Here is a list of the best photography essentials all beginners should have in their kit. Knowing which camera equipment and accessories you need can be confusing if you’re just starting out with photography. But we’re here to help!
There are tons of essential tools and accessories you can buy for photography. But we’ll focus on the ones you need most to get into this hobby.
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Photography Essentials: What Equipment Do I Need for Photography?
So what should a beginner photographer buy? Of course, the top priority is a camera body. But you will also need lenses, memory cards, tripods, and accessories.
This article will discuss some of the best options for beginners like you.
1. Camera Body
Figuring out which camera you should buy is anything but easy. You can get started with a $500 camera or a $2,000 one.
The pricier camera will have more features and probably last you longer. But it can be daunting to get started on advanced photography cameras with controls designed for pros, not newbies.
Here’s what to remember before you go to the cameras store.
Mirrorless, DSLR, or Advanced Compact
Start your search for digital cameras by narrowing down the category. What best suits the type of photography you want to get into?
There are more than three categories of digital cameras. But DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and advanced compacts have the most features for anyone who wants to get serious about photography.
If you want to explore manual controls, DSLRs are a good option. They not only have all the advanced features. They also have large sensors and swappable lenses. But they are bulkier than mirrorless cameras.
But many manufacturers like Nikon and Canon have decided not to continue making DSLRs. And this has raised the question, “Are DSLRs dead?” Some photographers still like using their DSLRs. But mirrorless cameras are the future.
Mirrorless cameras are the DSLR’s lighter-weight sibling. The ones available today can shoot right alongside a DSLR in many scenarios.
And mirrorless cameras are getting better and better every year. But the entry-level best-buy cameras tend to be a little higher priced than entry-level DSLRs.
Advanced compacts are the “point-and-shoot” cameras for a serious photographer. No, we’re not talking about a $200 point-and-shoot.
We’re talking about unique digital cameras that pack in a larger sensor. And they have advanced features like manual mode and RAW file support.
Advanced compacts are ideal for travel and unobtrusive street photography. But they are more limited with a fixed lens. And many have smaller sensors than DSLRs.
You’ll also pay a premium for that small size. Many of them are more expensive than entry-level DSLRs.
Crop or Full-Frame Sensor
Within each category, cameras still have a wide range of different features. So what items on that long list of technical specifications should you consider?
The most significant indicator of a camera’s image quality is the sensor. The larger it is, the higher the image quality.
Some advanced compacts will have a one-inch sensor. It’s a bigger size compared to your smartphone. But they’re small compared to DSLR or mirrorless cameras.
Within the mirrorless and DSLR categories, most sensors fall into three categories. Starting with the smallest, there are Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and full frame or 35mm sensors.
All three are ideal for beginners. But both image quality and price typically improve as the sensor size increases.
Micro Four Thirds and APS-C are often plenty for beginners. But there’s a catch. If you start with Micro Four Thirds lenses and then jump up to full frame, your lenses won’t be compatible. You’ll have to buy a new camera lens.
Along with the size of the sensor, consider the resolution. The more megapixels (MP) a camera has, the more details you can capture. But more isn’t always better. Cameras with fewer megapixels often snap better low-light images.
Cameras with megapixel counts that go beyond 20MP are often great for beginners. But you can go higher if you have the budget.
Speed should also be a significant consideration. The easiest way to understand how fast a camera is to look at the maximum burst speed, written in frames per second (fps).
A 10-fps camera is a pretty fast camera. It’s ideal for capturing fast subjects, such as sports photography and wildlife photography.
A 5-fps burst speed is more common for a budget model. It’s often sufficient for hobbyists. But those shooting sports and other fast subjects may want to consider a faster camera.
If you want to get serious about photography, you should also ensure the camera you choose has manual modes and RAW shooting. Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs have both. Advanced compact cameras often have these features.
DSLR APS-C Cameras
DSLR Full-Frame Cameras
Mirrorless APS-C Cameras
Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Cameras
Advanced Compact Cameras
The camera lens is the other half of the equation regarding photo equipment. A camera lens determines many factors. This includes how sharp the image is, how blurry the background is, and how much of the scene you can capture.
The lens’s focal length determines how much of the scene the camera captures. A 35mm lens captures more of the scene than a 300mm.
Zoom lenses have multiple focal lengths, like the 18-55mm lens often bundled with most camera bodies.
Prime lenses have a single focal length. There’s no zoom, but these lenses are often brighter, sharper, and sometimes cheaper.
If you want a blurry background or want to shoot images in low light, an f/1.8 prime lens can make a big difference.
Along with focal length and aperture, you should also consider image stabilization. Stabilization helps prevent blur from camera shake. The longer the focal length is, the more critical stabilization becomes.
Specialty lenses offer a more specific purpose. For instance, you can use macro lenses for close-ups and fish-eye lenses for capturing vast areas. Tilt-shift lenses compensate for perspective distortion (and can create neat effects).
The lenses bundled with the camera body are often a good start. But they’re not the best lens that you can buy. The best lenses to add to your kit vary. You should buy ones based on what you want to shoot.
Here are our recommendations.
50mm f/1.8 prime lenses offer brighter performance and a more blurred background than most kit lenses will offer. Nifty-fifty lenses are great for portraits, taking pictures of kids, street photography, and more.
85mm Prime Lenses
An 85mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 is also a great portrait lens. It typically sits at a much higher price point.
70-200mm Telephoto Lenses
A 70-200mm or longer is excellent for getting up close. It could be for taking photos of birds or sports. A telephoto lens also provides a spectacular background blur for portraits.
24-70mm Travel Zoom Lenses
Do you need a faster option than a kit lens with the same wide-angle versatility? A 24-70mm f/2.8 is an excellent travel lens option but much more expensive.
Remember to choose a lens that’s compatible with your camera body. But if you’re shooting with an APS-C Nikon or Canon, you can use full frame lenses with the same lens mount.
The full frame lenses will be more expensive than your APS-C camera. But if you upgrade to full frame in the future, the lens will still be compatible.
But crop sensor lenses will cause vignetting on a full frame camera. That’s because they’re designed for smaller sensors.
Sure, it’s a small accessory. But without a memory card, you can’t take any pictures. The three most important things to remember when buying a memory card are compatibility, space, and speed.
First, ensure you’re looking at cards compatible with your camera. Some take SD cards, some CF cards, and some XQD cards.
But even within those categories, sometimes a camera only accepts SDHC or SDXC. So check your camera body specs if you’re not sure.
The memory size of your SD card determines how many photos you can fit on a single card. Whether you use one big card or several smaller ones is mostly a personal preference.
Remember that the more megapixels (MP) your camera has, the faster your card will fill up. You won’t want a 4 GB card inside a 50 MP camera.
Finally, look at the speed rating of the memory card. Inexpensive memory cards are often Class 4. Your camera will be slower at shooting photos. And it will also be slower at bringing up pictures on the camera’s LCD screen with them.
At the very least, you want a Class 10 for an entry-level DSLR with HD video. For more advanced and 4K cameras, you want Ultra High-Speed (UHS) Class 1 or 3. Just make sure your camera is compatible with UHS.
Our recommendation is the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card. Check out our article on the best memory cards for all photo budgets for the best memory cards.
A flash is an excellent accessory to add once you’ve mastered the manual modes on your camera. It not only adds light. A flash can add contrast, fill in dark shadows, and add sparkle to a portrait subject’s eyes.
Like cameras, flashes come with different features and price points. When you first start, you want a basic flash with TTL (Through The Lens metering). This is like the flash’s auto mode.
You should also get a flash diffuser or a bounce card when you buy a flash. They help soften the shadows and the harsh light your flashgun creates.
The MagMod diffuser is a good option. But there are also inexpensive flash softboxes that work. They just aren’t as seamless to use.
We would recommend Yongnuo YN560 IV flash for anyone with a DSLR camera.
Some photographers swear by their tripods. Others end up leaving them in a closet collecting dust. So a tripod isn’t essential for every photographer.
You may not need a tripod if you’re into street photography or event photography. But if running and gunning isn’t your thing, you’ll find a tripod invaluable.
Landscape photographers get the most use out of a tripod. Using a good tripod and long
They can also use it for shooting in low light. And sometimes, it’s good to take the camera’s weight off your shoulder.
When looking for a tripod, be sure to pick up one that’s the right height. You don’t want to slouch to see through the camera’s viewfinder.
The tripod’s max load capacity shouldn’t be less than your camera with your heaviest lens and accessories attached. You should also consider the size and weight of the tripod when folded if you plan to travel with it.
A reliable tripod choice would be the Newer 66-inch carbon fiber tripod. It not only provides stability for your camera. But it is also highly adjustable and lightweight.
For more on choosing a tripod, read our post on the best budget tripods and monopods.
Editing your images allows you to do many things. You can correct minor
Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are arguably the most popular options.
Lightroom helps you organize images and do several types of photo edits. Photoshop is there for more elaborate editing tasks. But you can get both with a $10-a-month subscription.
But maybe you’re not sure you want to pay for a subscription as you’re just starting. You can read our article on the best free imaging editing software. There are free image editors like GIMP that do a good job.
Plus, other paid photo editors like Skylum Luminar and Corel Paintshop exist. They help you to polish your images. And they have non-subscription options, unlike Adobe.
You can download free trials to try most programs before committing to one.
There are a few other pieces of equipment you may want to consider. These accessories aren’t as expensive as the rest and can make your new photography hobby more enjoyable.
A camera bag not only fits all your gear in one place. It keeps it protected with padded inserts too. Shoulder and messenger bags are more compact options. But camera backpacks will distribute the weight over two shoulders instead of one.
A rain cover protects your gear if you find yourself in a storm. There are excellent affordable options out there.
Filters introduce creative effects and are still relevant in the digital age. Colored and soft focus filters are now easy to create with a photo editor. But some filters can’t be replicated with software.
An ND or neutral density filter limits the light coming into your camera. So you can take long exposures during the day. A graduated neutral density filter prevents the sky from becoming an overexposed white mass.
A polarizer allows you to enhance or reduce reflections. This filter can also make the sky appear bluer and foliage greener.
A camera cleaning kit removes the spots on your lenses without leaving any residues. Never use a cleaner not explicitly designed for cameras on a lens. You might ruin the special coatings on the lens!
A color calibration monitor kit lets you achieve accurate colors. It’s important to have because colors vary significantly among different monitors. Color calibration kit options from Datacolor (Spyder) start at around $150.
You can also pay for color correction when you print images instead. But you won’t be able to control the results. And you won’t have that color calibration for the images you share online.
An external hard drive prevents your computer from filling up quickly with all those digital files. You can choose one that just sits on your desk next to your computer. Or you can get one that lets you back up files in the field.
Conclusion: Best Photography Essentials for Beginners
The biggest thing to remember when buying camera gear is that different styles require different things. While a photographer interested in sports will want that 10-fps camera, it won’t be as much of a priority for a portrait photographer.
By understanding the basics of photography equipment, you can choose what gear will work best for your style.
To help you get the best deals, register your email address in online stores such as Adorama or B&H. They often send email blasts about huge discounts and sales. And to make the most of your new gear, try our Photography for Beginners course!