Photography is wonderful, and if you are reading this, you most likely agree. Taking your hobby and turning it into a viable business is something which many of you may currently be considering. One thing that might be holding you back is the notion that you need every piece of gear under the sun to get you going.
Some will agree with what I’m going to say here, and some of you will not. The point of this article is to highlight that gear should not be the overriding factor stopping you from taking that leap. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for the bare minimum you need to get your photography business off the ground.
Photography Business Gear Essentials
We hear it on an almost daily basis, “it’s the photographer, not the gear” and as a professional photographer, I understand that phrase. However, it does not mean you can begin to charge for your services while using a smartphone. But what camera do you need?
Ultimately the answer to the question, “What camera do I need?” comes down to two main points.
1) What are you shooting?
2) What will the resulting photos be used for?
Sadly, it would take too long for me to reel off every camera out there and say which would be best for each genre of photography. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that you will not need the best of the best when you’ve only just started. My advice would be to get the best you can afford and stop there. The key part there is the word afford. You need to view your business expenses as a whole and not blow your entire budget on any one item.
If you’re already in the position of looking to take the next step, you most likely have a camera. My opinion is, don’t upgrade. Instead, invest that money in marketing. After all, it’s no good having the latest and greatest with $0 to market your services.
Personally, I use the Nikon D750 and love it. The lower end models of many camera manufacturers these days far exceed the capabilities of the best cameras ten years ago. And guess what? Ten years ago, photographers made money with those cameras. If you need full-frame, the Nikon D610, Canon 6D or Sony A7II are all excellent cameras. (Oh no, I’m doing it. I’m falling into the rabbit hole of listing gear! I’m going to quit while I’m ahead).
What Lenses Do I Need For My Photography Business?
I’m not a wedding photographer, but I know people who shoot entire weddings using only one lens. It’s possible. Would it be limiting? Yes. Is it impossible? No. There will be many of you now thinking “I couldn’t shoot a whole wedding with one lens!” and that’s fine. But do not allow a fear that without such and such piece of gear, you cannot work as a photographer. It’s simply not true.
In an ideal world, we would have every single lens our hearts desire. But do we need all that glass when we’re starting out? Having a keen eye on all your expenditures is a vital step to making your business viable. As a new photographer, you simply won’t have the turnover to allow you to invest heavily in gear. Does that mean you shouldn’t start your business? Or that you need to save thousands before you even get going? No, not in my opinion. If we always waited for the ideal circumstances, we would never do anything in life.
At the end of the day, the answer to “what camera / lens do I need?” is something which only you can answer. The best piece of advice I can give is: base your decisions on need, not want. When I began, I felt it was necessary for me to have everything. That mentality held me back.
Screenshot from maxbridge.co.uk
Things Your Photography Business Cannot Do Without
Imagine you started a business selling something online. You built a website and invested all your money in machinery for when the business would begin turning over millions. Because it will, of course. Then you sit there waiting for the cash to start rolling in. You have all this stuff, but nobody knows about you. All your stock and machinery now sits there doing nothing. Nobody is buying what you are selling, not because the product is bad, but because they don’t know it exists.
The most important place you can invest your money when starting a business is marketing. Sure you can be the photographer with thousands, even tens of thousands worth of gear, banging your head against a wall wondering why your lovely new camera is not getting you work. OR, you can be the photographer who starts with the bare minimum (a basic camera, one or two lenses and a computer) but invests all their money into marketing. Yes, you’re using inferior equipment, but you’re working and earning money.
Spend a small amount of money getting your website together. If you can, design it yourself using something like WordPress. Decide on the genre of photography you want to pursue and then scrutinize your gear. In the beginning, approach gear with this in mind: “What can I get away with NOT having?” With your website designed and a small list of equipment to purchase, throw every remaining penny toward marketing.
When Can I Buy All The Gear I Want?
As your business turns over more, you’ll be able to start upgrading your equipment, and I would advise doing so. No, you don’t need an amazing camera, the best lenses, lighting equipment and so on, when you first start. But, as you work more, the value these items present will become even more apparent. Eventually, you’ll be able to scratch that itch and purchase everything you want. I’m eagerly awaiting this day myself.
Some of you might be thinking, “I’m at that stage now. Thanks. You’ve now helped me justify spending loads more money on gear.” Wait a minute. As photographers, our focus is often on the acquisition of lots of new shiny gear. It’s understandable. However, as a business owner, your focus should always be on the acquisition of new clients. Therefore, gear should never be your priority.
Image courtesy of Sunshine & Reign Photography
Education, which allows you to develop your photography, is a much better place to invest. It will allow you to charge more for your services, as you’re offering a better product, and hopefully, bring more clients through your door. Take a look at all the courses we offer in the SLR Lounge Store and see if any of those will improve the breadth and quality of services you can provide. Click here.
I wish I could have listed loads of gear and said, “This is exactly what you need to start a business!” As I eluded to above, the fact of the matter is, YOU need to answer these questions yourself. Keep business at the forefront of your mind, and gear right at the back. Remember that photographers ten years ago used equipment, which today, is comparable to lower end cameras. Prioritize getting clients and advancing your skills as a photographer, rather than satisfying your inner gear hoarder. Finally, always think, “What can I get away with NOT having?”
What gear did you have when you started your business? Comment below.