One of the most common questions I get asked is what kind of camera and accessories should someone buy for themselves or a loved one who enjoys photography and wants to take it to the next level. Many of the individuals have an eye for posing or color of interesting angles and some people just enjoy taking pictures. Some individuals want to just improve their photography skills and some even want to go into business themselves one day. I get asked this question by family, friends, and clients at least a few times each month, so I thought I would put it all in one post to make share exactly what kind of gear I would suggest. Hopefully, this post will point you in the direction of where to start with photography gear, even if you already have a great camera.
I should come right out and say that I am a Canon fan so if you ask me anything about a Nikon, I won’t know the answer. I’m sorry… Anyway, let’s move on to my photography basics recommendations.
So the first question is…what kind of camera do I buy? I usually suggest a Canon SLR camera (SLR means single lens reflex) and this will allow you to change out lenses which are really important if you want to step up your photography now or sometime in the future. I generally do not suggest getting a kit of a bunch of accessories as most of those you will never use and the camera bags are super uncomfortable and awkward to carry. I would suggest just a camera and then a separate bag and a few other basics. There are a lot of great Nikon choices as well but since I shoot with a Canon, that is what I will talk about. Here are my current recommendations (written April 2018):
- Camera: Canon Rebel is a great starter camera and this is a basic one without all the accessory junk. It is fairly lightweight and you can change out the lenses. If you have a bigger budget, I would move up to a camera like a Canon 80d. If you have a LARGE budget, I would suggest the Canon 5d mark IV. All of these cameras offer a lot of flexibility in lens choices and accessories and they are all able to take great images in low light situations.
- Lenses: Ok…If you are getting something like a Canon Rebel, it comes with a lens. It is an awful lens. I mean, it is fine for snapping a quick picture of your kids, but if you are really interested in photography, this will not cut it. I usually suggest people start off with a basic little portrait lens like this one, the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens and the price is really reasonable. You can take some great portraits with it and it will give you that blurry background (bokeh) you are looking for. If you have a bigger budget, you can get a nicer 50mm lens like the Canon 50mm lens 1.4 and the Canon 50mm lens 1.2 is the best version of this lens length. There are a lot of other great lenses, but I think the 50mm is a great starting point.
- Memory Cards: So, the type of memory card you need depends on the camera that you buy. I like the Sandisk brand cards and they come in a variety of types. My favorites are the Sandisk Extreme SD cards or if you need a compact flash card I would choose the Sandisk Extreme Compact Flash cards. The Extreme type gives you access to their software for free if the card becomes corrupted. Everyone suffers from a corrupted card at some point so this is a great thing to have on hand. These links show you 32gb cards which is a nice big card to use.
- Memory Card Reader: After you take the pictures, you have to have a way to get them off the camera. Some computers and laptops have a card reader already installed but most do not. Some have an SD slot but not a compact flash memory card slot. Anyway, Kingston is the card reader that I use to pull the images off the card and put them on to my laptop or desktop.
- Photography Book: When I got serious about learning photography, I asked all over what the best book to buy and the book Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson. I will tell you that this is not an easy book to read… I think I read it three times before I really got it but it is a great resource and it is now in its fourth edition/reprint. It really is a fantastic beginner photography book.
- External Drive: You need to store your pictures on an external drive or they will bog down your computer. There are so many types of external hard drives. My favorite hard drives are the Western Digital My Book Hard Drives. I would suggest at least a two terabyte drive as that gives you enough room to hold all your images. I also like Seagate external hard drives.
- Online Backup: You also need a drive or online services to back up your images as electronics do fail. I personally love Dropbox and how easy it is to use and the basic storage is free. I like to use it to share pictures easily with friends and family.
- Camera Bag: There are TONS of bags out there and I feel like I have used plenty of them over the years. I started out with the Crumpler 6 Million Dollar bag and after years of use, it is still in really great shape…it is just small for me with this being my job. You can actually get a 4 or 5 “million” dollar bag which is smaller than the 6. If you are looking for a cute bag, Kelly Moore has some cute options. I was a little rough on my Kelly Moore bag so it didn’t last as long as it would for most. I now use this Think Tank Bag that holds a ton of gear and I can roll it.
- External Flash – some SLR cameras have a pop-up flash but the problem with those is that your pictures will look…well…”flashy” The light will be hard and direct and not that flattering. I suggest using a Canon 430 EXIII to start with although I now use Canon 580 EXII’s and I love them.
- Camera Strap: The strap that comes with your camera is short, hard and uncomfortable. Spend a little money getting a longer strap (I like wearing mine crossbody) and one with a padded area on the shoulder. I mainly use Canon pro ones like this but I just bought a new brand that I just put on the camera and I have not done a session with it yet. I will have to update this after I try it out. I have heard great things about this strap.
I hope this list of photography basics will help you in your search to improve your photography gear and then hopefully your images. If there are items that you think I may have left out, please email me at email@example.com and I will happily add them to the list. Thanks y’all!