Photography is such a rewarding career. You get to capture some of the world’s happiest and most beautiful moments, connect with incredible people, and flex your creative muscles every time you show up to work. We’re so lucky to have jobs that center around community and creativity, but at the end of the day, they are still jobs — and that means we have to run our businesses well if we want our photography careers to be lasting and successful.
Taking photography from a side hobby or creative outlet into a full-fledged business can feel overwhelming. Trust me, I get it — I still remember those early days when I was trying to craft a business plan from the ground up, make sure I was legally sound, and get my finances in order. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but thankfully, I’ve learned so much over the years. And this summer, I thought it was time to share what I know with you!
All fall on the blog, I’m writing your comprehensive guide to getting started in your photography business. If you missed some earlier posts, make sure to check them out! We’ve talked through How to Create Your Photography Business Blueprint, How to Get Your Business Squared Away Legally, and How to Manage Your Finances as a Photographer. After all of those legal and financial details, though, you’re probably itching to get your hands back on your actual camera!
It’s true that photography equipment is an investment. There are so many cameras, lenses, software options, and other expenses (from booking locations to creating a “prop closet”) that you can sink some serious cash into if you’d like. If you’re like I was in the early days, you’re probably looking at all of your choices and wondering, “What equipment do I need to start a photography business?” As your business grows, you’ll be able to expand your equipment inventory, but for now, you actually need much less than you think. With just three simple purchases, you’ll have all you need to be an incredible photographer.
The foundational piece of every photography business is a camera, of course. I’m a Canon gal all the way — I started shooting with a Canon Rebel when I first launched my business, and I’m a huge fan of the Canon R6 these days.
Let’s have a quick “technology jargon” side conversation, just in case you’re still making sense of camera terminology. As you research equipment, you may feel unsure about whether to buy a crop (like the Rebel) or a full-frame (like the R6). These specifications refer to the camera sensor! A crop sensor will give you a tighter field of view in your photos, while a full frame gives you a larger field of view, along with some better low-light capabilities and the ability to capture detail. However, one of these is not “better” than the other! It truly comes down to photographer preference and photo style.
Crop sensor cameras can be more affordable, and they’re a fantastic place to start if you’re looking to buy your first camera body or upgrade to a solid option that won’t break the bank. Particularly for family and portrait photographers, that tighter field of view will give you everything you need — you might even prefer it!
As a family photographer, it was important to me to select the right lens from the jump. I bought a 50mm portrait lens for my Rebel, and I’ve honestly never looked back. No matter which camera body I’m working with these days, I always have that trusty 50mm in my bag. If you go for the Canon R6 (Mirrorless), you’ll want a compatible 50mm lens.
If you’re still figuring out what all of this millimeter talk is about, think about the area you want to capture. Different millimeter lenses are designed for different focal lengths, or the amount of the scene that’ll be in the frame in the shot. In general, the bigger the number, the closer the scene will feel.
Many portrait photographers opt for the 50mm lens because it’s so versatile! It’s considered a “middle distance” lens, which will give you the ability to get stunning detail shots and capture a full scene, background included, without changing lenses. As you grow in your career and expand your equipment setup, you may want to add on an 85mm lens, but I really think the 50mm is the perfect starting point if you have to choose just one.
Once you’ve finished a session, it’s time to start editing. Most photographers agree that Lightroom is the gold standard for photo edits. It’s user-friendly enough for beginners while offering every tool you’ll need as a seasoned professional. Lightroom works on laptops and desktops alike, of course, so it’s easy to purchase and download on whatever computer you already have and use. It’s also fairly affordable, and it’s an easy expense to factor into your monthly budget.
Need a laptop to edit on? I recommend a MacBook Pro!
If you have a little bit of wiggle room in your equipment budget, I’d also recommend grabbing an external hard drive to store your sessions and edits. This will free up space on your computer, but it also provides security for your photos. In the event that something goes wrong with your computer, you’ll be beyond grateful that you stored your work in a backup location. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the sigh of relief from photographers who stored their sessions on an external drive (or the horror stories from those who didn’t).
With a camera body, 50mm lens, and Lightroom setup, you will be ready to go — and to grow your business like never before. Can’t wait to cheer you on!
This blog post is part of a series for BRAND NEW photographers! If you want to start your business off RIGHT, this guide will help!
- How to Create Your Photography Business Blueprint (aka Business Plan)
- How to Legalize Your Photography Business
- How to Manage Your Finances as a Photographer
- Must-Have Equipment for Starting a Photography Business
- How to Price for Profit as a Photographer
- Why You Should Start Marketing Your Photography Business