How to Get the Best Equipment Without Going Broke!

New photographers often times don’t have (or don’t think they have) the right equipment or the best equipment for the jobs they are bidding. You can easily psyche yourself out of trying for jobs because you are apprehensive about your gear’s ability to deliver. Better to take small jobs, build up your kit, and work your way to the top, right? I don’t think so, and you shouldn’t, either. Letting your equipment dictate your sales is a great way to not get jobs. Besides, just because you don’t own the best equipment doesn’t mean you can’t use the best equipment. You just plain don’t have to break the bank to have the best cameras and lenses at your disposal, folks. Here’s how:

Rent it.

If you live in a decent-sized city, you probably have someone in town that rents photo equipment. I’m sure that prices vary from area to area, so you will have to do your own research, there. Here is the pricing for the rental firm I use here in Atlanta. Basically, you have to write a check or use a credit card for the actual cost of the item. That’s a big check to write, and you’d better be good for it if the equipment breaks. If you’re insured, you can also put rental equipment on your current equipment insurance. That is a very, very good idea. You can even show a certificate of insurance for the equipment being rented (naming the renter as a beneficiary). (As a side note, Certificates of Insurance are worthy of a blog post all by themselves) in lieu of the big deposit. Equipment Insurance is a very good idea.

It’s far better to set up an arrangement with a renter well before you need it, because some have an approval process that can take some time. That could dash your hopes for a pick-up on the way to a shoot, so get a relationship set up ahead of time. There’s nothing wrong with a test drive or two, either! You can get a feel for the renter’s equipment quality (rental equipment tends to get abused) that way.

Pass the costs on to your client, and don’t forget to mark it up!

When you rent equipment for a job, it is absolutely fair for you to pass the cost of that rental on to your client. Don’t believe me? Ask John Harrington. He literally wrote the book on running a photography business. He even charges rental fees for equipment he already owns. The way he sees it, his value as a photographer is his talent, not his equipment. That’s certainly how I would like to be viewed, too.

Markups also deserve their own post. I’ll cover it briefly here, though: Markups are a totally normal, honest and expected part of a business transaction. When you markup the cost of something to pass on to your client, you are covering the cost of that activity. While you were buying such and such an item, you were not taking pictures or getting new business. So, that time costs you money. You mark up items to recuperate those invisible costs. Doesn’t feel like stealing now, does it?

Write it off.

Keep your receipts for these rentals, and don’t give originals to clients. You don’t work for their company, and the IRS doesn’t need them to produce your receipts. They are your business expense, and you should write them off your taxes. (I will certainly write many posts on tax time, but I have a lot of research to do first!) Write off your equipment rentals and shave a bit off your taxes.

Renting equipment is a great way to get your hands on top-level equipment. If you have an important wedding, fashion shoot, or something else coming up, and you need some bigger guns in your arsenal, renting is the way to go. Equipment buy-in is a huge hurdle for new photographers, and equipment rental can really save the day.

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