What are the essential photography equipments?
In the past I used to teach at a photography School in Rotterdam. During one of the basic courses I met a student who had a camera bag containing lenses and other accessories that together would cost thousands of euros. This case was exceptional, but most photographers at the beginning of their carrier spend lots of money on:
- Accessories they never or barely use
- Accessories that are not fit for purpose
- Accessories that do not meet certain qualities for long term use.
All because of a common thought: “If I had that one, I would make better photos!”. This article is, therefore, meant to give you an idea about essential photography equipments you need to have in order to work under variety of circumstances.
Required gear for studio photography and specific items for specific purposes are out of the scope of this article.
Luisa Dörr made 12 Time Magazine covers with her iPhone. Evidently, you can make wonderful images even with your smartphone. Nevertheless, if you want to be in control of your camera, you need a camera that allows you to do that. Personal preferences and end use play a huge role in this area as well.
However, to start a camera that allows you to mount your desired lens (e.g. DSLR or Mirrorless) and gives you control over:
- Exposure; to shoot in manual mode, and having control over the ISO, Shutter speed and aperture
- Light metering modes,
- Focusing modes; both manual and auto focus options
- White balance,
- Image format; possibility to shoot in Raw and / or JPEG
- Ideally an automated flash release control like Through the Lens (TTL) function
- And shooting HD and above HD quality videos in case you are into videography
is a very good choice and you are set for a few years practicing with photography, till you find your end destination in photography. Then you can make a list of functionalities that are more important to you. Based on that you can select a camera that matches your specific needs.
A few brands to look for: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji
Note: If you end up buying (or having) a cropped sensor camera, make yourself familiar with the differences between full frame and cropped sensor cameras. This will affect your lens choice.
Spending more money on good quality lenses is a good investment. But, there is a “but!”. There are many types of lenses, from prime to zoom lenses and within each category you have lots of options. So, what you need to consider about lenses:
- Focal length: Basically, and in particular at the beginning, you want to be able to shoot landscape and architecture (for which you need a wider angle lens, like 24-35 mm), street and documentary (35-50 mm), as well as being able to fill your frame with a single subject or a part of a subject like in portraiture (70-200 mm). To achieve that you can have for instance an 18-200 mm zoom lens that covers the entire range, or combine a few prime (and / or zoom) lenses.
Personal recommendation: I found the following two lenses to be a wonderful all around options: a 24-70 mm, and a 70-200 mm. These two lenses cover you for tons of photographic opportunities.
- Aperture: The lower the f/number the better it is. Even if you never use your lens at its widest aperture.
- Manual and Auto-focus options. A lens that supports auto and manual focusing is an advantage. Some lenses do not support auto focusing.
- Vibration reduction option. This option allows you to shoot handheld at a relatively slow shutter speed. Hence, a lens with this option has a plus!
Which brand to look for? You can of course choose for lenses manufactured by your camera manufacturer. But there are also third party manufacturers like Tamaron that produce high quality and much affordable lenses for different camera brands.
3- UV filter
If you invest in a good lens, you need to protect it from any possibility of damage by all means. Most lenses come with a lens hood. Make sure to use it at all time. Because it protects the lens and reduces the chance of having lens flare.
In addition to lens hood, having a good quality UV filter to protect the front glass of your lens is a good investment. Poor quality UV filters may cause lens flare and reduce the image quality. Hence, consider having a good UV filter for a good quality lens. Otherwise, you may skip this one. Note the diameter of the uv filter should match the diameter of your lens.
A few brands that you can look for are; Zeiss, B+W, and Hoya,
Invest in a good tripod.
What you need to consider when buying a tripod:
- How heavy it is. I place this at first, because if a tripod is too heavy to carry around, you won’t use it.
- How easy and fast it is to extend and collapse the legs’ segments. This is very important. If a tripod is not easy in use, it will become a headache and source of frustration.
- How much weight it can carry. Consider the weight of your camera, lens, etc. you might be using on your camera. The tripod you choose should be able to carry this weight without sinking or moving.
- What is the highest height, and the lowest height of the tripod. You want to be able to get very low and also to stand and shoot.
- How many segments each leg has. The more segments a leg has, the more unstable it might become. So, in general not more than 3-4 segments.
- Tripod head: this is where you mount your camera on and allows you to rotate the camera’s direction vertically, horizontally and diagonally. Ball heads are very popular. But whatever you buy make sure it is easy to work with and can hold your camera steadily.
The last two considerations will go hand by hand with everything else I have enlisted above;
- Material: There are tripods made from plastic, aluminium, wood, and carbon and/or magnesium fibres. Tripods made of carbon fibres are of great quality, steady and not heavy.
- Price: A tripod that meets all criteria could be expensive. But better to invest in a good tripod than spending money on something you won’t use or you would use with headache.
A few brands to look for: Gitzo, Monfrotto, Berno, MeFoto, Leofoto
5- Cable release
This is such a small investment, but worth each cent you spend. A cable release is basically a cable with a button to release the shutter. Cable release is mostly advised for long exposure photography, but I can assure you that its usage is much more than that. Some cameras come with a small cable release in the pack. I suggest to buy a wireless one so you do not have to carry a cable behind you.
6- Camera bag
There is no need to mention the necessity of a camera bag. A camera bag to my opinion should:
- Have enough space for all your necessary gear (the list I have provided here or your own list) in different compartments
- Should protect your gear against pressure, fall, and rain.
- Its content should only be accessible when you take the bag off your back. This to prevent accidental opening and fall of your equipments and also against theft.
A few brand to look for: Lowepro, Peak Design, Vanguard
7- Reserve batteries and memory cards / charger
Small things that can ruin or save your day. You do not want to be out of battery or memory card during shooting. I have a separate blog about what to consider when buying memory cards. In regard to batteries, be mindful when shooting in cold whether, you will run out of battery much faster.
8- An off-camera flash
Natural light is great, but sometimes having an external flash, to give you some flexibility in regard to how to lit your subject is a huge advantage. When buying an off-camera flash, make sure it is compatible with your camera, its head can rotate vertically and horizontally.
In addition to off camera flashes produced by your camera manufacturer, there are third party manufacturers like Yongnuo that produce good quality and affordable off camera flashes for different camera brands.
9- Neck or wrist straps:
Soon or late there will be a moment when in a magical way your camera will fall from your hands. You will be then extremely happy, if the camera does not fall on the ground. So, make sure to use a camera strap when shooting outdoor.
10- A lens pen or a cloth to clean the front (and gear) glass of your lens
This speaks for itself. I found a lens pen to be very practical, compact and durable.
Other items you need to have (at home)
It is obvious that you need to have a computer to review, select and edit your images. Do some research before purchasing one. But whatever you choose, take a note here about the screen size! During the years, I found a screen smaller than 15 inch and larger than 21 inch not to be very suitable. But this is my experience, and prone to personal bias.
12- External hard disk / other storage options
Computer failure is a fact, regardless the brand. It happens. And when it happens you do not want to have lost all your images. So, make sure to store your images on an external device. This external device itself is also prone to failure and lost. So, make sure to have a back up plan as well. Note that having a storage facility for all your (Raw) images is inevitable. Since you do not want to fill your computer with images. That would slow your computer and in particular post processing.
13- Raw processing software
If your camera allows you to shoot in Raw, you should get benefit of this option. But when shooting in Raw, you need to have also a Raw convertor to open your images and edit them. There are many options on the market. Some for free, but the most advanced and trusted ones are paid options. Adobe products are among the very popular ones. Click here to learn more about JPEG and Raw formats.
I hope this post was helpful. If you have any question or remark please send me an email.
Triangle Photo Academy