Smart Tips for Equipping Your Photography Business, Whether You're on a Budget or Not
Before opening your photography business, you’ll need to gather all the appropriate equipment. The list of must-have equipment falls into five distinct categories:
1. Camera equipment and related gear. This includes everything from your camera(s) to an assortment of lenses, flashes, memory cards, tripods, carrying cases and batteries.
2. Studio equipment. This covers the lighting, backdrops, props, set pieces and other essentials needed to take portraits and other types of photos in an indoor studio setting.
3. Computer equipment and related technology. You’ll need desktop and laptop computers, a laser printer, photo printer, wireless router, large monitor(s), along with specialized photography software (such as Photoshop, Lightroom, and PortraitPro), business applications (that include word processing, presentation and spreadsheet programs), and bookkeeping software. If you’ll be accepting credit and debit card payments from customers and clients, you’ll also need appropriate software and equipment for that, especially if you plan to take payments in the field.
4. Office equipment. This includes everything from file cabinets, desks, and telephone(s) to a photocopy machine and office supplies.
5. Company branding, sales, and marketing tools. Don’t forget your business cards, signage, letterhead, brochures, invoices and other materials that will feature your logo, slogan, contact information, and sales information.
You don’t need every single piece of equipment listed above to get started, but at least you have some things to consider based on your goals and growth strategy.
Let’s dig just a little deeper into the first category above so you have a better idea of what elements are most important to consider.
The photographer’s case
What kind of photography equipment do you need to succeed? There are too many variables to provide you with clear-cut suggestions. Your needs will largely be dependent on what type of photography you do, where you’ll be shooting, and your budget. If you’re on a tight budget but still need to invest in high-end photography equipment, you have four options:
- Purchase brand-new camera equipment and gear outright.
- Purchase used camera equipment from reputable companies, like B&H Photo Video or Adorama, or directly from other professional photographers. As long as a lens isn’t scratched, its mount is not bent or damaged, and its auto-focus function works properly, you can save a fortune buying used lenses and related gear, including flash units, lens filters, and tripods.
- Rent equipment for specific shoots or events. Many companies, like Lensrentals.com, CameraLensRentals.com, or BorrowLenses.com, rent camera bodies and individual lenses by the day, week, or month. Short term, this can help you equip yourself with the right gear for a specific shoot, but this option isn’t cost effective if you use it often. If you need to rent a specific lens multiple times in a year, for example, you’ll save money purchasing that lens new or used as opposed to renting it repeatedly.
- Borrow a camera body, lenses, or related gear from a fellow photographer. This option is the least expensive, unless you accidentally damage or lose the equipment and need to pay for the repairs or replacement.
It goes without saying that a digital SLR or mirrorless, full-frame camera body is an absolute necessity. However, many professionals believe the camera body is less important than the collection of lenses and related gear you invest in. Regardless of the shooting situation or location, you always want to shoot in the highest resolution possible with the best quality lenses you can afford. Unfortunately, high-end lenses tend to cost a fortune. It’s not uncommon to spend between $500 and $3,000 on one lens.
There are many kinds of lenses, but the three basic types are normal, wide, and telephoto. Event photographers typically use wide aperture lenses, while macro lenses are used for close-up shots of small objects, like flowers or jewelry. Lens filters, like UV or polarizing filters, should be part of your gear and used when needed.
Many photographers are quite comfortable using the lens that came bundled with their digital camera as a general-purpose lens but wind up investing in a lens better suited for shooting portraits as well as a telephoto lens. Again, the selection of lenses you’ll need will depend on the photography specialties you opt to pursue.
Beyond lenses, you’ll also need to invest in other must-have gear, such as a flash unit, tripod, and plenty of extra camera batteries and memory cards. You should also never skimp on a good tripod. This is one accessory that you can purchase used and save a fortune by doing so. Based on your personal shooting style, however, you may be more comfortable using a monopod. These tend to be more portable and require less space when you’re shooting with them. For example, if you’re shooting an event, concert, or show, a monopod is much more convenient because it uses much less floor space.
Filters, strobes, and flashes are also important gear you’ll want to invest in. Depending on how technical you are when it comes to manually adjusting your camera settings, you may require a light meter as well. Another important investment, especially if you’ll do most of your shooting on location as opposed to within your own studio, is a well-designed camera bag that will keep your camera, lenses, and gear organized and well protected.