If only someone had told you before you picked up your first camera, and ventured into the world of photography, that it wasn't actually the camera itself that would be draining your bank balance once you started to gain knowledge and experience. That title belongs to lenses.
If you're like me, you get asked on shoots "what camera are you using?" fairly frequently, often by people who don't actually know what the response means, much further than knowing the names Canon or Nikon. The response I give is always the same; "It's a Canon mirrorless camera, but it's the lens I'm using that's the most important thing here". Any portrait photographer is likely to want a fast 85mm lens, any property photographer will be after a distortion-free ultra wide angle lens, and any wildlife photographer likely owns a sharp telephoto lens, they're a necessary tool to raise a level of photography up to semi-pro and above.
Having just one of these lenses though is rarely enough. I myself need a 105mm macro lens for food and drink photography, an 85mm 1.4 lens for portrait photography, a 14mm lens for interiors or properties, a 35mm for street and lifestyle photography, a 70-200mm lens for versatile candid photography, and a 50mm lens, just because it's always incredibly useful. Even with all these, I still find myself having a need for other lenses from time to time, and despite work going well at the moment, I don't simply have thousands to fork out all the time.
THE ALTERNATIVE TO BUYING
There will come a point where you need to use a lens that just doesn't warrant the spend required to own it. Recently I went on a solo holiday to Croatia, and was only taking a small carry on bag. I needed one lens that would serve me well, to save space in my bag and make travelling around much easier, so I decided to hire a 24-105mm. It proved to be exactly what I needed, but isn't something I need frequently for the styles of photography I do. It was delivered straight to my door before my holiday, and I returned it the day after.
I picked up the lens from LensesForHire, a site I've used in the past and had very good service with. I've done my research into hiring lenses here in the UK, and this site seems to offer the best prices and ease of booking, as well as very attentive customer service.
There are other sites that offer lens hire, but some of them cost a little more, for exactly the same lenses, and some require a very large deposit, often to the value of the lens itself (which can be problematic if you're hiring a £3,000 piece of kit). The LensesForHire website looks a bit dated, but once you start using it, it works absolutely fine, especially on desktop.
In the past I've even asked them last minute if I can extend a hire, and they've made it possible for me to do so. I would always recommend planning further in advance, but sometimes plans change. They offer a vast range of lenses and camera bodies, plus some other photographic items, and also give their personal opinions of each product on the relevant pages too.
Just today I've put in an order for a Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens. In reality it's a lens I'll likely purchase soon, but until this point, my Canon 35mm 1.8 Macro has been serving me well. On occasion though, I need the shallow depth of field that a 1.4 can provide, and over the next week, I have some very important jobs that will benefit from this, as well as the sharpness of this lens.
Obviously hiring a lens isn't as much of a financially good move in the long run as buying one, but what it does allow is for either the opportunity to test something out that you might be interested in purchasing in the future (and might even discover isn't right for you), or to pick up a lens for a short period that you don't need to have in your kit bag all the time, without spending hundreds or thousands to own it outright. I know that my career has benefitted from this, from first hiring a 100mm macro lens and discovering how useful it was for food photography, to my more recent hires mentioned above. A good hiring alternative is also looking on a site/app called Fat Llama, where local people rent out their equipment. There isn't always something ideal, but sometimes it works out perfectly.
Hopefully this blog has been helpful if you're considering whether to hire a lens, camera body, or anything along these lines. I'll let you all know how my photos come out with my lens hire over the next week.