Photo gear choices are seemingly endless these days. Camera equipment and accessories, made for every conceivable photography pursuit and use, may leave you with too many questions.
What should I buy first? What comes next? Then, what are the “nice to have” but I could live without? Should I purchase professional camera equipment?
Depending on the style and subjects you want to photograph, the photo gear has different priorities. Here’s what they are:
A camera, two batteries, a strap, two memory cards, and a camera bag are the minimum image-capturing requirements. My suggestions for essential photo gear are listed at www.PhotoTravelWrite.com/My-Recommendations. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about these.
A computer for processing your photographs is also a requirement. Photographers must enhance every image created in a digital camera. It’s easiest to do it on a computer. However, you can perform some basic functions on an iPhone/Android and iPad/tablet.
Basic photo editing software comes with Apple Photos and Windows Media. The industry standard is Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Here are links to articles already published on the TakeLessons Blog.
These basics allow you to photograph many things in many genres. Keep your investment low until you are comfortable and are sure you want to continue learning this craft.
Film Cameras (nostalgic look and feel; require developing and film costs); Medium Format Cameras (uncommon; larger film/sensor size, bigger than full-frame sensors; Hasselblad is a recognizable name; uses bigger lenses; very high resolution); 360 Cameras (similar to action cameras; water-resistant; used on helmets and drones; uses back-to-back lenses; good for adventure photo and video, reality-style), and Action Cameras (used for video and outside sports; think GoPro) are more specialized and deliver a particular style.
If you are serious about photography, Compact Cameras (Point and Shoot, automatic, and lightweight), while handy and convenient, don’t measure up to the mirrorless and DSLR models discussed below.
Essential photo gear centers around either of two models. That is Mirrorless Cameras (lighter than DSLR, outstanding quality images and video, and now becoming professionals’ choice; limited camera shake, quieter, limited lenses right now), and DSLR Cameras (pro-level, lots of excellent lenses, full-frame or APS-C sensor).
You might consider making your first purchase a used camera. A previously-owned camera may help you decide which manufacturer to select. Look for refurbished gear. Canon USA and Nikon offer refurbished cameras and lenses on their websites. I have purchased refurbished cameras with “low mileage” and have been delighted with the cost savings and performance.
Low mileage in this reference means the number of shutter clicks. Cameras are built to withstand at least 150,000 shutter clicks. Ask the camera manufacturer how to determine how many shutter clicks your camera (or a refurbished one) has experienced.
Buy Only What You Need to Get Started
Don’t rush to buy an entire system. Buy the camera body and one lens – usually a kit lens. While it’s not the best quality glass, it is a perfect way to get started. As your skills improve, you will know better what future purchases to make.
Consider Renting Photo Gear
Consider renting at least two different manufacturer’s products, e.g., Canon, Nikon, or Sony. They are the major players, especially today, with mirrorless cameras taking over the landscape. Your local camera store with a rental department or www.BorrowLenses.com are good options. When you can touch and feel the equipment in your hands, you can make a more informed decision.
Online Photography Courses
Online photography courses should be on your purchase list. Lessons will speed up your learning process. While you can learn many things on YouTube, there are just some things you need to speak to someone in live training.
The best lenses for beginning photographers are the kit lenses that come with the camera. They are not expensive and provide adequate results. You won’t feel so bad if you drop the camera/lens while learning how to take pictures.
Used lenses for sale are another option for first purchases. Be cautious, however, and check the lens thoroughly. If you know the person/photographer selling the lens and know they treat their equipment well, that is a good thing. If you don’t know the seller and can’t see and test the lens before purchase, you might want to wait for a better opportunity.
Considerations When Selecting a Camera
- How does it feel in my hands? Is it too big, too small?
- How comfortable are the controls to use?
- Is it intuitive?
- Is the manual easy to understand?
- What do other people say about their cameras?
Types of photography you can accomplish with only the basics include nature, wildlife, people, action, macro, and landscapes.
- More batteries, more memory cards
- External flash
- External hard drives to store images
- Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
- Online photography courses – Digital Workflow
With the photo gear listed here as second purchases, the types of photography you can add to your skills are events like weddings, casual business photography, and family portraiture. With this style of photography, you might earn serious money.
Third Tier Purchases
As you try more advanced techniques and difficult lighting situations, filters should be added to your arsenal. Specialized filters (not haze or UV) like Circular Polarizing Filter, Graduated Neutral Density Filter, Neutral Density Filter will allow for long exposures, darkening skies, and removing glare. Using these filters will allow you to accomplish what you cannot do in Photoshop.
Studio Lights – Strobe or Constant
Learning to use and master studio lighting is a skill for serious photographers. There is a significant investment in equipment and training to do commercial work, fashion and products, actors/dancers/performers headshots.
On a guided tour, you have limited time to photograph because of the itinerary and other travelers. Go on a photography tour where you will be with like-minded individuals whose primary purpose is to capture images.
A travel camera bag might be different than your regular camera bag, and it will be beneficial because you might not take all of your photo gear on a trip. I’ve pared down considerably since my trip to China, where I carried all my photo gear up the Great Wall. You learn what’s essential when you do something crazy like that.
As a professional photographer for 30 years, I’ve made many equipment purchases. Some well worth the expense, others not so much.
In this article, we learned what photo gear is essential to create and produce an image. We also learned what accessories are required to make better pictures. The third tier buys make our jobs as photographers (or hobbyists) easier. By the time you need professional camera equipment, you will know what photo gear works best for you.
Online photography courses, such as photography for beginners, is the best way to jump-start your photography journey.
Now, go out there and capture great images!