The Cost to Start a Photography Business
Let me go ahead and ease your mind – you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to start a photography business! Many aspiring photographers can go for years just toying with the idea, because they are under the impression that purchasing photography equipment will put them into major debt. So let’s nip this fear and talk about the minimum cost to start a photography business.
Starting a Photography Business Doesn’t Have to Break Your Bank
With all the fancy cameras and equipment on the market today, it can be so easy to get carried away. As a new photographer, you may feel pressured to purchase the most impressive camera to make up for your lack of skills and experience. It’s a common misconception, and can keep you from pursuing your dream if you let it.
Having basic equipment is sufficient for starting a photography business if you know how to use it. Educate yourself on lighting, and you can take amazing photos with an entry-level setup. I’m going to give you specific examples, so you can get everything you need without looking further. This will give you a good idea of the cost to start a photography business.
1) The Camera
The Canon 5D Mark III is amazing for sure, but you don’t need it to start a photography business. The camera itself, known as the camera body, is basically the housing for the more important part – the lens. So you can purchase a decent entry level camera like this one and spend less than $500. The other option is to rent a higher-end camera until you’re ready to purchase your own.
2) The Lenses
The lenses are the most essential pieces of equipment for your photography business. If you want to splurge somewhere, do it here. But you don’t have to have the best lens on the market to take great photos. A 50mm f/1.8 like this one retails for about $125, and will give you beautiful blurred backgrounds to enhance your crisp focused subjects.
This gorgeous photo was taken with the exact kit linked above:
And this one was taken with the Canon camera linked above, with the 50 mm f/1.8 lens I referred to:
3) The Lighting
Even if you plan to take outdoor photos exclusively, you should consider some lighting equipment. You can get a set of 5 different 32-in reflectors for less than $15 here.
For studio or home sessions, a couple umbrella lamps like these would work well, and cost about $35. It’s a very small investment to get better quality indoor photos.
4) The Props
When just starting your photography business, you really don’t need a lot of props. Most of these things can be found around your home, or picked up for a few bucks at the grocery store on your way to a session:
Stool or chair
Apples (real of faux)
Local thrift stores and garage sales are great places to find unique and cheap props, so keep that in mind too. You really don’t have to spend a lot of money (if any) on props as a beginning photographer.
5) The Editing Software
Editing software can be another freebie, if you know how to use it well. Programs like Canon Digital Photo Professional are free, and are capable of editing RAW and JPEG files. Photoshop is around $10/month, on the other hand. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there that can help you decide on which photo editing software is best for you.
6) The Delivery
How do you plan on delivering the photos to your clients? There are several ways to do it, so think about which one works best for you. You could use Dropbox, burn images to a CD, deliver them on a flash drive, or even email them (but I don’t recommend this!).
Flash drives are more professional than CD’s, and you can get a 10-pack of 2GB flash drives HERE for less than $3 each.
Determine what your beginning budget is, and decide if you want to spend money on the delivery at first. Even if you choose to deliver the images on flash drives or CD’s, this is a minimal expense.
7) The Business
If you want to be legal (which is highly recommended!), you should start an LLC for your photography business. This will make you official, and you will be able to file for an EIN. The costs for setting up an LLC can vary from state to state, but are usually around $200-$300.
You may also want to hire an attorney to compose your contracts. These prices vary from state to state as well, but count on around $500 for attorney fees. This is optional, but recommended.
8) The Website
Yes, you should definitely have a website for your photography business. It’s one of the best marketing tools you’ll have. You can easily set up a website for less than $4/month HERE. Locals will be able to find you easily if you have a website, and you can link your Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media pages to it, for even more traffic.
What’s the Total Cost to Start a Photography Business?
Let’s add up all the categories above and see the cost to start a photography business. Here is the breakdown:
Camera & Lenses: $600 – $8,000
Lighting: $15 – $100
Props: $0 (or you could go nuts here, of course…it’s up to you!)
Editing Software: $0 (or $10/month)
Delivery: $0 (up to $30)
Legal Fees: $200-$1000
Grand Total: $865 – $10,000
It is possible to start a photography business for under $1000. That is a small investment for the huge potential of your dream business. If you are pricing your photo sessions appropriately, you will easily get your money back within the first few jobs.
Don’t listen to the negative voices that say you’re not taking your photography business seriously by not investing $5,000-$10,000 in the startup cost. Not everyone has that type of money laying around, and it really is okay to start out small in order to grow your business.
With that said, I highly recommend that you use your first profits to re-invest in your photography business. Once you get your initial investment covered, you may want to:
- Purchase a backup camera and other backup equipment (lighting, camera batteries and chargers, etc)
- Upgrade your photo editing software
- Invest in a computer system, dedicated solely to your photography business
- Purchase professional studio backgrounds, or
- Invest in some other area of your photography business, such as marketing, an assistant, props, etc.
If photography is your passion, this should give you the fuel you need to make it happen. The cost to start a photography business is around $1000. Are you ready to take that leap? Then check out my other post on How to Start a Photography Business in 45 Days or Less. And be sure to subscribe, to get my most recent photography tips and tricks!