• Jessi McConnell

How to: Photography on a Budget


Model: Alyssa // Instgram: @nailditbyalyssa // This photo is from a very budget friendly shoot! We used a white blanket and layered a lace curtain over it as the backdrop. The lighting is from a large window. The "prism" effect in the corner was created using a decanter lid!

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If you've been following me on any other platforms, you may know that I'm pretty open about my financial situation. If you don't follow me, allow me to refresh you. I'm a broke ass bitch (and also go follow me!)


Being a broken ass bitch is not the only thing I am (thank dog!). I am also a business owner. A creative. A marketer. An advertiser. An artist. A perpetual student. I'm a photographer!


If you've ever dabbled in an artsy hobby, you know this shit costs coin. This is ironic because it's very difficult to make an income from the arts yet we're totally willing to dump our savings into products to help us produce more art. If you're just getting into photography, or you're interested in getting into it, I'm here to help you save a little bit of money so you can still feed yourself while feeding your creativity.


*I want to quickly add that I have included links to the products I'm talking about. As much as I wish this was sponsored or I had affiliate codes, I'm doing this just for your convenience.


1. Lower End Professional Camera

Here's the thing: people love to say "it's not the gear, it's the photographer". While I absolutely agree with that for the most part, the fact of the matter is that a point and shoot will not cut it for all projects. If you want to be able to produce high quality images for your clients, you have to purchase a decent camera. I'm a user and an avid fan of the Sony a6000 mirrorless system. I've been using this camera since I started doing photography 'professionally' and this camera has been game changing! It has an affordable price tag, even if you buy it with a kit lens. Now I got mine on sale a couple of years ago (with the kit lens) for about $600 but it's regularly more like $720 with the lens. You may even be able to find the system for less on Amazon!


The day I brought my baby home.

Of course there are cheaper camera models out there. I chose Sony because I used to own an Xperia Z1 and I was obsessed with the camera on it. I researched cameras for weeks before making my purchase and I'm so glad I chose this camera! It produces professional and high quality images for less than $1000.


Do your research before purchasing a camera that fits within your budget. Sometimes, it's worth it to keep saving for something that you can use more long term so you don't want to jump at a $300 camera if it's not going to work for you! Just make sure you get yourself a DSLR or a Mirrorless system so you have the capability of purchasing additional lenses.


2. Budget Friendly Lenses

Now just when you thought your new camera was the most expensive part, it's time to pick out a lens! If your camera came with a kit lens, there is absolutely no shame in using that lens for a while! These days, kit lenses are still pretty good and be used in a wide variety of jobs.


As soon as you're able to, get yourself a prime lens. The first lens I chose was a Sony 50mm F1.8 and it took my photos to the next level. It opened up wide so that bokeh was achievable and I was really able to create some beautiful portraits! This lens was about $350 and I used it almost exclusively until a couple of months ago when I purchase the Sigma 30mm F1.4 ($450). I recommend going with a 30mm or 35mm for your first prime if you can as they allow more to be seen in your frame and are therefore more versatile.


3. Lighting and Studio Sets

Once you have your camera and your lens, you're pretty much ready to go. You can shoot outdoors or in well lit areas and get beautiful images! Occasionally though, you may find yourself wanting to do a studio session. Now renting a studio can pretty costly. professional lighting and backdrops are also quite pricey! But from one bargain hunter to another, I'm here to tell you to get cheap stuff. I purchased this kit that came with 3 continuous lights/stands, umbrellas, a backdrop stand, and 2 backdrops for about $150. I also purchased this ring light from the same company because at the time it was the most affordable ring light I could find (at the time it was JUST the light and the bag, so I also didn't get any of the fun accessories with it)! Of course. today, you can get way better ring lights for the same price or just a little more.


Model: Sarah // Instagram: @sarahbainwohl // In this photo I used a cheap piece of material as the backdrop. For lighting I used 1 ring light directly in front of the model and one umbrella light behind her.

If you're not ready to purchase an entire studio set, no worries! Fake it til ya make it! I purchased a pink piece of material from my local Lens Mills and lucked out because it was crazy on sale. I'm talking less than $6 for like 6' of fabric. If you go this route, it's important to get a thick piece of fabric to ensure you can't see through it. I hang mine over a mirror and use my ring light as my only light source and boom, tiny studio!


Personally I hate flash, but I do own one external flash. I use it sparingly and only when I absolutely need to but this one does the trick for me. Mine did not come with the strap and you can definitely find cheaper options on amazon.







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These are my recommendations for starting your career/hobby in Photography! You can definitely find even more budget friendly options but these are the products that worked for me and fit my budget. If you have other product recommendations, leave a comment so other readers can compare!

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©2020 Jessi McConnell | Jess the Snapper  |  @jessthesnapper