Ask James – Going Pro On a Low Budget

Hi James, how are you? Thank you so much for all the posts and tutorials. They’re all very helpful.

My question is:

Is it possible to become a professional photographer on a low budget with an entry level camera (Canon t5i) + 50mm 1.4, a Speedlight 430EXII and a kit lens 18-55mm being almost 50 years old? I’m trying to change from teaching to photography.

Thank you so much 🙂

Note: In fact, I’ve just realized there are like 3 questions in one, lol. Sorry, please answer what you think is more appropriate 🙂 Thank you.

-Alex S

Being a professional photographer just means that you earn all or part of your living through photography. The answer to your question is yes, you can absolutely become a professional photographer on a low budget with an entry level camera. When I started my photography business I was using a Canon 40D as my main body and a Rebel as my backup. My only lenses were the kit lenses for each camera at first, but I slowly started acquiring gear as I went along. I did family, newborn, senior and whatever else kind of portrait sessions I could find. I simply asked friends and family if they needed photos taken and told them that I was starting my photography business and needed to build my portfolio.

Here’s the important part: I never gave away my services in order to build my portfolio. Ever. I always charged something. Whether it was $100 for a quick session or $1000 for a wedding, I always charged at least something to compensate me for my time and whatever skills I had.

Start where you and grow from there. Save the money you make and start upgrading your gear to something that can better handle the situations you may find yourself in as a working photographer.

Here are a few photos from the first paid gig I ever did for the Griffin family at a local park near our old house. Enjoy, hehe 🙂






  1. I’ve read that if you use anything less than a full frame camera, you shouldn’t bother offering photos for publication, and that they’re only good for printing up to 8″ x 10″ photos. Did you limit printing size with your entry level camera? Or is the article I read just one man’s debatable opinion?

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