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What Equipment Do You Need to Start a Photography Business?

by Dylan Goldby
featured, photo & video

When we talk about starting a photography business, we often talk about portfolios, skill-sets, clients, and all the important aspects of getting yourself off the ground. One extremely important factor often gets overlooked is what equipment is needed to start a photography business? You can have all the skills in the world and a wonderful portfolio, but if you can’t deliver the technical and aesthetic requirements of your client in a timely manner, you simply cannot run a sustainable business.

When you get your first few jobs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can do this. Your first few jobs are not likely to be high-end clients. Most probably you’re working with friends, a small local business, a local magazine, or another minor outlet that might be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. You’ve thrilled them with your first set of images and now you’re feeling like you’re up to the task. But, there’s more to this than just delivering one job. In order to run a sustainable photography business, you need to be able to deliver on time every time.

Computer

Your computer is actually one of the most important pieces of equipment when starting your photography business. The camera and lenses, of course, make the images. But, it is your computer that allows you to communicate with clients, process and deliver images, and get yourself an online presence. Spend the time to make sure this is a quality machine to save yourself time and money in the long-run.

Consider your client. Are you required to edit on site? Will you need to turn photos around quickly? How accurate does the colour need to be in your images? Once you’ve looked into these things, you might find that you need a faster machine, a high-end laptop, or a new monitor with a calibration solution for better colour reproduction.

That giant print was made from a 16 MP file out of a crop-sensor Fujifilm X-T10.

Even after all this, I cannot stress how important backup is. How are you going to keep your clients’ files safe? At a bare minimum, I recommend two physical copies. Keeping one of these in an off-site location is a great idea. On top of that, it may be prudent to look into cloud backup. There are plenty of services out there, so find one that’s right for you and start getting your files into a third location.

Camera

There’s a lot of debate in online forums as to whether a professional can use this camera or that camera. Cameras are cameras. They record images. When thinking about the equipment required to start your photography business, you need to consider your own needs. High-end commercial photographers might need a high-resolution medium-format system, but you might only need a small and light crop frame mirrorless camera.

When I first started my business, I had the Nikon equivalent of this kit; one body, two batteries, two memory cards, a 35mm lens, a 50mm lens, an 85mm lens, a speedlight, and a computer.

When choosing a camera, decide on your needs. How fast does the autofocus need to be? How much high ISO power do you really need? Which camera feels good in your hands? Will you be able to carry it all day? Are the lenses you want to use available on that body? In the end, a high-resolution full-frame DSLR is a beautiful machine, but is it the best tool for you?


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Lenses

Most likely, you started this journey with one or two kit zoom lenses. These are a great tool for learning and will give you an idea for your preferences and requirements. There are a couple of ways to look into new lenses and make sure you’re buying the right ones. Lenses are expensive, but they are also the pieces of equipment that will stay with you. I recommend choosing them carefully and renting them before you buy if that is an option.

Sorting your lens use in Lightroom can give you a great overall look at how you shoot.

When thinking about which lenses to invest in first for your photography business, looking back is one great way to start. Using Adobe Lightroom, you can sort your entire catalog by focal length in the library module. This is useful because you might see that you actually use your kit 18-55mm lens zoomed in at 55mm most of the time. In this case, perhaps you might want to look into a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. That will give you more options to control depth of field.

Another way to look into lenses is to first decide the types of images you want to make. Then you can reverse engineer them and decide roughly what focal lengths you might need. Perhaps you only want to shoot tight portraits like headshots. You might want to invest in either an 85mm prime lens or a 70-200mm zoom lens. Maybe you’re looking to shoot more dramatic portraits that really bring your viewer close to the subject, perhaps a 24mm or 35mm would be more useful to you.

Lighting

Light is our raw material, and thus should certainly be included in your list of equipment for starting your photography business. Even if you’re not a studio photographer, you may need to invest in a speed light or a reflector. Unless you’ve been doing this for some time already, I do not recommend investing heavily into lighting. Rent it wherever possible until you know exactly the level of quality and power you will require. Those Profoto B1s are excellent lights, but you may not need three of them just yet.


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Accessories

There are so many accessories that we need as photographers and they can quickly add up. As you are starting your photography business, it’s a good idea to invest in quality accessories.

Memory, for example, is what gets your images home safely. Investing in high-quality cards from reputable sources is key to making sure you don’t lose images. Also, make sure you have a few spare cards in case anything goes wrong during a shoot. Also make sure you get a bag that is comfortable for the type and duration of shoots you’ll be doing.

Small things like cleaning supplies, straps, a tripod, and extra batteries can often be overlooked as well. It’s always good to make sure you have plenty of these things to keep your gear in good working order.

Need vs. Want

When starting your business, something that needs to be taken quite seriously is whether you need the equipment you’re looking at or want it. I have scattered that idea through this article to make sure that we’re on the same page with this. A 50mm f/1.0 is an incredible lens to work with but for most people, a 50mm f/1.8 will be a more effective lens. Later in your career, investing in the more exotic equipment can give you an edge in the industry but it is most likely not a good investment at the beginning.

In Conclusion

When starting your photography business, there is some equipment that is necessary and some that can be postponed. Having a quality camera that suits your needs, a good selection of lenses for the type of work you will be doing, a computer to keep the business running, and lighting and accessories to help produce your images is key. Gear may not be the most important thing in producing creative images, but it is necessary and you will need a certain amount of it. Choose it wisely and make sure you get the best tools for the job so that you can focus on what’s really important.


Get your 12 week road map to launching a photography business. Learn more.


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Dylan Goldby

Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer based out of Seoul, South Korea. His primary business is family portraiture, but he frequently travels to add to his ongoing Tattoos of Asia project.