Camera EquipmentCredit: Breanna PowersWhen I decided to become a professional photographer eight years ago, I had one Nikon 35mm camera body and a kit lens. The urge to run to the local camera store and buy everything in sight was overwhelming, "But I NEED these things!" However, my husband and I had recently committed to live debt free, and I really wanted to honor that.

When it comes to running a successful business, nothing can kill a business faster than debt. The first few years, it's hard to make enough just to support yourself, much less to pay a bunch of payments. It's easy to feel like you need everything, especially when you compare yourself to others in the business who have the nicest camera (and two more for backup), 20 lenses, fancy lights, hundreds of memory cards, stands, bags, and all the latest gadgets. But I'm here to assure you, it can be done.

Rent Equipment
If you get hired for a wedding, but don't have all the equipment you need, head to your local camera shop (or go to a site like and rent what you need. This is a very affordable option. They have camera bodies, the best lenses, flashes, etc. You'll look like a pro, and your clients won't know the difference! This also gives you a great opportunity to... 

Try Before You Buy
When I started, I had a long list of lenses and accessories that I thought I needed. I later learned (after renting, and unfortunately buying in some cases) that some of those things didn't actually work well for me and the way that I worked. Renting allows you to spend $25 to try that lens you want before spending $600 on it. And that's always a good thing.

Set Money Aside
Set aside a certain percent of your profit from every job to save up for new equipment. Keep a list going with the equipment that you need in order of most important. What will make the most difference and will book you more clients? Do you need better reception lighting? Do you want a lens with a wider apeture so you can have more bokeh? Once you've saved up enough for the item at the top of your list, buy it, then continue setting money aside for the next thing.

The Essentials
Every photographer shoots differently, so your list may be different, but here's a list of my favorite equipment.

  • Prime Lenses are one focal length (no zoom) and are usually less expensive than their zooming counterparts. The benefit is the wide apetures which allows for beautiful bokeh and great performance in low light situations. The 50mm f/1.8 is my favorite lens, and also one of the most affordable lenses out there at around $125. I also really like the 50mm f/1.4 (higher quality, higher price) and the 85mm f/1.4 and f/1.8.
  • High Quality Zoom Lenses (f/2.8) are expensive but totally worth it. They perform better in low light situations and are incredibly sharp. My favorite is the 24-70mm f/2.8.
  • Reflectors are a great way to add light to a setting while still using natural light. Also very affordable at under $50!
  • Flashes, Pocket Wizards, and a light stand or two are great tools for any lighting situation, but I love using them for receptions. 

What photography equipment is at the top of your list? Do you have tips for staying debt free in your business?