You Don’t have to be Rich to Build Your Dream Photography Business

Can you actually build your dream photography business without spending big bucks or taking out loans? This photographer says YES! See how… (Featuring SARA KEITH)


“Photography has such a low barrier to entry.”

This is the conventional wisdom driving the harmful stereotype that photography is somehow an easy career path. In truth, becoming a photographer is anything but easy. Significant equipment costs are the first barrier to hurdle, with marketing and booking clients a close second.

Keep reading to learn how to leverage your own budget – no matter how small – and build your dream photography business.

Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: Man gives champagne toast at business event
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

It Begins with Inspiration – the FREE Kind

Event photographer Sara Keith got her inspiration from her grandfather. He was a creative jack-of-all-trades who brought painting, sketching, and photography into his granddaughter’s life when she was still young.

“My Grandpa gave me my first camera,” remembers Sara. “I went on to embrace photography in high school, and eventually received a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design.”

With a prestigious education under her belt, you’d think Sara would easily slide into the role of professional photographer. Like photographers everywhere, however, she quickly encountered an all-too-common challenge:

“Budget,” says Sara emphatically. “When technology is evolving so quickly, always trying to keep up with the latest gear feels like you’re burning a perpetual hole in your bank account.”

To counteract this burden, Sara suggests two solutions.

“Be patient in finding a good deal, and get creative with your current equipment,” she outlines.

Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: Dinner guests at a corporate event watch a speaker and smile
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

#1: Find the Best Deals Available

Is it possible to acquire new photography equipment without spending an arm and a leg? It is; the gear just may not be new-new. Used equipment is a worthwhile investment, though – especially when buying from a reputable retailer who sells quality-certified items. These resellers are well-known for curating quality second-hand gear:

You can also diversify your gear bag by renting equipment.

Gear rentals can save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, and still afford you access to high-end equipment. And when you do save the cash for new bodies, lenses, and accessories, rental houses often make their gently-used gear available for sale. Check out these reputable retailers:

Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: Children at a puppetry event laugh and smile at an actor
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

Don’t Forget the “Extras” When Building a Budget

Photography hardware, such as cameras, is only one of the expenses photographers encounter. There are also computers, software, subscriptions, and so much more. To stick within your budget, focus on tools that can serve multiple purposes.

“ShootProof has almost eliminated my need for services like Dropbox,” says Sara, “and lets the client easily share my photos online or with marketing teams.”

In addition to helping photographers show and share images, ShootProof serves up light studio management tools like contracts and invoices. And look how this photographer is using ShootProof as a marketing portfolio to get more clients!


PRO TIP: Watch for Sales

ShootProof and other software services offer yearly (and sometimes quarterly) sales, so you can get the most bang for your buck.

>>> Shop ShootProof’s August sale NOW! <<<


Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: A woman speaks at a fundraising event
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

#2: Get Creative with the Gear You Have

To build a powerful portfolio with less-powerful equipment, follow these tips:

Work within the limitations of your gear.

Know what your gear can and can’t do, and find ways to compensate. For example, you’d love an f/1.8 lens for making beautiful bokeh, but all you have is an f/4 lens. Compensate for this limitation by photographing subjects far from the background, which will give you a bokeh effect even at f/4.

Search your home for alternatives.

Sometimes, the tools you need for the job can be found in your own home. Clip-on work lamps are a terrific alternative to flashes when you’re constructing a photo booth. And a cheap piece of white poster board can double as a reflector. (So can those flexible car sunshades!) What household items have you used during a shoot?

Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: Children and teachers point at an unknown science experiment at an educational event
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

Other creative solutions:

  • Take care of your gear! Keep your lenses clean, your cards formatted, and your batteries charged. Camera equipment lasts longer and works better when it’s well-cared-for.
  • Get your steps in! Tripods and zoom lenses are nice, but . . . you also have legs. Seriously. Why spend money on something you already own? And for long exposures, play around with propping your camera on a table in the right position, or invest in an affordable mini-tripod.
  • Consider less-costly accessories. A low-cost reversing ring can turn any lens into a macro lens; and video lights work beautifully for studio portraits, yet can cost significantly less than a collection of flashes and triggers.
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget: Three schoolgirls sit on a bench in front of a massive gallery painting
Build Your Dream Photography Business on a Budget (Photography: Sara Keith)

#3: Stay Focused to Build Your Dream Photography Business

The industry’s most successful photographers often share that their success is less about their photos, and more about their connection with their clients. How is this, you ask? Sara offers her perspective.

“Over the years, I’ve realized that the best thing I can do for a client is make their life easier,” she shares. “I want them to enjoy not only my work, but working with me.

Sara stays focused on this objective whenever she feels a yearning for gear that isn’t in her budget. “Having a purpose to make other lives better always motivates me to do more,” Sara shares. “A few years ago, I founded Atlanta School of Photography, a community education organization that offers accessible photographic education for all Atlantans,” she continues. “My hope is to continue the legacy of my grandfather, who helped me realize that there’s a photographer in everyone!”


Written by ANNE SIMONE | Featuring SARA KEITH


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