Starting a photography business on a budget

Hands Up – who is on a budget or knows they don’t want to chuck their savings at a new business?

First of all, it’s true that you can create a sustainable and profitable business from photography. We promise you; it can be done, and it can be fun. Hard work, but fun!

Second of all, this can be equine ONLY photography – yes you heard me right, you don’t need to fill in the gaps with Christenings, Weddings or Landscape photography, if you don’t want to. If you get your business and photography ‘Ducks’ in a row, you can create the dream business.

Tell me if I’m hitting home for you?

  • You’d love to answer the question, “What do you do?” with “I’m a photographer”
  • You want to be financially independent
  • You want to run your own diary
  • You can say NO to jobs you DON’T want to do
  • You know how to find and contact the perfect clients
  • You don’t want to spend thousands on setting up your new business

If you are answering yes to these questions, then read on my friend!

Let’s tackle that last one.

Starting out without spending thousands

It’s a myth that you need all the gear, ever invented for a photographer, in order to be successful or taken seriously in the photography industry.

Many high profile, highly successful photographers actually use very little equipment. Of course, the possibilities are endless and there are add-ons when it comes to running a business, but right out the gate lets simplify what the ESSENTIALS are.

If you’re not going to use it – DON’T BUY IT.

Unloading your car with 16 bags of equipment does not make you look more professional or give your client a gold standard experience. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.

Think about how nervous your client is about having a photo shoot of their beloved horse. They want to know that the professional they have trusted with this task is caring about the horses needs and can do the job as calmly and effortlessly as possible. They also don’t want you running across a field weighed down with multiple bags of redundant equipment.

Keep it simple

If are a natural light photographer then you simply need a camera and one lens. I hear you screaming at me, “What do you mean one lens!!” both Emily and I have created hugely successful equine photography businesses by using 1 lens – the queen of equine photography lenses is the 70 – 200mm f2.8.

After this you want a spare battery, 2 or 3 cards for the camera, a lens cloth and that’s it folks!

Seriously, for capturing beautiful shots of these majestic creatures – that it all you need! The most important equipment or accessory you need is knowledge. You need to know how to photograph this horse to show it’s best side, its personality, the job that he or she does with their owner and show off the location your client has chosen. This does not come from having a medium format Hasselblad that set you back £30,000. This comes from knowing how to use your camera, one lens and understanding the horse.

Setting up the business side – will this break the bank?

Speaking of banks – let’s start with setting up your business bank account. Most banks will offer a charge free period, so that’s another thing ticked off that hasn’t cost you anything.

Hardware – this is where people can fall over with the cost of equipment. Ask yourself, what’s important to my business right now? Do you really need the brand new 27inch imac to start the business? No, you know you don’t. The business needs to earn itself a wage before you dive into investing in big hardware. Do you have a laptop or a home computer that will do the job? Most homes, now a days, have this.

Ok, so you already have the hardware, now for the software and great news on this front too! A few years ago, if you wanted Photoshop and Lightroom, you needed to grab your plastic friend and pay a pretty penny. But, drumroll please, Adobe has a ‘Photographers’ Creative Package and it’s £9.98 a month! Yup – for all of the editing software you could possible need, it’s under £10 a month.

Insurance – go to the best. Call them and ask them whether they will cover you in a worst-case scenario situation. Talk to them about the exact type of work you will be doing. This is worth paying for and is a great selling point to new clients.

Professional Email Address – If you can’t quite afford a website just yet, that’s fine. With the use of social media platforms, you can get away with starting your business and pointing people to your Facebook or Instagram account. But, you do need a professional email address, something like hello@nameofbusiness.com

Next steps and Upgrades

As you begin to grow your business and start making a bit of money there are some investments, we would add as Step 2.

External hard drives – keep those precious images backed up and safe.

Extra SD cards – These babies are worked hard, it’s good to have multiples in case of failure.

Presets – Start to get a feel for the type of images you want to deliver to your clients and invest in actions or presets for Lightroom or Photoshop.

Marketing – start with postcards or something smart you can hand out to yards or equestrian businesses. You don’t need 1000’s of them, go for lower quantity but higher quality.

A client database – keep your business professional and easy to run. There are many online client databases’ available for a few pounds a month. If you get this right from the start you can run your clients and business smoothly and 5*

Don’t overdo it

As with everything we do in business, you will change and grow as time passes, so allow your equipment and support to do the same. Starting the business of your dreams does not mean you have to take out a mortgage.

There is a feeling within the creative industry that you should be a ‘starving artist’ in order to be taken seriously – not true. Map out this dream, plan well and go forth.

Even if you hire a camera and lens for your first test shoots to see what this is all about, do it! Don’t let the expenses of setting up a business stop you from achieving your dreams, as you can see you don’t have to re-mortgage to take the first steps.

I’ll finish with this

If there is one thing you really should invest in, its education! Knowing how to create the business so it can stand on its own two feet from the get-go is a huge advantage. Capturing the perfect shots for your new clients and growing the connections will get you to your dream much quicker.

Both Emily and I came into this industry through education and learning from others who were already successful. We both knew we wanted our passion for our business. And they needed to be successful and self-sustaining businesses, and if someone has been before us, made it work and is willing to share those secrets, then we were taking the short cut.