It’s back to school season, which means the holidays are coming up! First Halloween, then Thanksgiving (and Black Friday), and Christmas… which means you may be thinking about what to buy for a friend, a family member, or heck! Even yourself! This time of year is a great time to buy photography equipment because of the sales. You can often find a good camera, SD cards, and other photo equipment for cheaper on Black Friday or around Christmas than you can find any other time of the year!
I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 essential things to buy for a beginning photographer – so whether you are starting photography yourself, or have a loved one that is, you know what to give them that will be genuinely helpful and useful! (and some things are just plain cool!)
My list of Top 10 Essential Things to Buy for a Beginning Photographer
A DSLR Camera
If you google “what camera should a new photographer buy” you will find countless results! A lot of these results will seem very technical, and you may be confused by all the options to choose from. I honestly think that each brand – whether you go with Nikon or Canon – has great cameras available, and they are about the same as far as quality! You can create incredible work with both. I know Sony is also creating amazing cameras, but since I’ve only used Nikon and Canon I’ll stick with them in this post!
My recommendations for a new photographer are to buy either a Canon Rebel or a Nikon D3400. These camera bodies are perfect for the beginner because they have a huge step up in image quality from a phone or compact camera. They also offer manual control, which is necessary for you to learn the basics of photography on. They also have the ability to change lenses, which gives you a lot of freedom in the photography that you do!
Here’s a link to buy the Canon Rebel on Amazon:
and the Nikon D3400!
When it comes to lenses, the world is the limit! I mostly do portraiture, so my primary lenses I enjoy working with are the 50 mm and the 85 mm lenses. These lenses have the least distortion, which just tends to flatter people’s faces more. However, you can definitely take portraits with other lenses too, and get great results! Photography is art, so you do you. However these are my favorite lenses for creating beautiful portraits! I also love using the 35 mm lens for travel and my personal life. For the beginner, I would recommend getting the 50 mm 1.8 lens. This lens is probably the best value for your money. You can get professional images from it, and it’s usually the most affordable. The 1.8 will give you nice creamy, blurry backgrounds. ** make sure you get the AF-S – this means it will autofocus! And you’ll want the dx lens (not the fx) for the beginner camera bodies!
Here’s a link to check out the Canon 50 mm 1.8 (that will fit the rebel)
And the Nikon, that will fit the Nikon D3400!
3. Memory Card
The memory cards I always use are the SanDisk Extreme Pro 32 or 64 GB SD Cards. When you’re a photographer you shoot in what’s called “RAW” format, which means your files are huge! Because of this you need a SD card that has a lot of space and that records files fairly quickly. If you don’t have these things, you’ll run out of space (seriously the worst – you don’t want to miss the perfect shot because you ran out of GB!) or you’re camera might take a few seconds to record the images, which is also annoying when the perfect shot is right in front of you! I’ve always used these cards, and they’ve always been reliable and fast. They are usually on sale on Black Friday, too!
Photography is all about recording and manipulating light. It is seriously the coolest thing – and there is an affordable, powerful tool that you can use! That tool is a reflector.
I bought this reflector in college, and have used it ever since (about 2 years now!). I like this one because it has 5 surfaces in one! The gold reflects warm light, the silver reflects a lot of light, the white reflects neutral, normal amount of light, and the black absorbs light. You can also take the cover off, and the inside has a white sheer material, which you can use as a diffuser.
This reflector has saved me on many wedding sessions, when the sun is way too strong, and I want to soften the light on people’s faces. I also like this specific model because it’s big enough to use for portraits, and it has a handle so if you have to you can hold it yourself while taking a picture. It’s also extremely affordable! The only tricky part is folding it back up, but after watching a lot of youtube videos and practicing it a few times, you’ll have it down fine!
5. Camera Bag
A good camera bag is harder to find than you think! I spent months looking for one that I loved and had what I needed. I finally found it in the kamrette camera bag! This bag is AMAZING! It can fit two camera bodies, a few lenses, a speed light, a laptop, your wallet, your phone, cords and batteries, and other odds and ends. It is the perfect combination of good design and smartly used space. The design is beautiful, which is important to me when going on photoshoots. I want to give a professional appearance because this is my full time job, and this bag filled all of those needs perfectly! It is perfect for a portrait or wedding photographer.
Here’s a link to that bag! I have the tan Lyra backpack, but they have other gorgeous options too!
For travel, I may not choose this bag – because it’s one that you want to keep nice. I’ve used mine for over a year and it still looks new, but I wouldn’t want to ruin it backpacking and running around Europe. When I went to Europe, my friend Delaney at Delaney Angelle Photography brought this backpack, which was perfect for traveling! The company is called WANDRD. This backpack is a stylish workhouse – it’s waterproof, has accessible side pockets that are convenient when on the go, a secret passport pocket, and more. It was designed by traveling photographers for photographers, so the design is really, really good!
Here’s a link to this one, for the travelers out there!
6. SD Card Case
After I’ve taken my photos, my SD cards are the most important thing I’m carrying until I have the images uploaded on my computer. That’s why I bought a Pelican SD card case to keep my photos organized and safe until I have them at home. This case always keeps my cards safe and sound, and I highly recommend it!
For the beginning photographer, a speed light is a great tool! It’s a flash that you can place on your camera to replace your built in camera flash. Unless you are going for a very specific look, the built in camera flash is absolutely terrible. A speed light gives you a bit more control because you can turn the flash in different directions to bounce light off of walls and ceilings. It softens the light and allows you to control it, to make it look a lot better! You can also buy small diffusers to put on the speed light to soften it even more.
There are a lot of options out there for speed lights. I usually rent my lights for commercial and studio work, but I’ve used my speed light in the past for events and weddings. Obviously the Nikon and Canon speed lights will be the best ones! But I bought this cheap Altura one as a poor college student, and it has lasted me this far. It’s perfect for beginners who can’t afford a more expensive one right away! Just make sure to buy the right one for the camera you have!
Tripods are an important part of any photographer’s gear! It gives you freedom to do a lot of things – especially when it comes to night photography, motion blur (like if you photograph waterfalls), or self portraits. There are a lot of affordable options available for a beginner!
As a photographer, these are just must haves. Adobe is the industry standard in photo editing, and when you shoot in RAW you have to have this software (or one like it) to even open your photos. For only $10 / month you can enroll in Adobe Creative Cloud, which always gives you the most recent software, and lots of other perks. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you learn!
Whether you are a hobbyist or want to be a professional, I think a website is important to have! You put your heart, thought, time, and effort into your photographs, and they deserve to be shared! There are countless options of services for websites, and you want to find one that fits your needs that you like. There are some free options, like wix.com, but if you are wanting to become a professional a good website is worth investing in. Many photographers really like Squarespace. My personal favorite is WordPress, with Flothemes. Buying a domain for WordPress is fairly cheap, and the themes at Flothemes are an amazing investment. They have gorgeous designs, that are easy to customize and set up. They also have amazing customer support for the many questions you’ll have!
Here’s a link to Flothemes – they usually have really good sales around Black Friday as well!