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Why These?

I have personal experience with every item on this list and would recommend them all. I’ve spent a fair bit of money in the past on equipment I didn’t need, so learn from my mistakes and bookmark this list now!

PLEASE READ FIRST: I’ve linked all items on Amazon US, and all are Canon products. That’s not to say that Canon are better than anyone else, I’ve just done it this way because Canon held 44.5% of the DSLR market in 2010, whereas Nikon and Sony have 29.8% and 11.9% respectively.

[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here. —Ed.]

Nifty 50

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii

There’s one of these in almost every camera bag these days – they’re that popular!

It’s a great lens that allows you to capture noticeably better images compared to those obtained using the poor quality kit lens that probably came with your camera. It also helps you to get to grips with aperture, as it goes all the way to f1.8.

Cheap and effective, it comes highly recommended. Be careful though – once you see the difference in quality, it will be the beginning of your lens buying habit, expanding your camera gear.

New Kit Lens

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

This one isn’t so cheap and it took me a while to make the leap but trust me, it’s worth it.

This lens is exceptionally good quality and much more useful than just a prime. It’s on my camera the majority of the time so I feel it’s worth the investment. It is big and heavy so only buy it if you’re willing to carry it around; there are smaller alternatives out there.

Flash

Canon Speedlite 430EX iI

I always thought I hated photos with flash but that was before I invested in an external flash: there’s so much you can do with it.

External flashes are extremely useful as they can make a photo look as though the flash wasn’t even fired – a real natural look. There is a more powerful version of this flash which is worth it if you’ve got the money as it brings more functionality but, if you’re just starting out, this is the flash for you.

Diffuser

Diffuser For Canon Speedlite 430EX ii

So simple, so effective, so cheap, so important.

This adds to the functionality of your flash by adding a basic lightbox onto the end of it. You can fire your flash upwards towards nothing and it’ll shed a nice soft light onto your subject. Far better then a harsh direct light and great for taking photos of people outdoors at night.

Flash Transmitter / Sync Lead

Speedlite Transmitter

If you can afford one, this is a great way of experimenting with light to give your photos a professional look.

You can create some really cool effects with it, as well as using it for fill flash. It works really well with a canon camera as anything you change in the camera will then change in the transmitter and in your external flash. If you can’t afford one, try a simple sync cord instead.
Sync Cord

I would consider this absolutely essential camera gear for every photographer. No excuses.

New Strap

Sun Sniper Steel

I can’t believe how long I struggled with my old strap before I bought one of these.

It’s padded for comfort, insured for $500, uses a shock absorber and has a steal wire inside to prevent thieves from cutting it off you. Most importantly though is the functionality and comfort; it hangs at your hip without getting in the way. It also allows you to wear a backpack over the top and maintain full access your camera.

I wish I’d bought one years ago!

Tripod Legs

Manfrotto Pro Tripod Legs

A lovely set of legs is an essential part of everyone’s camera gear setup – the tripod.

When you start buying more expensive and heavier gear, you’ll want to make sure that your tripod can hold the weight and these legs do the job just fine.

It’s heavy, sturdy and does the job great. The only disadvantage is that, being heavy and sturdy, it’s not the easiest thing to carry. It does have 2 leg warmers though so you won’t freeze your fingers off in cold weather conditions.

Tripod Head

Manfrotto Joystick Head

The beauty of the joystick head is that it’s so easy to use and does exactly what you want it to. You can configure it to suit your needs and it means you don’t have to control 3 different levers/handles just to get the right angle. If you’re someone who uses a tripod a lot, this is a life saver.

Remote

Canon Wireless Remote

The main reason I use a remote is not because I want to be in a photo but because I don’t want any camera shake.

I love doing night photography, which entails spending a lot of time with my camera on a tripod. When you’re taking a long exposure, even the slightest movement will make your image less sharp. Be careful which one you buy though as there are different remotes for different cameras – wireless and wired.

UV Filter

Hoya PRO1 Digital

I am not personally worried about UV light in a photo; I struggle to see a difference. I believe it was only really a problem in film photography.

What I am worried about is my lens – for not much money at all, you can protect it with this simple filter.

Get the best quality you can afford, I personally use this Hoya PRO1 because I use a high quality lens and it would be pointless to spend all that money on a lens just to put a cheap piece of glass in front of it. Always remember to check the diameter of your lens before buying.

Polarizing Filter

Circular Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters are great; an essential for most photographers.

To see exactly what they do, have a look at this article here. Remember to make sure you’re getting the right size for your lens and that you’re buying a circular (as apposed to linear) filter for a digital camera. Linear polarizing filters confuse the autofocus on modern cameras.

Grey Card

Color & White Balance Grey Card

You should know all about how to get the right white balance by now; using a grey card is the best way to get the most accurate results. Carry these around in your camera bag for whenever you feel the camera is getting it wrong. They’re easy to use and have a great affect on your photos.

Lens Cleaner

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

I’ve tried all sorts of cleaners over the last few years and have found these to be the most versatile and useful. They’re cheap and disposable and you can use them on your filters as well – something you can’t do with a curved cleaning pen. Their anti-static nature is great of keeping dust away too.

Sensor Cleaner

Rocket Air Blaster

If there’s something really wrong with dirt on my sensor, I take it to a professional and don’t risk cleaning it myself.

For anything else I use a rocket air blaster to blow away any pesky dust inside my camera. It’s incredibly effective and, once again, cheap.

Extra Batteries

Canon Replacement Battery

You should really buy one of these when you buy your camera as using it a lot will drain your battery fast. I have four and whenever I’m running on a battery below 50%, I switch for a new one. They don’t take long to charge so I only have one charger.

If you’re planning on using the camera a lot in one day on a regular basis, consider getting a battery grip. Grips are also useful if you do a lot of portait photography as the improved ergonomics make it much more comfortable to use.
Battery Grip

Make sure you get rechargeable batteries for your flash as it’s way too expensive to be constantly buying new, fresh ones.

4 Rechargeable Batteries and Charger

Extra Memory Cards

Transcend 400X – 16 GB Compact Flash Memory Card TS16GCF400 (Blue)

These are my cards of choice. They fit a lot of photos on one card, especially if you’re shooting in jpegs. I always have 2 on me just incase I fill one up or (heaven forbid!) one of them fails on me.

Make sure you get the right card for your camera; usually SD or CF. Also, look at the speed of the card as this will effect how many photos it can take in burst mode at once and how quickly they’ll load onto your computer.

Memory Card Reader

Flash Memory Card Reader

I didn’t realise just how slow transferring photos through your camera can be until I bought one of these. It’s a HUGE speed boost and, as I take more and more photos, it saves me time, every time.

Seriously, just buy one!

External Hard Drive

External Hard Drive

Whenever I transfer important photos onto my computer, I make sure that I import them into an external hard drive at the same time so that I have access to separate back-ups.

When I’m done with them on my mac, I relocate the photo masters into two separate hard drives so that I can still see them though my photo library without taking up room on my laptop.

Photo Software

Aperture 3

I’m a Mac user, so Aperture works great for me and what I do with photos. I’m not a heavy-handed editor when it comes to editing photos, so I don’t need much more control than what this program offers.

If you’re a Windows user, go for Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe, which are industry standards. It’s pretty important to have proper photo software because using the free stuff that comes with your computer can actually damage your photos.

Something I noticed with iPhoto was that if you wanted to straighten a photo, it would end up a hell of a lot less sharp.

Bag

Sling Bag

Finally, now that you’ve bought all of your kit, you’re going to need a bag to put it all in.

If you walk around a lot with your camera and want easy access, I recommend a sling bag. They let the bag slide around to your side so that you can access your camera without taking the bag off your back. Great usability and storage.

Top 20 Essential Camera Gear

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Josh

Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)

  • Bruce

    This is very helpful, but aren’t you forgetting us Nikon users?

    • Hi Bruce, thanks for the comment.
      Unfortunately, it’s impossible to cater for all camera users so i’ve aimed the links to Canon gear as they hold the greatest market share. That being said though there are Nikon alternatives to every Canon product on here and can be found very easily on Amazon.

      Thanks again,
      Josh

  • Rich

    Great tips. Cheers Josh.
    I really like that sniper strap after seeing yours and also now quite fancy one of those nifty 50’s!
    One thing, why put links to US Amazon($) not UK (£)?
    🙂

    • Hi Richard, thanks for the comment.
      Same reason as i linked to Canon products, they’re the majority. Over 66% of traffic comes from there and as much as i’d like to cater for everyone, i’d be here forever!

      Thanks,
      Josh

  • Very Canon-centric my friend .. where is the love for the other manufacturers? Can’t really be essential gear if you have a Nikon or in my case a Pentax .. would have been nice if you talk more generally about types of lenses rather than just focus of one Canon lens.

    • Hi Kmuzu,

      As i mentioned in the introduction and comments above, Canon simply have the largest market share so i’m trying to make this post appeal to as many people as possible, and that means posting Canon links. There are alternatives to all of the above, but i have to link to something. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Pentax so i’d love to get my hands on one sometime!

      Thanks for the comment,
      Josh

  • Ah man, the very best lens you can possibly have in your bag as a serious maker of pictures is an 85mm f1.4. The 50 1.8 is Ok but a bit limiting the others are of little use indoors in poor light and you certainly don’t want to get into the habit of using flash.
    Nikon, Cannon, Sigma, Leica there isn’t any significant difference if you know where your at. But thanks for the article. Take care.

  • OH and shoot everything “RAW”

  • Joe

    At first, I felt a little snubbed, as did some of the other Nikon users here. On reading further, most of this gear isn’t camera specific anyway. Probably the best tip (IMHO of course), is the 50mm prime lens. Beyond question, the single simplest upgrade to your camera, and will yield the biggest bang for the buck. Sure, a lower aperture prime is great, but you won’t find one near this price.

  • Excellent list of key elements that should be in any serious photographers bag. Simple things like a quality strap can change things in a big way. Another great tool that I have had a lot of fun with is a GoPro camera. Yes they are video cameras but they are also great for shooting time lapse scenes.

  • vik

    Hi!
    great blog…new here and now book marked 🙂

    I am new to the game and need some advice:
    I will be going to india in a few weeks and will be taking a Pentax KX 18-55 (kit lens)…what else would you suggest I take?
    I am hoping to do some street and landscape photogrpahy mainly..
    Any advice would be very very appreciated!

  • brdaleta

    Excellent! my Canon 7D and i thank you for the awesome info!

    • I bet your purse doesn’t!

      • brdaleta

        so true! 🙂

  • So cool! This is very helpful for a newbie like me 🙂 I especially loved the strap! Thank you!

  • Jordan F

    That kit lens sounds amazing but what would you recommend for a basic general use lens for my T1i on a college students budget? Just until I get enough money to buy my 60D. I totally love every one of these products and cannot wait to have a similar arsenal to play around with.

    • Seriously, just go for the 50mm 1.8, you won’t regret it.

  • Dave

    I love your site and your articles. For a crop sensor, would you reccomend a 35mm prime?

    • Yeah, over a 50mm infact.

  • Luke

    dude, thank you so much for your articles. they are so simple and clear and offer great explanations to someone who is just starting out!

  • What are your thoughts on Tamron lenses?

    • I’ve got a pretty low end one which I don’t use, but I whipped it out the other day and after using high end glass, I was obviously very disappointed. But lenses such as Tamrom and Sigma do have good ranges – they’re just not quite as good as Canon or Sigma yet.

  • Wajid

    Does the 50 mm have IS?

    • The Canon does, and so does the Nikon if you choose the EF-S model.

  • I have the 24-70mm f2.9L with stabilizer. Do you recommend I still buy a 50mm 1.5 for shooting pets up close or is this sufficient. I also have the 70-200mm with an extender to make it a 400mm.

  • Sean

    Hi Josh,
    I was wondering if you could tell me where I could reference products’ market statistics & information. (Like you have for your post above.)

    -Appreciate the help!

    • I’m afraid I don’t really know what you’re talking about, care to elaborate?

  • AJS

    Love your articles. Stumbled them today and have been reading all afternoon. At the moment trying to buy a 50mm f1.8 II and you’ve reinforced my thoughts on it as being my next lens. Keep the articles coming and I’ll definitely keep reading. Thanks dude 😀

  • Seed

    Hey Jeff,

    Any thoughts on light meters?

    Thanks,

    Greg

  • Kevin

    Hi Josh,
    You mention there are alternatives to the 24-70mm lens, are these just smaller alternatives around the same price or are there cheaper alternatives.
    Kevin

  • Kat

    Good list. However, my 2 cents, unless you are on a very tight budget, get the 50 1.4 instead of the 1.8. The 1.8 has great optics but VERY cheap build quality. My AF broke after a couple of years of normal use without any damage. Wish I had invested in the 1.4 to begin with.

  • Your concise and easy to understand tutorials make sense. I love my nifty fifty lens – excellent and affordable for all those relatively new to dslr photography. I confess that although I have used 35mm and dslr about 12 years since the first film rebel came out that for most of that time I was set on the green box and shooting cliches. I’m not a professional or an artist but just love capturing moments and memories. thanks for your help.

  • nbltoy .

    Hi Josh, I saw Canon 60D Body advert here from https://www.rythercamera.com, is the site safe to buy from? Thanks

    • JoshDunlop

      I’m not familiar with the website as I’m in the UK. If it’s too good to be true, then it usually is. Do your research, check their Facebook and whatnot, but it’s not worth the risk over a few bucks if you’re unsure.