Essential Photography Equipment for Beginners
As a beginner photographer, researching and choosing the right photography equipment may be confusing. The “right” equipment isn’t a make-or-break deal. Good photography is about the skills of the photographer behind the lens, and having at least the basic gear is crucial to get great results.
In this article, we’ll help you feel more knowledgeable when choosing the essential photo equipment as a beginner.
What Do You Consider Essential Photography Equipment?
You don’t need the priciest equipment for photography to start your photography business or hobby. At the very least, you will need to have a camera and a lens. Famous photographer Chase Jarvis once said “The best camera is the one that’s with you,” so keep that in mind when buying new equipment.
It’s important to understand more about camera features and lens abilities before making your purchases. Once you understand what you are looking for, take the time to do comparisons between options within your budget. Don’t forget to factor in add-ons like software or accessories.
Let’s jump into our list of the essential photography equipment you’ll want to learn about to be efficient as a photographer.
Choosing which camera is best tends to be the most confusing when you’re first starting to look for photography equipment. Camera bodies can range from a couple hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, so there’s a lot to take into account before deciding on one. Remember, regardless of the different features or capabilities, a good camera should be effortless for you to use. You don’t want to get a camera that’s so simple that it doesn’t challenge you. Still, you don’t want one that’s too complicated for you that you never pick it up again.
The first thing to understand when looking at camera bodies is the difference between a DSLR camera and a mirrorless camera. DSLRs have an internal mirror that reflects light from the lens to the viewfinder, so you can see exactly what the lens is seeing. Mirrorless cameras are more compact and lighter than DSLRs, showing a digital view of what the lens is seeing.
While the smartphone or point-and-shoot camera you may already have can be a great starter option, it’s important to know its limits. If you’re looking to upgrade in capabilities, here are two great options to look at.
The Nikon D5600 is an entry to mid level DSLR featuring a 24MP APC-C sensor, 39 point autofocus, a 3.2in vari-angle LCD with touchscreen control plus wifi and bluetooth connectivity.
Canon EOS 250D
The Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3 is a great entry-level DSLR. Positioned between the entry-level EOS 2000D and the EOS 850D, the EOS 250D is Canon's smallest DSLR. It features a 24.2MP sensor with Canon's Dual Pixel AF technology, 4k video recording and accepts EF/EF- lenses.
The next essential piece in your photography toolbox will be your lens. A lens may be more important than the camera body itself since it’s what actually allows the light to focus and reach your camera sensor. This is where, if you are able, you should splurge a bit to upgrade your lens.
You’ll want to get an interchangeable lens camera, which allows you to swap out lenses for different shooting scenarios. The types of lenses you’ll need will depend on the type of content you’ll want to photograph.
There are three types of lenses to know about:
- Prime lenses have a single focal length, which determines how much of a scene a camera can capture. Prime lenses cannot zoom, but they are often sharper, lighter, and sometimes cheaper than other lenses.
- Zoom lenses allow more than one focal length, allowing you to zoom in or out on a subject. If you buy a camera kit or bundle, you’ll find that the kit lens included is often a zoom lens.
- Wide-angle lenses allow you to capture much more of the scene you are photographing. They have a short focal length and a wide field of view. Different than a zoom lens, a wide-angle lens allows you to get close to a subject while still capturing the scene surrounding them, creating a more in-person feel for the photograph.
If you’re a beginner and looking for a couple of lens options to get started, here are two prime lenses that you can look into.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
The nifty fifty as a lot of photographers will call it, a 50mm prime lens is a great all-around lens to have in your arsenal. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8D has a 64mm diameter with a wide aperture at f/1.8.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and the Nikon are very similar in features. With a wide aperture of f/1.8 as well, the Canon lens does have a silent auto-focus motor that the Nikon doesn’t offer. Because of this, the Canon lens will often be priced higher than the Nikon 50mm.
A flash might not be essential like a camera body or lens, but it can be the defining factor in taking your photography to the next level. A flash can brighten your subject in dark environments, add light shapes to your subject, or even brighten shadows during daytime shooting.
When buying a flash, if a pop-up flash isn’t a part of your camera already, it’s important to note if the flash will work without being attached to the camera. As well, you’ll want to think about diffusers to soften the harsh light flashes can create.
A couple of our beginner flash recommendations are the Yongnuo YN568EX III and the Nissin i60A. The Yongnuo is compatible with only Nikon and Canon camera bodies, while the Nissin is compatible with Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. Both are manual flash, but the Nissin offers zoom adjustment, bounce, and secondary flash mode.
A memory card is essential for storing your photos and transferring them to your computer. While some cameras will include a memory card with purchase, be sure to check if one comes with your purchase and how much storage it offers. You’ll want a memory card with at least 16 or 32 GB. Also, the speed of the memory card is something beginners often overlook. A fast memory card can save a ton of time between shots and is useful if you’re capturing video, too.
There are multiple, different types of memory cards you can choose from:
- Secure Digital High Capacity cards (SDHC) are for high-definition photography and video, with between 4GB and 64GB of memory.
- Secure Digital Extended Capacity cards (SDXC) are larger SDHC cards, starting at 64GB up to 2TB.
- microSDHC/microSDXC cards are the micro-equivalents of the larger SDHC/SDXC cards.
- CompactFlash cards are often used by professionals, boasting bigger capacities and higher speeds than the SD cards.
- CFast cards are the next generation of CompactFlash cards, supporting the SATA III interface with faster writing and reading speeds.
- XQD cards are primarily used with Nikon and Sony professional cameras, offering higher storage limits and faster speeds than CompactFlash or SD cards.
- CFexpress cards are the latest generation of the CompactFlash cards that have been designed to keep up with the more recent high-resolution photos and video.
The memory card you purchase will highly depend on the type of camera you choose and the type of content you are photographing. Two of our recommendations for beginners would be the SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDXC and the Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3.
A camera bag might be the most fun and easy purchase out of your photography equipment. A camera bag doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and this is an area you can choose to cut back a bit if need be. While it’s all about how comfortable the bag is and how it fits your equipment, the type of camera bag you choose will be dependent on the type of photography you do. For example, landscape photographers may need more of a hiking bag while a portrait photographer may need a rolling bag to fit all the needed equipment.
Have some fun when researching camera bags since this is a relatively easy thing to buy as a beginner. A couple of our favorites are the LowePro Streetline SL 140 and the Think Tank TurnStyle 20 V2.0.
Tripods are another accessory that’ll depend on the type of content you photograph. If you’re a landscape photographer, a tripod is essential to keep your camera focused and your hand still. However, if you’re a portrait photographer and are moving around a lot while shooting, you may not even use a tripod all the time.
The factors to look for in a tripod are how stable, light, and affordable it is. You might have to compromise on one to be stronger in the other areas. Do the research for tripods frequently used within your niche. A couple we recommend for beginner photographers are the Joby JB01507 Gorillapod 3K and the Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod. The Joby is a great portable and flexible option if you move around a lot or are on the go. The Manfrotto has extendable legs that would be great for a landscape or action photographer.
While your camera will come with one battery and a charger, it’s important to grab a backup battery (or two or three)! You never want to be on location or with your subject in a studio—and your only battery goes dead. Most photographers will have multiple batteries and even multiple chargers to ensure they’re always prepared and ready to go.
While the camera manufacturer’s battery will most likely perform the best with your camera, off-brand or third-party batteries can be just as good at a cheaper price. Do your research and read reviews to see which third-party options work best with your camera. The Canon LP-E6N and the Canon LP-E17 batteries have been known to be a couple of the best when it comes to beginner camera options.
Filters allow you to alter the light your camera captures. While they can amplify your photos, they aren’t always necessary. If you’re interested in learning or exploring filter options, there are a few different types you’ll want to get to know.
Neutral density filters reduce the light that reaches your sensor, allowing for slower shutter speeds and larger apertures.
- Neutral density graduated filters allow you to darken a portion of the image without affecting the rest of the scene.
- Clear filters most importantly protect your lens, cut out UV rays, and can be used in extreme photography conditions. These are also known as Haze or UV filters.
- Polarizing filters can decrease reflections, increase contrast, and enhance saturation. These filters are useful if you’re photographing landscapes, plants, flowers, or water.
Two filter options you might want to start with as a beginner are the Gobe ND1000 (10-Stop) ND filter and the Tiffen Polarizer.
Now that you’ve got the equipment needed to take some great quality photos, it’s time to think about the tools needed after you transfer those photos from your camera to your computer. No matter how professional of a photographer you are, almost all photographers will need to edit their photos in some capacity.
This purchase option can be highly personal and depends on what your preferences are. Adobe Lightroom is a great option specifically for photographers. Currently, Adobe also provides you with Photoshop when you subscribe monthly for Lightroom, which gives you a few more capabilities on the editing side. If you’re looking for an alternative to Photoshop, Affinity Photo is an inexpensive and accessible option. However, it does not replace Lightroom’s capabilities.
Picking your photography equipment as a beginner doesn’t have to be challenging. While some of these tools are nice to have, it truly is about the camera in your hand and the photographer behind the lens.
Once you have the tools you need and you’re ready to get started, Agency Access’ database of over 95,000 contacts can help you get in contact with professionals that can help you gain experience. Stay updated with Agency Access’s email newsletter (in the sticky header up top ☝) to learn more about taking your photography to the next level.
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