17 budget photography tips for beginners

Budget Photography

Are you overwhelmed with the price of next camera or lens you want to purchase to enhance your photography? Do you need a sturdy, carbon fiber body-built tripod? Are you finding yourself stuck with your lens and want a new one to get tack-sharp photos, but it asks you to sell kidney? Embrace budget photography. Else, photography will dig deep into your pocket without any visibility of making money in return.

Here are quick tips to get you started with photography on budget.

1. Use smartphone if you can’t afford a new DSLR right now

Smartphones have replaced lots of gadgets we required a decade ago: music player, recorder, computer, and cameras. Nowadays, you can shoot even in manual mode and portrait modes on smartphones to get flavor of DSLR photography. Plus, the fundamentals of photography – composition, lighting, editing, and posing for portraits — isn’t dependent solely on your possession capability of costly gears.

Smartphone is handy. You can do street photography, landscape photography, foods photography, and portrait photography among many of the photography genres.

Whenever I go for biking, I don’t carry my DSLR to keep my biking light. I shoot plenty of photos on smartphone. Morning vibes are amazing which I love to capture on my phone – and continue to relish both the passions.

Budget Photography on Smartphone
This picture is shot on a smartphone.

2. Start with entry level camera

If you’re looking forward to push your photography beyond smartphone and experiment with the capabilities a DSLR offers, start with an entry level camera. Google DSLR for beginners, you’ll get good results in all brands. I started my photography journey with Nikon D3200 and didn’t upgrade till I absolutely felt like buying new gear, planned budget for it, and waited for a great offer on the electronic products.

Budget Photography Portrait
This portrait is shot on Nikon D3200, 50mm f1.8.

3. Wait for offer’s season to grab deals on camera

As I said above, wait for the deals and discount on the camera, lens, or accessories you’re planning to buy. Don’t get impulsive after seeing stunning photos on Instagram or seeing a professional carrying a great lens. Hold your desires, take a better look whether this is the camera you’re looking for, read reviews, and wait for right deals to hop on.

4. Borrow gears from your friends and family

Till the time you’re waiting for offer’s season, why don’t you borrow a camera or a lens from your friends? This will not only help you learn and familiarize with the new gadgets but also guide you whether you need this camera or lens at all. Well, it goes without saying, you need to handle your friend’s gadgets with responsibility and return in time to keep the continued borrowing cycle, if you need it in future. Also, consider networking with people in your area who can share their stuffs with you. It’s always a give and take relationship – offer them what they’d need your stuffs too. Sharing is caring, you know!

5. Buy used camera and lenses

While used camera and lenses will cost you significantly less than new ones – stay cognizant of the condition of the gadgets you’re buying. If you’re buying from a shop, take your experienced friend with you to try and tell you whether the gadget is worth buying. If you’re buying from a close associate, you can trust on his or her face value. Chances are good that you’ll get photography gears at low cost and in good condition if you buy used ones. Two reasons: 1. many people do impulse buying and soon they get bored of it, and 2. professionals looking forward to upgrading their camera and lenses. Professionals, typically, handle their stuffs with a great care.

6. Look for zero interest EMI on costly gears and accessories

Even after my convincing that you don’t need a new gadget, you absolutely feel like buying it, look for ways on how you can save money buying new stuffs. Use two key skills with the outlet: 1. Negotiate on the retail price, and 2. Ask for zero interest EMIs.

While #1 is more of habit and knack of haggling. #2 doesn’t need any additional skills. There are many banks, non-banks, and credit card companies who offer such lucrative deals to increase consumption. The benefits to you are: 1. You’re not paying anything additional, and 2. You’re paying it over a period of several months.

7. Control GAS, pursue budget photography!

Yep! It’s cliché – control the GAS (gadget acquisition syndrome) within you. But I can’t complete this post without emphasizing the fact that fancy gears look attractive, you buy it, and soon you get bored out of it. Because you don’t know how to tame the beast. Invest your time (not money) in learning first before jumping on to the purchasing decision.

8. Buy next gear only if you hit the ceiling with the current one

I had Nikon D3200 and a 50mm prime lens for good couple of years. I knew I’ve tried and tested everything I could with this gear and needed an upgrade — but didn’t upgrade till I felt absolutely bored and felt like my photography is not going anywhere! Had to upgrade my gears to Nikon D750 camera and 70-200 f2.8 lens.

9. Edit on phone with free editing apps if you haven’t purchased laptop apps

Editing converts a good photo into a great photo. I, almost always, edit my photos before I say it’s a finished product. Mostly the editing is subtle. For you, it’s another avenue which will start digging deep in your pocket, if you’re not mindful of spending. Photoshop and Lightroom are best editing software. Don’t subscribe them till you’re really committed to retouch your photos like a professional. Phones have great apps like snapseed or native iPhone apps to help you with the kind of editing you’re looking for as a beginner.

10. Subscribe budget Adobe photo editing options

The purpose of you pursing photography is not to stop what you’ve been doing, right? You need to enhance your skills and take it to next level. In this post, I’m not asking you to stop investing in photography. I’m asking you to budget your spending. That said, Adobe has budget options available for the products you want to use and the duration you want to use for. Make use of their monthly subscription and trial offers to see whether you want to further continue processing your photos on Photoshop or Lightroom.

11. Don’t buy presets and actions so soon

Once you start editing your photos on Photoshop or Lightroom, you’ll find many options online to edit your photos quickly or in batches. Don’t start collecting those presets. Two reasons: 1. Learn editing by precisely tweaking each parameter like exposure, white balance, saturation etc., and 2. Presets collection is another habit like GAS – control spends on it. I don’t say not to buy at all. Buy those only after you’ve exhausted yourself enough with editing knowledge and feel that presets would help you optimize post-processing time.

12. Ask friends and colleagues to model

If you’re thinking of pursuing photography in fashion or beauty photography, you need to learn the art first. A professional model can help you create great final images. You’ll feel pressing need to hire a professional model, a make-up artist, and a stylist to make photos look like professional. Before, spending on these guys from your pocket, look for friends who can model for you or look for TFP (Time for Portfolio) models in your area. It’s win-win.

Budget Photography
An athlete friend posed for portraits.

13. Travel on budget

Going to new cities is both exciting and costly affair. That’s why I’d like to emphasize the need to research on how you can travel the city on budget. Look for budget hotels with good review on TripAdvisor sort of websites. Spot the locations for your photography. Stay close to those locations to reduce travel time and cost.

14. Use public transport instead of burning fuel on own car

Photographers travel a lot. Within the city and outside. Use public transports instead of driving own car. It will save you money and help you enjoy the journey from a commoner’s point of view.

15. Don’t pay for any promotions of your account on Instagram or any social media

Seeing overwhelming number of followers and likes of fellow photographers prompts you to increase your Instagram account? Do you want to advertise your account to increase number of followers? Don’t follow those leads. You’ll primarily fake followers. They’ll take your money but won’t result in meaningful engagement. Look for organic growth of account and meaningful engagement on your posts.

16. Join a photography club instead of joining a costly photography course

I’ve nothing against photography teachers and institutions. Those are amazing for a student who wants structured pedagogy and build career in the art. For hobbyists and enthusiasts, they can learn basics of photography hands-on with help of social networks. Join a photography club, go for photo walks with them, and learn from handful of more experienced photographers.

Budget Photography Birds
Join photo walk based on your interest. There may be many bird photographers in your area visiting to the birds sanctuary or wetlands.

17. Self-learn photography

Yes, you can learn photography yourself. I did it. Many accomplished photographers learn photography themselves. It’s not only the technique to save money but also to keep motivating yourself on your pursuit of the art. A photography school can’t teach you art. You need to explore it within yourself. The art is within you. Explore it. Experiment with it. Embrace it!

For learning technical side of photography like camera settings and editing, there are plenty on books, articles and online videos available. Photography learning is not only about learning technique or technology – consider posts like this as part of learning. Learn from other fellow photographers. Learn how they do on what they’re doing best.

Read the book The War of Art – you’ll never need a school to tell you how you can keep up with your photography passion.

What photography equipments to buy?

A general rule of thumb on buying decision of a camera is to buy what you can afford. While in the whole post I kept emphasizing on how to save money – here I’d like to tell don’t compromise your artistic capabilities due to not having an appropriate gear with you. Make a wise choice. Keep above tips in mind to save money. But not at the cost of compromising on the art.

A beginner can start with entry level Nikon or Canon DSLRs. eg, Nikon D3500 with kit lens or Canon 1500D with kit lens. Get yourself hands-on with such a camera. I owned Nikon D3200 with is previous version of Nikon D3500 for 2 years. Most of the photos on this post are taken on this camera.

Once you’ve shot around five to six thousand photos and feel like getting stuck with the entry level camera capabilities, go for full-frame camera and better lenses depending on the subjects of your interest. Advanced cameras will help you with sharper pictures, better low light performance, and other capabilities like wi-fi, bluetooth etc. Therefore, I’ve upgraded myself to Nikon D750 and bought a 70-200 lens to shoot sharper portraits. You can find equivalent full-format cameras in Canon or Sony, if you prefer those brands.

From accessories point of view, get a tripod for providing camera stability or for shooting long exposure photos. Get a backpack which can carry your laptop along with DSLR kits. Get these items during deals, you’ll find good options at a very reasonable price.

Budget Photography Streets


The crux of the budget photography is to identify avenues to stop money leakage, wait for time to ripe, and make the buying decision on merit – not on impulse.

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Author Bio

Ranjan Photography

Ranjan is a self-taught photographer with expertise in Portrait Photography and has passion of street photography. He has authored street photography book which was bestselling on Amazon.