Mistakes Make Magic

7 Tips to Start Your Wedding Photography Business on a Budget

7 Tips for starting a photography business on a budget

October 27, 2022

I’m Catherine.
A New Orleans based wedding photographer and educator. We are excited you are here and cannot wait to connect with you!.
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7 Tips for starting a photography business on a budget

Would you believe me if I told you that when I started my wedding photography business, I had to start it from the ground up? 

Meaning, I never had a business loan. In fact, I didn’t even have enough money to buy my own gear. 

So how in the WORLD did I actually start my business?! 

After spending years building my wedding photography business into what it is today, I’m here to give you the tips you NEED to do the same… and help you see that you don’t need a ton of money to make it happen!

Read on for 7 tips for starting your business on a tight budget. 

1. Rent Your Gear

Like I said, I didn’t even own my own gear at first. I didn’t have $5,000 to spend on a camera body, several thousand dollars on lenses, batteries, memory cards, and so on. 

So I went to a local camera center and rented my gear. Crazy to think about, right?!

There are businesses out there you can rent gear from. Before you go all in on purchasing new gear, if you’re not yet in a position to afford things, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go into debt for your gear. 
Start out by renting, get paid for your photography, and then purchase your gear.

2. Get the Essentials

If you ARE in a position where you’re ready to purchase gear but you’re not sure what you need, I already have several videos explaining my favorite lens, my go-to camera, and all the gear in our bags

But in general, make sure you have:

  • 1 main body
  • 1 backup body
  • At least 1 zoom lens or prime lens with a bit of flexibility to it 
  • Backup lens
  • A speed light or video light
  • Extra batteries, memory cards, and card readers
  • Back-up gear, or a back-up photographer

For example, when we photograph weddings, we photograph using a NIKON Z6II as my main body, a NIKKOR 24-70 f/2.8 as my main lens, a Nikon 50 mm 1.2 as my favorite lens, and a SB-900 as my speed light on the camera. 

I could photograph an entire wedding with this setup. The only exception would be if I needed to zoom in from very far away – in which case, I’d also need my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8. Any of these could be rented as well!

3. Only You Know When It’s Time to Transition to Full-Time

If you’re just starting your wedding photography business, you might be working another job as well. You might be treating photography as a side hustle – and that’s okay.

When I started my business, I was actually in graduate school. I had a job at the time that was paying the bills, and my photography income was supplemental. 

This is actually a great place to be at the beginning. You’re not putting all of your eggs in the photography basket when you don’t have enough business to sustain your income. 

If you’re someone who’s in that transition period, just know that’s normal, and only YOU know when it’s time to make the transition to full-time as a wedding photographer. 

Something else to consider: if you’re in a position where you’re getting consistent work, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will make the same thing every month. You will want to look at your collective annual income, and wait until you know you’re making enough annually to go full-time. 💵

Finally, if you’re working another job right now, you might feel like you don’t have enough time to devote to your photography business. Eventually, though, when you get to the point when you feel financially you can make the jump, you’ll get all that time back when you switch to full-time photography… and that’s a great feeling 🤍

4. Work for Someone Else

If you’re in the early stages of your wedding photography business, I’d recommend working for someone else.

I know that’s not always possible. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to, and so I had to start my business on my own. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. If you have the ability, definitely try to be a second photographer for other people!

When you’re a second photographer, you get to learn from professionals already in the industry. Then, once you go out on your own, you can hire out help on your own. 

You can save yourself a LOT of money by learning from those professionals who have been in the space for a long time.

5. Be Intentional About Pricing

Whether photography is a supplemental income for you, or you’re transitioning into full-time wedding photography, you want to be very intentional about pricing, discounts, and how much work you’re doing for free. 💰

What we’re doing as photographers is finely tuned skillset. It’s a profession that people take very seriously – one that documents moments that will never happen again. 

It’s HUGE. You will need to price your services accordingly.  

If you want to understand how to better price your work, be sure to download my free pricing guide

Try setting boundaries for yourself and for your business so you’re not just doing a bunch of free work for people. Portfolio building is important, but it’s not the ONLY thing. You also need to make money doing this very skilled job!

6. Look For Templates

When it comes to displaying your portfolio online, you will want to have a professional landing page on your website and a contact form where people can reach out to you. 

Instagram, TikTok, Facebook… all amazing for showing off your photos! But you NEED a professional website to house your online portfolio. 

I recommend Showit. If you use the code MAGIC (an affiliate code), you can get 10% off your annual subscription. My business, my husband’s business, and my father’s podcasting website have all been built on Showit – it’s an incredible website!

They help you get your website up and running quickly, answer your questions, and give you FREE design templates to build your website. 

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was spending money on things that were wildly expensive. I’m a firm believer in having beautiful websites and portfolios… but not if you can’t afford it! 

Look for free and low-cost templates for your online portfolio.

7. Market Creatively

Sometimes, we innately think we have to spend a huge amount of money on marketing and advertising… but some of the most powerful marketing we can do is FREE.

What do you usually have when you don’t have money? Time! 🕐

Use your time to network. Meet other planners, photographers, and clients. Go out and do what you can with the time you have to build your brand and your presence in your market. 

You might not have money, but you can look creatively at what resources you DO have to market your wedding photography business!

Want to Chat One-on-One?

If you’re ready to go all in and truly up-leveling your business and make a name for yourself in the world of wedding photography, I would love to invite you to join our incredible membership of like-minded wedding photographers. 

It’s called the Wedding Photography Society and the community is designed to be for wedding photographers wanting to completely up their game, stand out from the competition, and give their clients the experience of a lifetime. 

Because I want to ensure only dedicated, committed photographers join this group, acceptance will be on an application basis. Get the guidance you need to truly get a foothold in your market and become known as THE go-to photographer running a full-time business.

You will receive coaching from me, access to the community, and monthly content designed to help you grow your business and live a life you love designed for you.

Join the waitlist here

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