What Photography Equipment do I Need to Start a Business?

Dee S.

Becoming a professional freelance photographer can be an exciting decision; however, it is important to have the proper photography equipment. A variety of lenses, a good camera, and a few other accessories are key to becoming a profitable photographer. Also, the photography equipment varies with the type of photography. For example, a nature photographer may use different photography equipment than a product photographer. So, it is often suggested that a photographer focus on one general genre of photos so that he can keep his equipment to a minimum.

Props may be needed to start a photography studio.
Props may be needed to start a photography studio.

To begin with most photographers should have a high-quality camera and several lenses. Many times, lenses are extremely expensive. Consequently, it may be a good idea to rent the extra lenses. But the main photography equipment, such as the camera and the main lens, should be the photographer’s own equipment – not rented.

A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera.
A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera.

When photographing people for portraits, having the proper lighting is important. Monolights are relatively inexpensive and should be among the first purchases. There are even monolight kits available for purchase. For a few hundred dollars, a new photographer can have two tripod/light stands, one mini backlight stand, two monolights, two soft boxes, an extension cord, a reflective umbrella, a soft white umbrella, a strobe flash light, and a padded carrying case. A reasonably priced kit will help the photographer achieve a professional look for his photographs.

Nature photographers may employ a tripod for a more stable shot.
Nature photographers may employ a tripod for a more stable shot.

For those who want the bare minimum in photography equipment, a main monolight, and then two smaller ones should also be purchased: one for background light and one to illuminate the client’s hair and face. An umbrella for lighting, soft boxes, and grid spots are also photography equipment requirements. The umbrella for photography is created to reflect, bounce, or soften a source of light. A soft box is a box that surrounds a light so that the light is diffused and has a soft appearance in photos. A grid spot actually prevents the light from spreading so that it can form a concentrated spot of light on a given subject.

Photographers typically have a variety of lenses for taking various photos, such as portraits, which often are taken with telephoto lenses.
Photographers typically have a variety of lenses for taking various photos, such as portraits, which often are taken with telephoto lenses.

Most photographers prefer to use a digital camera. However, the kind of lens that is used for a photo shoot depends on the kind of subject. So, if a photographer is shooting an environmental portrait, he may prefer to use a medium-wide lens. But for many other shots, he may favor an 85 mm (3.35 in) lens. Sometimes, fast lenses are preferred, especially for subjects where there is little depth of field.

Necessary photography equipment depends on the kind of business a photographer wants to focus on.
Necessary photography equipment depends on the kind of business a photographer wants to focus on.

In photography, the perfect shot can rarely be duplicated even minutes apart. Lighting, lenses, and timing each play a role. Having the proper equipment will make starting a business as a professional photographer much easier.

Use of side lighting and shallow depth of field are common in portrait photography.
Use of side lighting and shallow depth of field are common in portrait photography.
Other than a camera and a few lenses, the photography equipment necessary depends on the type of photography.
Other than a camera and a few lenses, the photography equipment necessary depends on the type of photography.

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Discussion Comments


What perturbs me about this article is you make it sound like expensive equipment will make you a pro? How about the whole stupid damn learning curve and expertise a photographer has to develop over time before they can be considered a pro? I think we need to start cracking down on the wannabes who only think they need a Canon to be photographers. Ugh!


Thanks for the great tips. I needed to read these tips and now I am inspired to start from scratch, small time and learn my way up.


If you have a passion for photography, how would you get yourself in the market?


I think one part about starting a professional photography business that many photographers overlook, is the actual computer that they are going to be using to process the images. Because of the digital revolution within photography, we are now forced to do much of the work ourselves instead of just sending film to a lab and expecting beautiful prints to come back. If you are into the very advanced types of photography, and you will realize that processing the raw images coming from your camera is an absolute necessity.

To do this raw image processing, you must have a very advanced computer that is capable of doing with high flow of data. If you expect to be the kind of photographer that is doing multiple sessions per day, then you must have a computer capable of dealing with this amount of data. In this sense, the computer must not only be able to store a large amount of data, but also needs to be able to process images fast enough that your profit line is not affected by high labor costs. Often photographers now will find that much of their expense in labor comes from processing the images and not actually shooting them. Learning how to fine tune a digital image on a computer is an absolute necessity if you want to become a professional photographer that is successful within your business.


As a professional photographer who were started my own business several years ago, I can tell you that the biggest cost of starting up my business was actually the lenses that are used on my camera. A professional grade digital camera can cost anywhere between 5000 and $5000 and even more in some cases. What you will soon realize, is that it is not the cost of the camera itself that will actually end up eating away at your profit line. The kinds of lenses that you use in your professional photography business are actually the most expensive parts. Because of the very wide ranging types of lenses used in professional photography, you will soon find the need to purchase lenses for very specific purposes. Typically these lenses can cost between 1000 and $3000 which means that you will soon be spending more on lenses than you did on your actual camera body.

Many photographers will soon find themselves obsessed with the type of lenses they were using and even more so than the type of camera that they are attaching it to. As some photographers say “it's all about the glass,” and I have to agree. If it weren't for the glass that the light passes through and into your camera you would not get the sharp and contrasty images that you are trying to achieve in your professional photography business. Only when you have this quality glass will that very expensive camera that you are operating to be able to achieve the absolute clarity and proper image quality that you need to begin to sell your images for a high cost.


Once you actually get beyond the basic functions of what it is to be a photographer, you must realize there is very expensive equipment that you must obtain if you want to continue as a business into the professional world of photography. One of the biggest cost you incur is professional photography lighting equipment. This kind of studio equipment is extremely expensive if you were buying professional grade tools. If you know anything about photography, you realize that it is all about light. By having the best possible light sources available to you when you photograph inside the studio, you are ensuring that your client is receiving professional grade photography. Of course, you must also know how to use this type of professional grade lighting equipment. Buying photography equipment does not necessarily mean that you are professional. But mastering that kind of equipment can mean that you are one step closer to ensuring a proper and well functioning photography business for your daily life.

The continuing cost of photography business is something that people also underestimate. After photographing for a while in a professional environment, you must keep your images fresh enough that new clients would be attracted to your business. If you use the same backgrounds for years and years, clients will know and recognize your work but they will also become bored of it. This means that you will continually incur costs of keeping your studio up to par with the current state of the industry. Photography equipment backdrops are not cheap can cost upwards of $2000 for the very nicest ones. Sure, you can get ones as cheap as $100, but these are mostly meant for amateurs and will not withstand the daily use of professional photography studio will require of it.


Starting a professional photography business can be very daunting. One of the most difficult task is actually accumulating the proper equipment to perform professional photography shoots. There is a big difference between owning a camera and being a professional photographer. Many people think that since the digital revolution within the film industry, they can do the same things that professional photographer can.

This false assumption is very dangerous and can lead to clients paying you money for quality of photography that does not deserve it. Beyond the owning of equipment, if you wish to start a photography business, you must also realize that there are many different parts and elements that go into this. Just like any business you must have a proper business plan. Only when you have the ability to not only complete photographic sessions, but also have the ability to deal with clients in an effective and professional manner would you be able to run a successful photographic business.

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