There’s no question that photography is a very expensive profession to get tangled up in, especially when you’re just starting out and you have to make all those big capital investments. With that in mind, here are six ways that you can save money so that you don’t drive your freelance photo business into the ditch before it even gets off the ground.
1. Buy used camera gear: There’s always been a good market for used photo gear, but ever since the Great Recession, or whatever they call it, tons of great equipment has found its way onto eBay and Craigslist. Picking up a used version of the lens or camera body you want can save you hundreds of dollars. With today’s high tech bodies, I’d probably go for used lenses over cameras these days, but don’t rule out the option if you’re on a tight budget. Check out the B&H Photo and Video used equipment department for some potentially big savings.
2. Buy refurbished computer equipment: I wouldn’t chance buying a used computer, but refurbished models are a great way to save lots of cash. Often times refurbished items are just overstock, display models or items that were returned unused. If you’re a Mac user, check out the Apple Hot Deals page.
3. Trade for services: While it can be insulting when clients offer to trade instead of paying you for your services, trading can be a very resourceful method for photographers to save money. I’ve traded for graphic design, bikes and bike parts, clothing that I end up using for stock shoots, beer, climbing and outdoor gear and all kinds of other things that I needed and would have spent money on anyway. Don’t go too overboard with this, though, ultimately you want to establish the notion that you would prefer to be paid for your work.
4. Use shareware/freeware software: If you’re just starting out and on a very tight budget, you may not have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on the software that you’ll need. Start out by using programs like Gimp, which is a great, free alternative to Photoshop, and consider using programs like iPhoto or Picasa for your image management. As your business grows, you can eventually upgrade.
5. Make good use of social media and blogs: Social media is essentially free marketing if you use it right. Chances are if you’re just starting out, you have more time than money, so spend some of it cultivating social media relationships on Facebook and Twitter. This is a great way for you to get exposure without spending any money, and you never know how those relationships will pay off in the long term.
6. Get a library card: As a photographer, you can learn a great deal from reading books about how to improve your craft, grow your business and how to master light, equipment and software. However, buying every photography book would certainly put you in the poorhouse. Visit your local library or used bookstore and see what they have before making another trip to Barnes and Noble or Amazon.
And once you’ve saved all that money, here are 10 great cashflow tips that any photographer should heed.
Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Follow his own blog at danbaileyphoto.com/blog and see his daily updates at facebook.com/danbaileyphoto.