5 Things You Should Spend Money on as a New Photographer

5 Things You Should Spend Money on as a New Photographer

If you are new to photography, you are probably realizing you can quickly sink a lot of money into this pursuit, often unnecessarily. Here are five things you should actually spend your money on.

I recently discussed five things new photographers should not spend their money on, which naturally leads to the question of where they should actually spend money. 

Take a Business Class

You can have all the technical talent in the world and the most brilliant creative ideas, but if you do not know how to effectively run and market a small business, you will not be successful as a professional. There are many brilliant photographers out there who are not successful because they do not know how to run a business, and there are many middle of the road photographers who are wildly successful because they understand business. You might even say that a lot of them are exceptional business-people who are in the photography business.

All that being said, as a beginner, you are likely not actually ready to start taking money for your work. Nonetheless, if you are serious about making money, it is never too early to lay the proper foundation. You do not need to get an MBA. Simply taking a night class in small business can give you the rudiments to get you on your way.


There is no shortage of products out there that promise shortcuts to becoming a competent and talented photographer, and given the long journey and hard work it takes to get to that point, it is very tempting to drop money on those things. The truth is that there is no such thing as a shortcut to mastery of the craft, but there is something that can make your route there more efficient: education.

Quality education can do wonders for your skills.

Photography is a complex amalgamation of technical skills, creative thinking, working with people, editing prowess, and a lot more. It is understandably difficult to try to take it all in at once when you are new to the pursuit, and heeding the advice of established professionals can make a huge difference in setting you on the right path in a structured and efficient manner. Even if you are not interested in making money in photography and only wish to increase your skills, having the guidance of a professional can make a huge difference in helping you get to where you want to be.

Nifty Fifty

You will likely hit the upper limits of the kit lens that came with your camera relatively quickly. The majority of kit lenses are not sharp, do not focus well, and do not have the sort of wide apertures that so many photographers seek for creative and low-light purposes. On the other hand, top-end professional lenses can reach stratospheric price levels. Before you drop thousands of dollars, get a nifty fifty instead. The term refers to a 50mm f/1.8 lens. These lenses are typically around $100, but with an f/1.8 maximum aperture, they can give you all the creative exploration possibilities you have been missing with your kit lens. After you spend time improving your skills and finding your creative preferences, then you can start looking at those more specialized, higher-end professional lenses. 


Much like the nifty fifty, a tripod is something that will open lots of new creative doors and encourage you to learn a variety of skills. You do not need to drop top-dollar for a full-fledged professional tripod, but be sure to get something relatively stable since it will have your fragile and expensive gear perched on it. Something below $200 will be more than enough. We have written about how much we love the price-to-quality ratio of Benro tripods in the past. They are a great option that will grow with you as you continue to improve.

Basic Flash Kit

When you are new to photography, you will probably learn the basics using just natural light. Eventually, though, if you want to photograph portraits, weddings, products, etc., you will need to learn how to take full control of light and craft your own setups using artificial light. First, natural light may not always work the way you need it to. For example, there might be no clouds, leaving you with hard, unflattering light, or it might be a rainy day. And if you are taking money from clients, you can't just reschedule a shoot whenever the weather decides not to cooperate. Beyond that, though, there are far deeper creative possibilities when you use artificial light and modifiers that simply do not exist with natural light. The sooner you learn to use artificial light, the better off you will be.

What is better is that you do not need to drop top dollar for a kit that will teach you about artificial light. What I would recommend is getting a wireless Yongnuo speedlighttransmitter, and an octabox kit. Altogether, such a kit should run you around $300 or $400. This will be more than enough to teach you things like light distance, fall-off, angles, and more and will remain a very useful on-location kit as you continue to grow.

Bonus: Travel

Take a trip, find new subjects.

Obviously, this is not an option at the moment given the coronavirus pandemic, but in general, travel is a fantastic option for a budding landscape, architectural, street, or wildlife photographer. Sure, new gear is fun, but it does not mean much if you do not have a chance to put it to use. Instead of dropping $1,000 on another lens, put it toward a week-long trip somewhere to build your portfolio and experience places you might have seen otherwise. Once it is safe to do so again, I suggest finding a destination with lots of photography opportunities and booking a trip. In the meantime, prepare yourself through education and practice at home.


Surely, a lot of the things on this list are not as exciting as that shiny, expensive lens or brand new camera body, but if you are new to photography and you truly want to progress to the point of mastery or to running a successful business, laying a strong foundation is crucial. Taking the time to give yourself a solid framework now will pay huge benefits in the future. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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If we are talking about photography as a profession then "sinking money" feeling is robust indication to stop and rethink the strategy. It should feel more along the lines of "taking a calculated risk" if I may say so...

If you are literally a "new" photohrapher, just enjoy it without giving any thought to what you should or should not do.

Of course, taking a business class in anticipation of becoming a professional is a thing...

If youre taking a course to learn photography business then the above article is irrelevant because most would have been shooting for a while before deciding I want to get into this (now dead market) as a profession. People are not jumping with everything together. Theres learning photography itself before that needs time to develop
I would in no way invest now in anything photography. There is almoat nothing in return till at least late summer

Yes, but it is specifically referring to "if you are new to photography" not "if you are considering photography as a profession".

Title: "5 Things You Should Spend Money on as a New Photographer"; First advice: Go to business class. I think it's quite save to assume that they meant photography as profession, not a hobby.

You would think so; however, the first sentence of the first paragraph is "If you are new to photography, you are probably realizing you can quickly sink a lot of money into this pursuit, often unnecessarily. Here are five things you should actually spend your money on". Alex isn't normally that sloppy.

Do travel first. You'll get sick, die and you can save money and time on the other stuff.

Nifty Fifty "These lenses are typically around $100". 🤣

RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Canon Store: $2299.00

"The term refers to a 50mm f/1.8 lens" - f/1.8, not f/1.2 ;)

Oops my bad. Canon doesn't make an RF "Nifty-Fifty"

And yet the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM works seamlessly on RF cameras with a simple EF → RF adapter. Since the RF protocol is an expanded version of the EF protocol, EF lenses can be "natively adapted" to RF cameras with absolutely zero loss in functionality compared to using those same EF lenses on EF mount cameras. Zilch.

YouTube can sometimes be good for "here's one thing you can learn" types of things. I find it severely lacking in terms of a structured, systematic approach to any kind of foundational education in the basics of photography.

I also find it extremely frustrating that I can usually read in less than five minutes the content it takes most YouTubers 15-20 minutes to present in a video if they would just go to the trouble to type up their words, and it takes even less time to digest if they critically edit them.