If you want to be a professional photographer, you'll need professional-quality gear. These days, that gear has to be digital. In recent years, digital equipment has come to dominate the market, thanks to its high-quality image capture and versatile processing and editing options. Though a few photographers and their customers still appreciate the novelty of film, fields like publishing, commercial photography and stock have little or no interest in the format. With this in mind, your best bet is to purchase digital equipment for every step of the process: capture, image browsing, image editing, storage and output.
For capturing images, a digital camera is an obvious purchase, but there are several other products that are important to buy as well. If photography is your hobby, you probably already have a good digital SLR camera. It should feature a fairly high resolution sensor, but don't get too hung up on megapixels -- eight or 10 will probably do just fine. Of course, the camera is useless without a lens. Start out with a wide to short telephoto zoom lens and a short-to-medium telephoto zoom lens; these will work well for basic studio and wedding photography. Because light is such an important part of photography, you also need to invest in flashes and meters to measure and add light if needed.
Image capture is only the first step of digital photography; you need equipment to view, edit, store and print your pictures after you take them. All of these tasks require that you have a relatively powerful computer with a high-quality monitor. Many photographers pay a little more to buy Apple (Macintosh) computers because they perform exceptionally well when processing and displaying digital photography. To view and organize your photographs, try Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture. These can also perform simple edits, making your work in the digital darkroom much easier. For advanced picture editing, no program is more popular than Adobe Photoshop. In a modern professional photography business, it's critically important that you have a copy of this program and know how to use it.
Once your pictures have been edited, they have to be saved somewhere. A good rule is to save them in two places -- perhaps on your computer hard drive and an external hard drive -- and keep the two in separate locations. This should protect your data from a hard drive crash, or worse, a fire or flood. Finally, invest in a good printer. While most photographs should be sent off to a professional lab for final printing, a good wax, thermal, laser or even inkjet printer is an invaluable tool for displaying proofs to clients.
Having the proper equipment is just part of starting your own photography business. Read on to learn the nuts and bolts of making your operation run smoothly.