Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at the equipment you need to start your studio or to start making money in photography. It might surprise you how little equipment you really need to be able to get out there and to start making money on the side, as a side hustle or as a career in photography. I’m going to look at this at three different levels: a very low number, a medium number and a little higher number, to get in and start your business and start making money in photography. This is an updated lesson we’ve done in the past. I’m going to look at new cameras, new equipment and just give us a rundown for these three different categories. So let’s get started.
(Today’s article is sponsored by Masterworks. Skip the waitlist and invest in blue-chip art for the very first time by signing up for Masterworks. Purchase shares in great masterpieces from artists like Pablo Picasso, Banksy, Andy Warhol, and more.)
The camera I suggested for this category back in 2017 was a Rebel T7i. It was an excellent camera and really a workhorse camera when it came to beginning photographer cameras. But today they announced, just today the R10. The R10 is an APS-c sensor. It has a lot of the same attributes that the T7i or T8i had. But it’s a mirrorless camera and it’s got some great specs. It’s got 24 megapixels. It has 30 frames a second in 4k 10 bit 4.2.2 codec. I mean that’s just an incredible place to be in the market. So that means this camera, as an entry-level camera, will give you great stills and great video. And it’s an RF. It’s an RF mount. So that means that any lenses you buy from here on out, if you decide to step up to a better Canon camera, you can use them on the cameras you purchase in the future. This camera does come with, at $1100, it comes with a 18-45mm lens. So that’s basically a 29-72mm lens. Which is a good range. It gives you wider for contextual type portraits. I like about an 85mm. I wish this lens went just a little further, it was in the 70s. But it’s going to give you a decent kind of head and shoulders type portrait lens. So for eleven hundred dollars that gets you in a great camera that I think is going to grow with you. The autofocus is incredible on this camera. It’s got 651 phase detection points. It’s just so much better. This is a great camera for this entry level kind of beginning place.
But you can’t just have a camera and a lens. I mean that camera and lens you could, but you really need something to light with. And the first thing I’m going to add to this list on top of your camera and lens is, I’m going to I want a disc. Some kind of a reflector. And so I use a Westcott 5 in one. It’s a round, pop-up reflector. It’s got five surfaces in one. So you’ve got a translucent, you’ve got a white hard bounce and you’ve got a black if you want to subtract light. That is a great way to get started. It’s amazing the number of things you can light and do with a reflector and just look absolutely beautiful. So there’s our light.
But we can’t just have a light because there’s not always someone to hold it. So we need a stand. So I use, and I say this stand and I suggest this stand. It’s a stand from Kupo. It’s a universal black stand. It goes up to 12 and a half feet tall. So it’s a big stand. It’s made to hold heavier equipment and that means it’s going to grow with you. And you’ll be able to update to other strobe heads and things on this stand. This stand will last you forever.
We’re also going to need two SD cards. I suggest two cards. This camera doesn’t have two card slots as I understand it, it only has one. But I think it’s important, rather than getting a 128 gigabyte card, get two 64 gigabyte cards. The reason is because with two 64 cards you have one being in the camera and when it fills up you can trade it. Too many people use these cards as storage devices. I want you to take this card and I want you to back it up, erase it and then bring it back to be able to shoot your next shoot. So it gives you two cards to be able to be switching back and forth. If one gets lost you got a second one. If you one fills up you’ve got a second one. So it’s just, it’s good to have two cards. It’s a great way to work.
I also want you to have an external hard drive. So an external hard drive is $60. That external hard drive plugs into wherever you’re working. We are not including a computer in this list because that’s a very expensive item. If you want to get in and start making money for sixteen hundred and sixteen dollars you’re not going to be able to buy a computer. You can go to the library. You can use one at a community college where you go take classes. You can borrow a friend’s, go to your parent’s house, I mean there’s different ways to solve the computer. But in order to accomplish that you need an external hard drive for sixty dollars. We’re going to get an external hard drive. Try to get it as large as you can get. Look for something on sale at least one to four terabytes. And that’s going to give you the place where all of your images, all of your business is going to live on that one hard drive.
We’re going to get an A clamp for six bucks to be able to put our reflector on our stand.
We’re going to get a tripod. You have to have a tripod. Tripods just open up a world of opportunities for you. You can do longer exposures, you can do a flash and longer exposure for when you work into the night. If you’re doing weddings it allows you to drag the shutter for any kind of party lights that are in the scene. Having a tripod is an integral piece of equipment. If you want a second set-up, a second camera on a tripod to be able to shoot a time lapse. I mean you just need a tripod. I suggest the Fotopro. We were introduced to Fotopro. They are not a sponsor of ours. But we were introduced to them a while back. I think their equipment is lightweight, it’s very durable and they’re just great equipment. So it’s the Fotopro X-go.
The last thing is a $20 card reader.
That’s the equipment you need. You can make money with that list of equipment for $1616 and get out there and start making money. So that’s a great entry point with a better camera than I suggested in 2017 when it was $300 less. So this is a huge step up for video and stills and a great place to start if you want to make money really inexpensively.
The second category is a sweet spot for me because you’re spending a little more money, twice, but you’re getting some really great capabilities that open up a lot of doors for you as far as working commercially. So this is going to add strobes now, which makes a huge difference, and a full-frame camera. I suggest the Canon EOS R. It’s an older camera and not a perfect camera by any means, but it’s a full-frame camera. It’s a 30 megapixel full-frame camera. It has great video capabilities, even though it has an atrocious crop in that 4k video mode. But still it gives you gorgeous images. That 30 megapixels is plenty large enough to give you great large prints off from a full frame sensor. If you get it with a kit lens, there’s a kit lens it comes with. This is a 24-105 f/4-7.1. Not an ideal lens by any means. But you get into that for $1890. So you get that one lens, you get that camera body and it’s $1890.
Now we’re going to add back in our Westcott five and one reflector for $59.90. Now we’re going to jump to Westcott FJ200 strobes. I suggested back in 2017 the Bajas which were great strobes. They really were. They don’t make them any longer, unfortunately. But the Westcott’s technology wise are one step way beyond the Bajas. The FJ200s are very small and lightweight. It’s easy for a person to carry two or three or four of these heads around with them. And they’re able to set these up, put them on their stands and shoot. And give you great stuff on location. Because they have lithium-ion batteries they’re made to be on location. So a kit of two FJ200s from Westcott is going to cost you $999.90. Now that is just the strobes and the reflectors in a little bag. But it does not give you any kind of way to modify them. So we need an octodome. I love octodomes because it gives me a round catch light in the eyes. It looks nice on the eye. It’s just I like the round better than a square. So I would start with a 26 inch Softbox or a Rapid Box from Westcott. It’s $119. I would then add as a second a modifier. A modifier that gets overlooked a lot but I think is extremely effective and this is a white/black umbrella. It’s a 45 inch white/black umbrella and it’s only $32. You can take the black cover off from it turn that umbrella around and shoot through it. It gives you a beautiful, beautiful soft light. Or you put the cover on it, turn around and bounce it and it also gives you a very nice light. So there’s two different modifiers for you. You’ve got your softbox or your octadome softbox and you’ve got your umbrella to either shoot through or bounce. It gives you two ways to modify your lights.
Now I’m going to jump up to two of the Kupo stands. So that gives us, it comes to $164.
Then our same cards, two Delkin cards, $140.
Our same external hard drive for $60.
Then our A clamp for $6 in case we want to use that reflector.
I have the same Fotopro tripod $149.
And then a card reader for $20.
And that comes up to $3,646. That is only $646 dollars higher than when we did this in 2017. But the capabilities of what you can do with this package is incredible. Those FJ200s are very small and lightweight. You can carry those with you, put the soft boxes on, this gives you a beautiful way to light a family doing a portrait in the park. I see people using these all the time because they’re lightweight, they’re transportable and it’s just easy to get around to be able to use. So it’s a great platform to work with. So there you have it, there’s category number two.
Now you could at this point, I’m going to put a sub category on category number two. So here’s my B of category 2. If you’re a Sony lover and you want to get into Sony cameras you can put a Sony a7IV on this list with a kit lens and it’s going to cost you $2,698. Which bumps this price up about $800. Which means we’re somewhere around $4,468. But now you’re into a, I think, the a7 IV has incredible video capabilities. It gives you great still image capabilities. I think that camera is by far a wedding, portrait workhorse camera. It really is. And you have to make a decision which of these categories you want to be in. Do you want to be in the Sony or in the Canon. I believe you should be in one of those two ecosystems. A mirrorless camera direction for sure. But the first category is an entry point just to get you started. This category is an entry point where you can use this equipment for a long time and I feel like it’s a solid place to stand. So there’s a Sony or a Canon option in that number two.
The third category is a more professional high-end category that has some great advantages to it. And really, if you can afford to get in at this level it’s going to be equipment that you can use for years and years to come. It’s all equipment you won’t need to replace. Equipment that’s really workhorse equipment made to help you make money. So in this category it’s going to net out at about $5,976. But it’s going to start with an a7 IV. Like I said earlier, I love the a7 IV. It’s a really great workhorse camera. Not too expensive, but it gives you a full frame. Not too expensive, it’s an expensive camera, but it gives you a full frame. It gives you great video capabilities. But we’re not going to use a kit lens with it. We’re going to use a Tamron 28-75 G2 lens. That G2 lens allows you to have a lot of creative capabilities you don’t have with a kit lens. And most of that is the fact that it’s an f/2.8. A f/2.8 lens allows you to have shallow depth of field. It’s going to shoot very quickly in low light situations. It’s just a much more effective lens to be able to use in so many different situations, for events, for weddings, all those kinds of things. It is a much more capable lens as a working professional lens than a kit lens really is. But that lens is a 28-75 so you have wide for contextual type portraits but you have a little longer for just your standard kind of portraits. And then you have a f/2.8 so the background can fall way out of focus. It’s a much better lens and it’s going to give you a much better look in this category. And it’s a Sony lens. So you can continue to buy other Sony lenses and stay in the same ecosystem. And it’s going to grow in the future.
Now you could replace this with the R6. That R6 in that same path would be a path that would work. But I think this Sony right now is a little better camera because the Sony is a 30 plus megapixel camera. Whereas the R6 is in the 20s. I think the Sony is a little better. I’m hoping to see something from Canon that gets into this category a little better. But I haven’t seen that just yet.
Okay, but I’m going to keep now my Westcott 5 and 1 reflector. But we’re going to jump now to FJ400s, two FJ400s with a trigger and a kit. That kit is going to cost us $1379. But the FJ400, even though it’s a bigger, more heavy platform than the FJ200s, it’s a stop brighter. It’s better with a high-speed sync. The FJ400s really are professional level strobes. You can do great work with them. I think they’re really a strobe that will last you forever and I really, I shoot all FJ400. Well, I have FJ200 and FJ400 but I love the FJ400s. I love the power I get out of them. And I love the portability with the lithium ion batteries. Great platform. So when you get two of those we’re going to add, we’re going to stick with our Westcott Octo the 26 inch softbox. But we’re going to also now add a Westcott Rapid Box, the 36 inch rapid box. It’s bigger, it’s going to be a more wrapping light. I’ll use that as my key light. Whereas, I’ll put the 26 inch in the background as a rim light. I want that big soft light up front for a lot of the purposes, a lot of applications and that 36 inch Octa-dome looks fabulous.
All right, then we’re going to jump to our same umbrella. Keep that umbrella. That umbrella gives us another option if you want to be able to throw something up rather than just a soft box. When you do a shoot through or a bounce it’s a great option.
We’re going to add another stand. Three of our Kupo stands now so $246 for three Kupo stands. But those stands will last us forever.
I still have my two Delkin SD cards. I would probably consider at this point the next purchase of getting another third card or a fourth card so you have more to back up to when you’re shooting.
And then we have our external hard drive for $60.
Our A clamp for $6.
Now for a tripod we’re going to step up to the Fotopro Xgo plus. I compared this with a bunch of other tripods and just trying to see if there’s something else out there I liked better. I didn’t find one that I liked better. I carry this tripod with me and it’s a great platform. It’s lightweight, it’s small, it goes up tall. So it gives me the ability to shoot high enough to be able to really make it worthwhile. I think it’s a great platform. But it is $259. But that tripod will last you forever. Everything on this list is equipment that will last you for years and years and be able to make money with for years and years.
Then of course we have a card reader and that wraps us out at $5,976.70
if you were to tell a restaurant owner, a bakery, a dry cleaner, an automobile shop could you could start your business for $5,976 dollars they would be like “really and start making money?” I’m going, that’s unheard of. It may sound like a lot of money to you and as a side hustle maybe that is too much money. So drop back to the category two which is less of an investment. Or if it’s just a side hustle and you’re trying to figure it out and you just want to see if it’s for you, go to category one. Start there. But category three is not a high level to get into an industry and to be able to make money in that industry on a very high level. And it really gives you the total capabilities to do any kind of wedding, portrait applications there, event photography and those kinds of things you need some other lenses for. But this gives you a great starting point to be able to really make money in the industry.
So there you have it, the three different levels to be able to get in and start making money in photography. You have to pick the one that is best for you, that works for you, that allows you to get in at what you can afford. You can start at level one, eventually go up to level two and then level three. You’ll add things as you go. My suggestion to you is to try to get into at least a camera that is going to keep you in a mirrorless line of lenses that you’ll be able to add to and grow with. And that’s going to keep you, give you the ability to progress and to future proof your lens selection in the future.
The only thing here that’s not going to last very long is probably some of the lower end cameras and kit lenses. You’re not going to want to stick with those kit lenses very long. You’re going to want to get into better lenses, faster lenses, prime lenses. They’ll be things you want to upgrade to in the future. But this gives you the ability to make money. If you have one of these sets of equipment you have everything you need to make money in photography. And it’s time to start. Start taking pictures. If you do that you’re going to start making money and you’re going to have the money to buy more equipment. And as you buy more equipment you’re going to be able to step up a little bit and you’ll be able to get a better clientele group. And it’s going to just snowball on itself. So choose which one you like. Choose a category. Just get started and start making money in photography. It doesn’t take as much equipment as you might think. So keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
Being in a creative field like photography allows us to express ourselves as artists. You know when you can explore the world of art through your camera lens you’re able to develop a strong artistic sense. For me, having The Slanted Lens, I can share my artistic knowledge with all of you. It’s been a really rewarding experience. I love to talk and teach photography, design principles and art. It’s just a fabulous experience for me. Even though I consider myself a commercial artist I have always loved learning about and looking at fine art. Going to art museums or art galleries, it inspires me. And it almost always gives me a boost to create something new. One new area I’ve heard about in the art world is the ability for anyone to be able to invest in art. This is made possible by Masterworks. They’ve opened up art investing to the masses, so you don’t have to be a billionaire to invest in art anymore. When I heard about Masterworks track record I was super impressed. They’ve sold three paintings to date and each has returned over 30 percent net IRR to the investors. (Legally I’ve got to add, past performance has no guarantee of future results.) But 30 percent plus is a pretty great return. I think making art investing available for people like you and me is pretty exciting. I’ve always wanted to own art. So take a look at the Masterworks link to create a free Masterworks account and start learning about what this art can do for you personally and financially.