I’m photographer Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens. In this 6.5-minute video and article, we’re going to look at the six pieces of equipment that you need to make money in photography. That’s all you need, six pieces of equipment.
You should allow yourself with a minimal amount of equipment to start a really healthy side hustle or a great way to make a living. You don’t need a ton of gear. I have mentored hundreds of people, and they have all started out with simple equipment packages, but you do need these six things.
You’ve got to have a camera, obviously. It doesn’t have to be the best camera in the world. I know a lot of people who have made money and are making good money shooting with an entry-level Canon Rebel DSLR. You just need a decent camera that is going to get a decent image, and the Canon Rebel is exactly that.
The camera does not have to be a full-frame and does not have to be a $6,000 camera. You can spend $1,000 on a camera and get a camera that is going to be very, very usable and get you great images and help you start to make a living.
So once you have a camera, what’s the next thing you need? Well, you have to have a lens on your camera. Now this varies for every photographer. You are going to want to choose the lens that is best for you and what you’re going to be photographing. That 16-35mm is a great place for someone to start who’s going to do architectural kinds of work. But if you’re going to do portraiture, I think a good fast 50mm like an f/1.2 is a great place to do portraits and some kinds of family settings. You can even do a lot of wedding stuff with that 50mm lens.
Generally speaking, I tell people to get a zoom just because it gives you more options. If you’re doing portraits, a 24-70mm is a great lens because it gives you a little wider for context, then a little more closer to an 85mm gives you a little more of a portrait-type lens.
Thus, I think a zoom lens is a great second piece of equipment to add to your equipment package because it does give you some options.
#3. Memory Card
Once you’ve picked a camera and lens, you have to have an SD card to go in your camera. Get two of them. Don’t buy a small SD card like 16GB. Get at least 64GB or 128GB.
At this point, 256GB is almost starting to become mandatory on a lot of cameras. It depends on what camera you’re shooting on. But get decent SD cards that are going to last you for a long time and give you the space to be able to shoot a lot of images.
Next, a tripod, you’re going to need a tripod. There will always be situations where you’re shooting where you’re going to need a tripod. If you’re doing event photography at night, you may want to get some long drag shutter images. So a tripod becomes very important. Or if you want to set up your camera and then go work with your talent. So having a tripod is just a must in photography. You may not use it all of the time, but you should always have one.
You also have to have a computer or access to a computer with the ability to sort images and send images to people. You can try to do it all on your phone but that just becomes extremely cumbersome. You don’t even need to have Adobe Photoshop — there are other programs out there that will give you a great way to sort and send images and they are much less expensive and don’t have a monthly fee.
You may not need Photoshop, but you do need a computer or a way to be able to sort your images and send images out because everything becomes about editing and fulfilling orders and getting things out to your clients.
Finally, you should get your first piece of lighting equipment: a 4-in-1 or a 7-in-1 reflector. You want to get a reflector with multiple covers because you can use a translucent to allow light to pass through it to just give a nice soft light on someone’s face. Put it up in front of the Sun and it makes it like a softbox. You can put on a hard bounce so you can bounce light back into someone’s face to open up the shadows.
You don’t even need to stand for this. There’s always a boyfriend, girlfriend, brother-in-law, somebody standing around, or a good friend of yours who will go and hold a reflector for you. But that’s going to give you a piece of lighting equipment that’s going to make your images look a lot better. They’re going to up your images significantly one level because you’re going to have much nicer lit images. And they’re going to look so much better than taking just exactly whatever nature gives you.
I’m going to mention a bonus piece of equipment. The first thing most people are going to step up to after this set of equipment is some kind of on-camera flash. The reason that we go here is that we want something that we can do event photography with or wedding photography with. Something to provide a fill light to be able to bounce off the ceiling to give us a nice light when we’re doing events or weddings. And this becomes a very easy way to accomplish that. It’s compact. It moves around with us very easily. It’s just a really simple way to work.
I’m not an advocate of buying the stuff that’s name brand because generally speaking, you can find really great aftermarket strobes or on-camera flashes that are half the price at least.
So there you have it. Secure these six items and you now are ready to make money in photography. You are ready. Get these six pieces of equipment and start learning and shooting now. But more than likely you already have all six pieces of this equipment, so why aren’t you shooting? Why aren’t you getting jobs?
Carry your camera with you everywhere you go so that people will ask, “Hey, are you a photographer?”
“Yes, I am,” you’ll reply. “Here’s my card.”
Get out there and start hustling. Network with everybody you know. Start to take pictures and put them up on Instagram of your nieces, your nephews, your family, of buildings, or of whatever is going to be key to the type of work you want to do. Just start shooting and putting things up. As you start shooting and putting things up, things will start to happen.
But if you wait (and are always buying new equipment), these six pieces of equipment are just going to sit around and not do anything while you could have a great side hustle going or a great way to make a living.
About the author: Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer with over two decades of experience in the industry. The opinions in this article are solely those of the author. He teaches photography through his company, The Slanted Lens, which runs a popular YouTube channel. This article was also published here.