How to Start a Photography Business on a Tight Budget

Ugh, money! 

It always comes in the way when you plan for something grand.

But guess what? 

You can straightaway start a photography business if you have a laptop, an internet connection, and a “smartphone” with a modest camera!

Huh? Photography without a proper camera gear? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Many professional photographers use smartphones. They have never spent on any expensive gear and are making big money.

How? We have cracked the code!

This post will walk you through a detailed guide to kick start your photography business on a tight budget. Best part? There are only four basic steps to it:

1. Planning

Moto – Clarifying all the Doubts 

Put time and effort into making a winning business plan. This is the first worthwhile investment in your photography business.

planning for photography business

As an entrepreneur on a tight budget, it is a natural wish to have an uninterrupted cash flow along the course.

And that, my friend, is only possible when you have a well-thought-out, comprehensive plan at your disposal. 

Your plan should mention every factor that has influences your budget and decide your charges accordingly.

A detailed study of the current market helps you choose your target audience and location. For instance, when making a plan for a real estate photography business, you should be well aware of the on-going rates according to different square feet and locations. Charging too high or low can give you a tough time finding clients.

Most important – it should address all the cold facts about your financial resources. 

As your plan A fails, a workable plan B and even a plan C should always be ready! 

So, before anything else, plan your business out. And make it a flexible and straightforward one.

Clear Your Doubts

Bear in mind – there is a strong correlation between a business plan and a successful business. This plan is a way out to translate your vision into a successful brand.

But being realistic about your plan comes as a challenge for sure! 

Here is the key to getting through it in a flow. Simply answer all your doubts in a clearly written form. 

If there is anything about your photography that you think will give you an edge over your competitors, list it down! 

In short, write EVERYTHING down!

Here is a breakdown of the doubts you need to address. You are free to add to the list. Just don’t over-complicate the process. 

Doubt 1 - The Why

Why do I want to start this photography business?

Clarity of mind is everything. 

Ask yourself repeatedly until you get a clear-cut answer to the big WHY. 

What is it about the shooting that will make you leave your bed every morning?

What gives you that adrenaline rush every time you think about photography?

If it’s financial autonomy, don’t hesitate and write “I need money”! And note how much of it you need. But make sure it is not your sole target. 

If it is about “passion”, pen it down. And identify “Why” do you feel passionate about it?

A sorted mind will help you remain focused in one direction while your business will thrive in its initial days. 

Doubt 2 - The What

What is the mission of my photography business startup?

Keep it simple. This is your business’s concise summary. Explain your business goals to yourself. Define your business with the utmost clarity.

Doubt 3 - The How

Do I have enough resources to jump-start my business, and how will I manage the available photography business supplies? 

  • Financial Position be brutally honest while answering, “Where do I stand financially at the moment?”

Know all your expenses – fixed and variable both! The fixed ones don’t have anything to do with the number of shoots. They include gear cost, insurance cost, and many more!

However, make an adjustable budget that will house the variable expenses that will keep changing as your business grows. Do your math RIGHT, and don’t make the mistake of missing any downright vital expenditure.

All your business decisions will depend on how well you strategize the use of your resources.

2. Preparing

Moto – Getting Equipped With Necessary Resources

Can your photography business flourish without a proper photography degree or course? Yes! 

Ok! So, would it do equally well without much preparation? No, It Won’t! 

Starting a whole photography business by yourself is much more than just knowing enough how to hold a camera and having a collection of some of your best shots.

Before you decide to take the plunge, there are a few must-do’s that will set a firm foundation for your venture. 

These include equipping yourself with updated professional knowledge about the photography industry, looking out for competitors’ techniques, and investing in the right gear.

Assist a Photographer

You should work under a professional for at least a year or so before you headstart your professional photography.


assisting a professional photographer

Getting hands-on training by someone who is a pro in his field and getting paid for it? Win-win deal! 

We know you already have the skills. But there are many unexplored areas that you are unaware of. Other areas that you are well acquainted with, need a little more tuning.

That is why you need professional guidance 24/7. To hone your photography and click images that bring you REAL money alongside praises!

Take in all the good from these experts like a sponge.

Think about it. Having assisted an expert, you will already know how to handle an equipment failure at an event and understand your customer better.

Invest in the Right Gear

This is the part where you can save most of your money. We know buying a camera, tripod stand, and all other necessary camera accessories is a one-time investment.

But we still recommend you NOT to splurge on any of these gears at all! 

Even a Smart Phone Would do

taking photo with phone

If there is anything you should spend, it’s your time, not money! 

Seek professional guidance to learn the art of making the most of the lighting setup (natural or studio light).

If there is anything that decides the quality of an image, it is the light!

What sells an image is its concept, storytelling, and the power to evoke emotion into the viewer. And a refined “camera” has nothing to do with these attributes of a professional photo.

In a little chat with Joey Lawrence, the ultimate pro in still life photography, he revealed how he would spend a budget of $100.

“For me, it all starts with great lighting.

Although I use lots of fancy equipment on shoots, the good thing is you don’t need much to create good lighting.

I’d find a piece of cardboard in a dumpster, spend $2.00 on a roll of tin foil and create a silver reflector. Then I’d take my subject to a pre-existing photogenic location, such as a rooftop or interesting wall that matches the subject’s vibe. 

At sunset, I’d reflect some light on to them, or use the reflector minimally to create a catchlight in their eyes. Then I’d use the remaining $98 on a nice dinner for my crew and me!”

You should be able to push your device to its limits, even if it is a smartphone.

Just about any camera would do until you have what it takes to click an image with a selling potential. 

Despite financial constraints, it is still possible to get that fancy DSLR packed with all the features you need.

How? Rent one!

Why Buy a Camera When You Can Rent it?

Every niche has a camera tool for it – a particular lens, a particular aperture that best suits it.

Just like videographers search for the best video camera gear, as a photographer, you should never marry any one system only.

Instead, try your hands on different gears according to the varying needs of projects. 

Rent them for this purpose because with a budget so small, you can only buy one camera, that too, after saving for months.

It makes complete sense to spend a fraction of money to play with a great many camera options only to find the one that best compliments your photography style. 

Would you spend a small fortune on an expensive camera only to regret later? No, right?. 

Furthermore, we would always recommend renting more than one lens/camera at a time for two reasons—one, to have a backup device in case of unexpected operating failures. Second reason is to try out and compare a high-end camera with a budget one to shoot the same scenes. 

This is a much BETTER and PRACTICAL way to assess a camera that you are saving money for compared to trusting the fluctuating online reviews.

Study Your Competition

The photography industry is highly saturated with talent sprouting from every corner. 

Photographers doing well in your niche are your competition. 

From pricing, website design, Social Media handles, blogs, offers, photography styles, bestsellers to customer dealing, run a thorough research.

Dig deeper into what your target audience is buying the most and why? Hold onto that “WHY”. 

This “why” reflects their pain points.

Strategize techniques to play around those pain points and bring something more relevant yet unique for them than your rival.

Once you do that, list down their strengths that you lack and vice versa. 

Next, work on your weaknesses and polish the skills that give you a competitive edge over them.

Make a Website

Your website is a digital storefront that gives a quick overview to your clients of what you can do. 

Website designing matters. But you don’t need to go overboard with it. 

What matters more, and actually, the most, is your photography portfolio you choose to showcase as a sample.

Save time. Look out for the website builders your competitors are using and go for one of them.

Make sure the photography website template is customized to leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

After the gallery part is well-sorted, focus on the “About” of your website. 

Your clients should not be struggling to find a way to contact you. Make your contact information precise, very easily accessible, and not missing out on a single vital detail.

Create a Killer Portfolio

You will be putting up your best photos on display through your online portfolio. 

Over time, there is a huge shift in the way photography agencies recruit professional photographers. 

Putting up ads for a job opening is past now. 

Exploring possibilities online is present. 

It takes a few seconds to identify who is thinking outside the box and who is following the crowd.

Therefore, make sure your portfolio is:

3. Executing

Moto Maximising the Reach to Prospects

Now that you are all prepped up with the necessary tools at your disposal, it’s time to get into action.

Next in line is marketing yourself as a photographer. Remember, this is a constant need. You will be applying marketing strategies no matter what stage of success your brand reaches.

Among a vast pool of marketing channels, making a website is a prerequisite, and that is why we listed it in the planning stage. 

It may take time to get your brand noticed for its value to the market, but it eventually will. In a promotional strategy, you can’t stay behind by missing out on any step or tool that the rest of the world uses. 

What are they?

Social Media Platforms

As a professional photographer, your goal is to become a key resource in your niche. Right? 

As a beginner, you have conservative financial resources at your end to spare for advertising your photography services.

Paid promotion is not your game at the moment. However, the solution is simple. Self-promote yourself.

In this digital age, there is no better platform than social media to attract your prospects.

Advertisers are always on a lookout for artists. 

Now they are recruiting photographers through social media to harness the power of this strong medium. 

In fact, in 2019, digital media, mostly social media, outpaced print to score the third Position as the most used advertising channel.

Which Social Media Platform to Use?

Use them all.

Whether it is Facebook, Snapchat, alpha, beta, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and any other channel with potential, make your photos spread their magic everywhere. 

using all social media platforms for photography business marketing

Leverage every opportunity that lets you market your brand for free, as Jason M. Peterson does.

Target a specific demographic through niche photography. Find out which of your target audience is active on which medium and distribute your projects accordingly.

For example, if you shoot weddings, visually charged sites like Instagram and Pinterest have got most of your prospects.

Optimize Your Online Presence - Inspiration by Jason Miller

Your ideal clients can come from the least expected place. Most people confine LinkedIn for job hunting. 

You have to be Jason Miller to make the best out of this space and use it as a gallery to showcase his photos that he takes pride in. Using LinkedIn’s versatility, he managed to make a great profession out of it.

The ballpark figure for the budget the social media photographers are offered lies between $5,000 and $1 million.

Blog it Out

You have made a portfolio site. Greate!

We suggest you make a blog website too! This is to manage the SEO rankings. To become more discoverable.

Your work should be omnipresent. 

Writing articles about your photography experiences gives an extra edge over your competitors. 

Your clients will trust you with their money for covering their big days. 

Jotting down how you felt while capturing a moment creates an emotional connection between your work and the reader. 

It helps give them a better understanding of your perspective behind an image.

Build a Network

Yes, this is a digitally-driven society. But the human connection has its own place.

Besides the social media and blogging network, you need to maintain real-life engagement with people of similar interests. A successful businessman always preserves humanity.

Attend conferences, events, and workshops. 

Carry out meaningful conversations with everyone you meet. An exchange of ideas will give you that motivational push. 

Carry your business card with you. 

Follow up with fellow photographers you connected well with. This will build trust. Only when someone trusts you enough is he willing to refer you to a potential lead. 

4. Assessing

Moto – Gauging Growth of Your Photography Business

Starting out a photography startup is relatively more painless. 

Getting the profits from it soaring with the same strength is a constant struggle.

And by profits, we mean something beyond money.

Of course, the primary intent to start with a photography business was making a living out of it. You can track your financial progress by tallying your income and expenses with your initial goals listed in your business plan.

Getting new customers is a win. 

But not getting the same customers to return to you is a serious matter. This reflects their opinion about your service. 

They didn’t find coming back to you worth it. Is your growth as a photographer stunted? Is your gallery not distinguishable from others?

Collect their valuable feedback. If pricing was an issue, offer your prospects a better deal this time. 

If it was the expected quality that you failed to deliver, don’t charge a penny for their next project.

Doing this is essential.

You are not here to get orders. You are here to stay. Strive to build a brand surrounded by loyal clients. That is how you will make your photography business sustain for as long as you keep adding that magic in your clicks.

Final Words

Let not your budget hold you back from doing what you are highly capable of! 

How much does it cost to become a photographer? After this post, you know how you can start from nothing and still do great.

This world needs a creative artist like you to fill the void with your ideas.

Now you know how to start a photography business without breaking the bank.

We hope we could give you the motivational push you needed. C’mon now get started with whatever is available at the moment and make yourself a successful photography brand.

Do you think there are more ways to cut on the costs for a photography business? 

Please leave your valuable feedback in the comment box bel

Good luck for your venture