You don’t need tons of cash or expensive gear to start a photo biz

Photography

Nicole Hill

by

Money can be a HUGE stressor for new photographers, and for so many reasons. After all, a scroll through Instagram will make you think that you need a $5,000 camera, a brand new lens, AND a new computer to edit on.

And, when you got into photography because you loved it (like so many of us do), it’s really easy to forget about that passion, get caught up in the comparison game, and feel like you need it all to be successful.

You don’t. I promise, promise, promise. 

All you need — truly — is a deep belief in yourself, a willingness to keep learning, and an ironclad understanding of how to use ANY camera (no matter how much it costs).

Now, trust me… I have been there and then some when it comes to feeling behind on my own in photography. The early days of my business were hard, I remember wondering how I was ever going to make enough money to be successful.

But I did it. You can do it, too — and you can do it all without a new camera, without a massive savings account, AND without sacrificing everything that’s fun and beautiful about life. 

Plus, you already know I’ve got you.

My start (AKA humble beginnings)

When I started my photography business, I didn’t even own my own camera — and I certainly did NOT have any money. First, I borrowed my friend’s camera… and then I rented from the school I went to, and saved up for what felt like forever (3 years to be exact) before I could get my hands on my own. It didn’t stop me, though — and, in fact, I’d recommend it to anyone.

Why? Because I learned how to use ANY camera. It didn’t matter how much the camera cost or how many scratches were on it or how many people had used it before me — I learned how to manipulate light, to compose photos the right way, and to get incredibly confident with the ins and outs of photography. I know that if I had started photography with every single piece of gear imaginable I wouldn’t have pushed myself to learn as much as I did — and that pushing myself is what made all the difference for me. 

The technical fundamentals matter more than anything — and I can guarantee you that Annie Leibovitz and Paul Nicklen and all of the photographers we all love can make as much magic from a $300 camera as they can from a $3,000 one. 

Why? Because the skill > the equipment, always.

How to save $$$ as a new photographer

I know from personal experience — and from tons of people in the Horizon Found community — that saving money as a photographer is really, really hard. After all, we’ve probably all felt the feeling of not knowing how to SAVE when we don’t have any LEFT after bills in the first place, right? 

Pair that with trying to build a business + getting caught up in the Instagram game, and oof. It’s a lot, and it becomes a stressor fast. Here are some of my favorite (easy) tips for saving money in your photography business:

Make saving easier with apps: Intentionally saving money as a photographer is really hard when you don’t have it. I remember forcing myself to save $20 at a time after shoots to save up for things I needed in my business, and it felt like a really, really big deal at the time. Nowadays, though, there are apps that make saving a no-brainer (especially if doing it intentionally just feels impossible). 

You can set goals in apps like Qapital and Digit, connect your bank account, and set savings rules that do things like round up your extra change or save $5 every time you get paid. It sounds small, but it adds up fast — and it’s a particularly good way to save up for specific things, too.

Rent + buy pre-owned gear: I know I’ve said this a million times in this blog post alone, but it’s because it’s SO important — you don’t need a new camera! I promise. First, renting is a great way to decide what kind of camera you even want and vibe with the best. There are websites that you can rent from, and you can also check out local schools + universities for rental programs. 

If you’re ready to buy, I’d highly recommend buying refurbished or pre-owned gear from a reputable dealer. The vast majority of the time it’s just as great as new gear, and you can save a ridiculous amount of money on it *just* because of the refurbished label.

Ditch the comparison: Everyone knows the saying “keeping up with the Joneses,” and for good reason — everyone struggles with wanting to have the same things as everyone else, no matter if they’re new photographers or uber-wealthy CEO’s. It’s human nature. 

But, I can promise you — if you can find a way to dig inside and ditch that comparison, you’ll save yourself money and you’ll boost your own self confidence at the same time. Comparison is hard for everyone (everyone!), but take care of yourself first. 

Take care of your gear: The easiest way to save money on gear is to take really good care of it so you don’t need to repair it or replace it. It’s that simple. Make sure you’re intentional about how you treat your camera and equipment, and consider it a part of running a good business!

Quick tip: INSURE your gear. Paying an insurance deductible is a lot cheaper than a new lens or camera if something were to happen to it.

Plus, the proof is right in front of you — meet Sarah Fiorillo AKA Wild Bloom Photo Studio

I feel SO lucky to teach and get to know so many incredible students inside The Photographer’s Path. We’ve had a ton of students take my advice to heart and build their businesses without crazy camera upgrades and I wanted to highlight one to give you a little encouragement:

In February Sarah shared this with our private Facebook Group

🎉 I am proud to say that only 3 months later Sarah quit her job to go FULL TIME as a photographer. Same lens, same gear, but a completely new way of approaching and thinking about photography after completing The Photographer’s Path. 🥳


If there’s anything I can teach you and remind you of with this, it’s that you’re not EVER alone in any of this. Ever. Photography and starting a business can be equal parts beautiful and overwhelming, but that’s part of what makes it so, so worth it. So, whether you’re barely rubbing two pennies together (like I 1000% was when I was getting started) or trying to learn how to be better with your business finances, I’ve got you.

The doors to The Photographer’s Path are reopening on October 6th! Don’t miss out on transforming your business alongside this supportive community of women.

Learn more about The Photographer’s Path & join the waitlist here!

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meet the photographer

HI! I'M NICOLE HILL

I've spent the last decade of my life traveling the world as a fashion photographer and I created Horizon Found to give you everything I wish I had when I was starting my career. Here you'll find community, inspiration, and education - to help guide you down the path towards building the photography business of your dreams. My dream is to use this platform to help build a supportive environment in the photography industry.

I'M HERE FOR YOU!

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The Photographer's Path is currently closed.
Get on the waitlist to get early access and special bonuses not offered anywhere else!

The Photographer's Path is currently closed. Get on the waitlist to get early access and special bonuses not offered anywhere else!