When you are first starting out, it can seem like there is so much to do just to get started on the path of following your hobby or passion. Photography equipment is no different, there are such a plethora of devices, gadgets and accessories that it can be hard to know where the necessity starts and the unnecessary want begins.
Pocket Wizards, Quadcopter drones, hot shoe, external flash kit, E mounts, Prime lens, back up cameras, ring flashes, chargers, tripods, reflectors, straps, camera bags, wireless triggers, studio lighting kits and that is not even to mention the editing, print or image protection implications.
If that all sounds like gobbledygook to you, then I am happy to say that to start in photography the only kit you are going to need, is yourself and a camera suitable to capture your vision. But even as simple as this sounds it can get pretty complicated.
Let’s take a look at some of the critical components needed to start out in photography.
Cameras do not take amazing photos, people do. Photo Source: Unsplash
At the start of your photography journey, it can be hard to realise that cameras are just tools. Cameras do not take amazing photos, people do, and while cameras are an essential tool, they serve merely as a conduit for your vision.
A professional photographer could take an award-winning photo on a disposable camera, and a novice can take the worst picture ever seen with a £2,000 Digital SLR. This highlights the point that although having proper quality equipment helps, it will not select the target of what to photograph for you.
When I was selecting my first Digital SLR camera as a teenager, I knew the choice was up to me. My parents would buy me any new camera, but I had to know which camera I wanted them to buy. I spoke to my teachers, but they all came up with different answers.
I spoke to my uncle who is a professional photographer, and he gave me the best advice. First, he told me that there is no perfect camera there is only the ideal camera for what you want to photograph, as the subject changes so will the ‘perfect’ camera. Next, he told me to ask myself 3 questions, and from the answers, I would have a short list of cameras that would work for me.
It worked! And 4 ‘perfect cameras for me’ later this formula still works. I now offer these questions to you and hope that they can help you in some way to define the kind of photographer that you want to be and thus which camera you need to support your vision.
Read more about choosing the best camera for you.
Point and shoot cameras and compact camera are light, easy to use and fairly cheap. All have automatic modes, and some have manual modes and other cool features. Great for the novice or the complete beginner.
Mirrorless cameras are like DSLRs but without the mirror hence the name. Being mirrorless makes them as light as a point and shoot but with almost all of the punch of a Digital SLR. It also has an interchangeable lens, real-time electronic viewfinders and is full of manual and auto features. They are much more expensive than a point and shoot camera. Great for the enthusiast and professional
Digital DLSRs are like mirrorless cameras except they have more lens options, longer battery life, slightly bigger sensors and generally a faster focus. They are big, bulky and heavy but give excellent results. Especially if you like action photography DSLRs will be the perfect companion. They are well suited to the professional photographer
The most important thing that you need as a photographer is your camera and a stack of memory cards. Photo Source: Unsplash
Choosing a lens for your camera is the most important thing you can do. If the camera is the conduit that connects you to your subject, then the lens of the camera is equivalent to your vision. The lens and type of lens that you decide to use is critical to the output of the pictures that you will get. There are too many types of lenses available so let’s just go over the important ones.
This is the lens that you are most likely to get to know first as it will probably be bundled with your camera purchase. Standard lenses are excellent general purpose lenses with a nice wide angle and generous zoom. The most popular focal length for a standard lens is the 18mm – 55mm. The primary downside of these lenses is that they don’t compare to professional prime lens for clarity and speed
Example of a standard lens
A fisheye lens gives a panoramic effect to your photos, the viewing ratio is around 180 degrees although this differs with different lenses. The beautiful thing about a fisheye lens is that it can bring effortless creativity to your images. Fisheye images can be quite breath-taking when used the right way but some people feel that they are too gimmicky to count as serious photography, I disagree. The only downside of this lens is that it does carry with it a rather heavy and noticeable distortion. This means if not used well it can result in an ugly distorted image. The focal length of this lens is usually between 8mm – 10mm,
Example of a fisheye lens
A wide-angle lens gives you the power to capture landscapes, scenery and any scene where you would like to have a wider angle. This lens is excellent at keeping the subject sharp and well-focused; however, there are slight distortions which are not always noticeable. This lens has a focal length range of 24mm – 35mm
Example of a wide angle lens
A macro lens gives you access to photographing subject close up. Depending on the lens you can photograph in great detail the fur on the back of a honey bee, the legs of an ant or the pollen of a flower. This is the ultimate ultra close lens that lets you capture what the eye usually cannot see clearly. There are many types of lenses, and the type you choose depends on how close you want to be to your subject. These lenses are incredibly sharp so make sure you have a steady hand while shooting. The focal length is roughly 50mm – 160mm
Example of a Macro lens
A telephoto lens is a lens that you would have seen the paparazzi use or the lens you often see on safari. They are usually big, noticeable and heavy, but you don’t need to be anywhere near your subject so you can take fantastic pictures from far away. Great for Street views, sporting events, landscapes and wildlife shots. They have a focal length of 135mm – 300mm + and you will need a steady hand or a tripod to use it effectively.
Example of a Telephoto lens
How does this equipment help me to capture a better photograph? If it doesn’t then you probably don’t need it. Photo Source: Unsplash
The most important thing that you need as a photographer is your camera (camera+Lens) and a stack of memory cards. Once you have these, you have everything it takes to be a great photographer. But sometimes other things are needed based on your requirements.
Such as if you want to be a studio photographer then studio lighting and flash accessories will be required. If you’re going to photograph different kinds of environments, prime lenses will be essential to help you get the best out of your image. If you’re going to take long exposures then a Tripod, monopod, and Gorillapod will be your best friend. Or maybe you just need the simple camera carrying bag or camera strap to keep your camera safe.
There are thousands of photography accessories out there, but before you start looking for something, the primary thing to ask yourself is how does this help me to capture the best photograph? If it doesn’t then you probably don’t need it.
My formula for a great photographer is
As a beginner with a camera all you need now is the knowledge to learn how to best capture your subject. Being a great photographer doesn’t take lots of experience, but it does take having these 3 things come together to capture a moment in time.
You can study in a variety of ways, and the cost would change from free to expensive depending on your choice.
Prices are very subjective in photography and depend on your level, who you chose to teach you and where you choose to be taught. For example, a degree in London can cost almost twice the cost of a degree in northern England. Taking classes online will be cheaper than taking face to face photography courses. If you are a beginner, you will pay more than an enthusiast who just needs a refresher. The most important thing is to set your budget and search for the solution that suits your circumstances.
If you are just starting out you might be tempted to buy the most expensive and best quality photography equipment with all of the bells and whistles. But if you speak to any seasoned professional photographer, they would probably tell you that this is a rookie mistake.
Buying everything outright you may find that you never use half of the stuff. Photography can be expensive but it doesn’t need to be, so if you want to get started but appreciate saving your pennies it would be best to invest your money and time in the most essential items. Leaving the rest for when the need arises, building your kit slowly.
Remember photography isn’t about if you have the coolest kit. When a person looks at your photograph, they don’t think about if you had the latest pocket wizard or tripod. All of that falls away into the background because the primary focus is always going to be the quality and composition of your photograph. If it doesn’t make your photo better then you probably don’t need it.