do.

    • Thanks Yvette. I’m a complete amateur but I was really pleased with how they turned out. I know we will be using this camera a lot going forward.

  10. I couldn’t agree more! I value photography and a really nice camera. Right now, a new camera and a new couch are on my list — both things that will have to come with extra side hustle money because of my student loans, but both worth it in my opinion.

    • As I said, not being a camera enthusiast I was surprised how much this added to my enjoyment of the trip. Even allowed the kids to take some pictures. It was fun for them to get a better view of the animals especially than they would have had with the naked eye.

Speak Your Mind