How To Start Photography Cheap without buying any gear

Photography has been very popular in the past years, and a lot of beginners are learning and practicing this art every day. However, most cameras in the market are too expensive, and also some good photography lessons can make you spend hundreds of dollars, which can make this hobby pretty expensive.

How to start photography cheap?

You can learn photography in different channels of YouTube, with lots of amazing quality content for free. Also, you don’t need outstanding equipment to start, you can begin with your smartphone. Take a look here, and I’ll show you 6 amazing ways on how to get into photography on a budget!

My name is Claudio Pereira, I am a 22 years old Brazilian photography enthusiast, and I’m here to help you find the best ways to start photography cheap. Here I separated 6 tips and tricks about how to start photography on a tight budget. Look below, and enjoy it, my friend!


1. Learn the photography basis on YouTube
2. Extract the best of your smartphone
3. Start going outside to photograph
3.1. Parks and Botanical Garden
3.2. With your pets
3.3. Shoot with your friends and partners
3.4. Take photos at night
3.5. Shoot at different parts of the day
4. Stay confident and patient
5. When to buy a camera
6. Choosing the best cheap camera

1. Learn the photography basis on YouTube

Today, one of the best and cheaper ways to start photography is on YouTube videos. Lots of talented photographers and photography teachers are offering free stuff on YouTube, and you can learn these amazing photography skills with some of the best teachers out there without spending money.

At first, you just need to understand how to use ISO, shutter speed, and aperture in your photos. These are the major components of the photography art, and understanding that can raise you to the next photography level.

And I have wonderful news for you! Almost all the current smartphones have a manual mode, and you need not buy a new camera just to take pictures using these concepts. Just open your phone camera, put it on the manual mode, and practice it!

After understanding these concepts and practicing them, you can take a better look at the photography composition.

The best way to start it is with the rule of thirds. This is a simple concept created centuries before by the painters and used until today in photography. It’s used to put more background in the scene, not only the subject.

It’s a simple way to get better photography composition, just putting your subjects on the right spots of the screen to create an amazing picture.

However, this is not the only way to get better compositions, and when you learn more, you can practice other different composition rules or even break the rules. The most important is to extract the best of your image, and you can do it, you just need to practice!

Here I selected some different channels for you to learn the photography basis on YouTube divided by the complexity level:

2. Extract the best of your smartphone

How to start photography without a camera? It’s possible and easy. Almost all phones today have a manual mode, and you can use it to extract the best of your smartphone.

You can produce amazing pictures just with your phone when you understand and apply the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture concepts in your photoshoots. These are the same specs the photographers use to control the professional cameras.

You need not buy a camera at the beginning! Smartphones improved a lot in the past years, and they can shoot amazing and high-quality pictures. Using a smartphone to take pictures is more than enough for social media, and you just need to improve to a better gear when you get more experience with your phone.

Man shooting photos in his phone’s manual mode – Photo by Frédéric Paulussen on Unsplash

The DSLR and mirrorless cameras can take better pictures, however, the quality is not so far from the smartphone cameras when using social media. The most important is who takes the picture and which are their skills, not the gear.

These interchangeable lens cameras can give you more flexibility while shooting because they have a lot of lens options, which gives you unique ways to create a composition. Yet, know how to use this flexibility before to upgrade your equipment. 

Take the best off your phone first, and after improve to a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

3. Start going outside to photograph

Photography is all about practice. The best way to start photography cheap is to go outside to take photos and practice what you had learned for free on the internet. You can start in your city or even in your home’s Backyard. 

Put the subjects in your composition using the manual mode of your smartphone or camera and apply the composition rules. You can photograph flowers, buildings, cars, your friends and many more because photography doesn’t have limits. Put your head to think, go outside, and shoot your best pictures!

Here I have some examples of places to take pictures outside 

Parks and Botanical Garden

The parks are amazing places to take pictures, because you can find a lot of beautiful spots and subjects to put in your compositions there. It can be some beautiful flowers or a friend portrait, it just depends on your imagination! You can also have an amazing experience in nature, like a picnic or just enjoying what is surrounding you.

I love parks and they are one of the best options to take pictures outside for me. My first photoshoot outside was in a park, and I have great memories of places like that since then.

It’s a brilliant idea to try it!

Me at the Recife’s Botanical Garden – Personal Photo Collection

With your pets

If you have a pet, you can use it as your picture’s subject. Probably you’ll have a hard time to stop its movements, but you can take amazing pictures from it. It’s an enjoyable way to test the shutter speed feature off your camera and freeze its movements on the composition.

You can try fresh angles and poses, and you can go inside your home or outside. It’s a superb way to start photography on a budget. 

Use your creativity to make the best photos of your pets! This is an amazing way to test your photography skills and have a great time too spending no money.

My cute dog Lilica posing to my camera – Personal Photo Collection

Shoot with your friends and partners

Probably the best way to start portrait photography is by putting your friends or partners as your models. You just need to choose a good place to go, call your friend, go ahead, shoot your pictures and enjoy it.

Call your friend to take pictures in your home, or maybe you can go outside, have a good day talking together and improve your photography skills.

 Going outside with your friends to shoot photos is an amazing way to get more confident in photography. You can practice all the skills you have learned and even combine it to create your best composition.

My love Sara posing to this awesome portrait – Personal Photo Collection

Take photos at night

When you move forward in the photography learning curve, you’ll notice that shooting at night can be difficult. Sometimes your images will be blurry or with a lot of noise and practicing at night is the best way to reduce these problems.

 Take your camera and choose a safe place to shoot photos at night. If you have an interchangeable-lens camera, you can try to use a wider aperture lens (f1.4, 1.7, 1.8, 2.8 …).

If you just have a phone, don’t worry because you can also make great photos at night. Today a lot of smartphone brands have a night mode inside it, which can help you have better images with less noise.

Sara, my girlfriend posing to this photo – Personal Photo Collection

Photograph at different parts of the day 

Photography is all about light, and the light conditions change during the day. Go to shoot photos during the sunrise or sunset, and you’ll have a more orange light, in the morning the light is soft and white, and in the evening the light is bluish.

It changes all the environment, and you can try these unique light conditions in distinct places for free.

 You can practice wherever you want, and the best part, you’ll improve your photography skills creating a better composition, and spending no money on professional light setups.

So, how to get into photography on a budget? Just go outside, put your phone/camera on the manual mode and practice a lot.

Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge – Golden Hour and Blue Hour – Photo by John Cunniff

4. Stay confident and patient

Everybody can become a talented photographer, just need to practice a lot.

I know that sometimes the people make you feel you need the best cameras, lenses, and all the best photography stuff out there to take good pictures. However, this is not true!

When you start to do photography, go step by step, learn the basics, and practice with your phone. Don’t try to start with the hard stuff, because when you are a beginner it’s normal to take some time to shoot amazing photos.

My Photography skills evolution (2013 and 2018 respectively) – Personal Photo Collection

Chances are high that you can give up on this incredible experience just because you get disappointed with your initial results, especially if you have started with expensive gears.

Just enjoy the learning curve, and be patient to move to the next steps, and I promise you’ll get into photography spending less money and having more results than the others.

5. When to buy a camera

You’ll know when it’s time to buy a camera. After starting Photography with your phone, trying all the options you have, and learning how to use the photography principles in your picture, you’ll have more confidence in photography. That’s the right time to buy a camera. 

In this way, buying an interchangeable-lens camera can give you more flexibility. You can learn how to use different lenses to create the best images you can produce. They are amazing, but starting with them can be much more difficult and expensive.

At first, learn with your phone and then move up to work with them. This worked with me and should be fine for you too, saving you a lot of money.

Sony mirrorless cameras – Photo by Aram Sabah on Unsplash

6. Choosing the best cheap camera

When you feel confident to move up in photography, it’s time to choose your best cheap camera option. There are tons of options on the market, but almost all the influencers try to sell you cameras with functionalities you don’t need, and they can be really expensive because of that.

While you choose your camera, you need to focus on three main specs: dynamic range, ISO noise, and tonal range. These are the most important specs of image quality, it’s not 4K, it’s not 120 FPS video, neither the functions the most of the photography influencers try to sell you. I have this post better describing it.

Shortly, the Dynamic Range is the luminance range the sensor can detect (higher is better). With a higher dynamic range camera, you can shoot an amazing blue sky with your subject well exposed in front, as I show you below:

As you can see, the sky and my subject are well exposed. This is because my camera have a good dynamic range, which allows me to capture both shadows and highlights with quality.

Tonal Range is the range of tones the system can produce (higher is better). A camera with a great Tonal Range can capture way more colors, which enriches your composition, making its colors similar to the eye vision.

ISO noise is the amount of noise at different ISOs. A camera with too much noise can reduce the quality of your night photos, and because of that is good to choose a camera with less noise at higher ISO.

So if you buy a camera with less ISO noise, you have more flexibility to use higher ISO numbers, helping you to create distinct types of composition, especially at night.

Going to DXOMARK can help you in your choice, and there you’ll find graphics and reviews with all these specifications together for almost all the cameras available in the market. It might be really helpful for your search!

After looking at these specs, you can choose the best camera options for you. There are a lot of camera brands in the market: Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, Fujifilm, and many more. Just choose the camera with good quality and price which fits with your goals.

That’s all my friends, and these were my tips on how to start photography on a tight budget. I hope you have enjoyed it!

If you liked this post, be free to share with your friends and take a look at my other blog posts.
Put in the comments section down below what you think about these topics!


Claudio Pereira


He is a brazilian writing in english, a student of Medical School, and a Photographer during the free time. His passion for photography started in 2012 . After discover it, he never stopped.

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