Professional photographers don’t become professionals overnight – by the time they can call themselves a ‘pro’ they have usually already collected a large kit of well used equipment. Professionals usually have equipment that they trust and are used to working with – it’s important that you know your tools inside out and feel confident with them.
Any professional photographer needs all the obvious pieces of equipment; a few camera bodies, lenses, accessories, lights. Accessories can include things like filters, flashguns, bags, tripods etc. In this day and age, a professional photographer needs a good computer, possibly a laptop too if they work on location, and programs like Adobe Photoshop for the most editing possibilities. You can use other types of editing software too, but Adobe Photoshop is very much seen as the gold standard of photo editing software.
That’s not to say professionals only have expensive equipment. Many photographers find what works for them and stick to it – it could be a lens that they have had since they were students learning about the art is a cheaper alternative to a flashgun. Don’t think that you HAVE to spend lots on money on equipment for the results to be good.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember that professionals tend to have expensive bodies and lenses because they do work that little bit better. Expensive lenses tend to be faster, and therefore increase productivity. Expensive bodies have more functions and have various features that may be useful.
Expensive bodies also tend to be made from Aluminum or tougher materials – pros drop their equipment more than you think! They have to withstand regular and tough use. For that reason, professionals send their cameras in to service more often (where as an amateur may only send the camera in if there is something wrong). Expensive equipment needs to be maintained and looked after regularly.
When you are starting out you don’t need one of these heavyweight cameras but as time goes on you may want to invest in a better body and lenses. You starter camera can then become your back up camera (which every professional needs – a number of back up equipment).
Most professionals also own some form of studio or artificial lights. You never know when you may need them – it’s not just for studio shots!
Professionals will always have equipment insurance and it’s something you will need if you are working with people and in venues – say if someone trips over your equipment and hurts themselves, you can be held liable for the injuries. If your equipment gets stolen you will also be covered (you don’t want to be covering thousands of puns worth of equipment). It can happen to anyone so insurance for a professional is a must.
As an amateur you don’t have to get insurance unless you feel that it’s worth your time and you know you can’t afford to replace your equipment if it is damaged or lost. The more equipment you acquire, the more you consider getting your belongings insured.