Beginner photography gear – what to start with

To start out you need some basic beginner photography gear

Starting with the camera, one that fits your budget and has the features you can understand and features you can grow into. You do not necessarily need to purchase a new camera.  There are many good site and shops that you can purchase a well taken care of used or refurbished camera.  This is what I did when I started out.

A sturdy tripod, one that is not to heavy, yet stable enough to hold your camera steady in varied terrains. One that is easy and fairly quick to set the legs out. The  one on the left is a compact easy traveler yet sturdy and the one on the right is a heavier and larger style tripod.

Memory cards, of course without memory cards, you will not be able to take any photographs.  Make sure that you have them cleared and reformatted if not that you have enough room available on them for your photo shoot plans for the day.  It is a very good idea to also have a couple extra cleared cards in your camera bag.

A second battery if your camera uses a rechargeable pack or some camera’s may still use rechargeable AA’s.  And make sure that they are charged before heading out. And bring along your charger also.

An off camera flash. Also called a speed light. This is a flash unit that is not built into your camera, that fits into your hot-shoe on the top of your camera (on most DSLR camera’s). It can also stand on its own and be triggered by your camera or other means (I will go into that later on)

I suggest that you use one that is the same brand as your camera but there are a number of good off brand flashes on the market as well.  Just check with your manual on what they suggest and what the off brand speedlights are recommended for. Your do not really need this right away    but something to look into down the road.

AA batteries for your flash, again making sure if they are rechargeable that they are charged up, also check you manual to make sure that your flash will accept rechargeable batteries other wise you will require some alkaline ones.

A soft lens cloth to clean your lens without scratching it, and a second soft cloth to wipe any dust off your camera body and outside of the lens.

A durable camera bag to carry any extra lenses and your flash and any other small items when your not using them. I have a small sling style bag that is great for day outings to just hold the basic extras that I need and the nice thing about this bag is it stays on my back and all I need to do to get into it while in the field is to sling it to the front of me and I can access it easily.

A tidbit.  Put your camera’s manual in your camera bag.  That way if you come on a situation that you are not sure how to set your camera or even what setting to use you can make a quick reference to your manual. Mine stays in my camera bag all the time.

I think this is a good start.  There are so many gadgets and various items to add to your collection down the road but this will be a good start.

27 thoughts on “Beginner photography gear – what to start with

  1. Not a bad idea on buying refurbished camera to start with!

    I have been looking around for a cheap camera but I can’t seem to find something within my budget. I have a lot of wish list, one reason why I can’t get what I want. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi Von,
      What features are you wishing to find in a camera? Let me know and maybe I can help you find what will suit your needs.

      Also you can follow the link to KEH Camera’s they have a great selection of used cameras and lenses to choose from there you might find what you are looking for.
      Please feel free to contact me if I can help your further.

  2. I am really keen to get into photography but not sure where to start. This has been a useful post and I now know what kind of equipment to get started with.

    I am really interested in taking photographs of the night sky, and would love to capture the northern lights at some point. Do I need specialist equipment for night time photography?

    1. Hi Craig,

      Thanks for checking out my page. For any type of night photography you will definitely require a good sturdy tripod, a cable release, and a wide angle lens. Depending which make of camera you shoot. Nikon 10-24mm lens would be a good start and the Canon equivalent would be 10 – 18mm. You want a wide angle lens so that you can take in a greater view of the landscape.

      A technique that you will be using is timed exposure. You will need to, in manual mode, set your aperture to about f16 and an ISO of 100 -200 depending on your camera, Then you will set your camera to BULB mode, check you manual to see how to set this on your camera.

      Controlled by you the BULB setting will keep the shutter open until the button is released. You will need to do a bit of experimenting as depending on how dark the evening is. But a good start would be 2 min, 5 min, 7 min and so on. The nice thing about digital is that you can check the playback to see how you are doing and can adjust things accordingly. For the focus you will switch to manual and set your focus to infinity, that is the sideways laying down 8.

      I hope this gives you a bit of information on where to start with night photography. This same technique can be used when photographing the northern lights and lightning.

      Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. Just a note because this is a timed exposure you camera will need to buffer a lot of data and in doing so it will take quite a while before you can take the next photo. Don’t panic about this. There should be a small light on the back of your camera that will illuminate while the card is being written to.

    1. Hello Greg,

      Thank you for checking out my site.

      Please let me know what type of camera you are using and what subjects you will be photographing and Yes I will be glad to make some suggestions for you on what types of tripods will suit your needs best.

  3. Hi Monika, great little checklist, my brother was recently talking about getting himself a camera.

    He watches lots of motorsports and uses his phone camera, and is often disappointed because his photos come out blurry…

    I will point him here to make sure he reads this little checklist.

    Best wishes


    1. Hi Neil,
      Thanks for checking in here and passing on my site to your brother.
      Yes action photography and stop motion most phone cameras have great difficulty capturing. The DSLR cameras have a greater ability as you are able to change your shutter speeds, ISO and also you can use the rapid multiple fire setting to blast off numerous images in split seconds. I will be doing some posts about stop action in the near future, so please have your brother check back. Also feel free to contact me with any other questions you or him may have.

  4. I love the tip about putting your camera manual in your bag, but mine is thick and rather large… I think someday I’d really like to get a “cheat sheet” of settings tips (maybe cue card size) to help me with remember how to select ISOs, aperture, shutter speeds, etc. for each type of lighting. I’m slowly learning how to use my DSLR, but if I don’t practice regularly, I forget. Just wondering, do you have a “top 10 tips for new DSLR users” type post?
    What do you think of those lens cleaner pens they try to sell at camera stores? Are they any good?

    1. Hi Marlaine,
      Thanks for checking out my page. For sure those manuals these days are pretty thick. As the cameras these days can do so much more than when the first digital camera’s came out. I am working on making a que card / cheet sheets that are more condensed and can easily fit in your camera bag for quick reference. Great idea about a top 10 tips. Like anything if you do not work with your camera regularly and it is new to you as with anything you loose what you have learned. A suggestion is to keep your camera with you when you go for a walk or a drive and try to take a photo per week to keep your mind into it. Trying a different technique or lens. I will be working on a post on some quick reference tips and a cheat sheet down on that down the road. In regard to the lens pen. Yes I have one and it works quite well. Trick with them is to hold you camera by the lens and the lens facing towards the ground (gravity will help any dirt particles to fall down) Haze your lens by blowing on it and then using the pen make circles around the lens from the outside inward. Please check back often and contact me if there is anything I can help you with.

  5. Hi
    I just paid a visit to your site and I have to say I learned a lot. In the past photography has always been scary to me because some of my friends invested too much on it and didn’t end well. I understand some lens can be super expensive, but thanks to your article, it seems that photography doesn’t really have to be that much of an investment. Thanks for the good work. (By the way, do you think iphone lens are enough for taking good pictures?)

    1. Hi Tony,

      Thanks for dropping by my site. Photography can be a bit overwhelming with all the different type of gear available out there. But with the many upgrades in quality and technology these days you can get into a good quality DSLR camera for a pretty reasonable price. It totally depends on what your main focus of your images will be and what you will do with them. Are they just for you or will be want to pursue selling your images down the road. What size do you want to print them. If there is a possibility that you may want to do larger prints, you will want to shoot your camera at the largest file size that it is rated for. That way you will have enough data to get the image results you desire.

      In regards to phone camera’s, you can take some pretty amazing photos if you have to best lighting conditions available. Some of the phone cameras do struggle with action and low light conditions. But again with every new phone they upgrade the camera’s and with the added apps you can produce some great images. Again it depends on whether you wish to print them down the road or if you only wish to use them online.

      Please contact me again if I can help you answer any further questions.

  6. Hello, Monika. very good article. I’m just starting out in photography. I live in the Caribbean so I’m sure I will have a lot of great opportunities to take some great shots. I currently have a Sony a32 I inherited from a family member. Are you familiar with the Sony a32? Is there any specific gear you would recommend for this model?
    I appreciate any feedback you can offer.

    1. Sony has great little cameras. I’m not familiar with the a32, Do you mean maybe the a230 or a330? SLR version of the Sony camera’s?

      Anyways one of my main suggestion is to have a sturdy yet lightweight tripod, This will help in achieving sharp images.  

      What is the main subject matter that you are interested in photographing and I can advise and recommend some additional hints and tricks that may be of help

      Thanks for commenting and feel free to contact me with and questions you may have.

  7. Great guidance for a beginning photographer. I really like the part about taking your owners manual with you.
    This can help bail you out when something just won’t work. Your camera link is awesome. There are some very good used digital cameras out there for a fraction of the cost. My Nikon is not made anymore, but like a Timex watch, it keeps on tickin. Nice post. Well done.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, and let me know if there is anything that I can help you with.  

      I began as a Pentax shooter and then moved to Nikon and am enjoying the DSLR that I am currently shooting with.  The nice thing with Nikon is that you can use older lenses on the new digital bodies.

  8. Great post and good info. 

    I won’t start with photography, since I’m not so interested in it, but a good friend of me is.

    The thing is that he doesn’t know what to buy and what he needs. 

    So your post comes at the right time and the right moment, and he will be very thankfully for this. 

    So really thanks for sharing it, I will show him this post this afternoon. 

  9. A good set to start off with I think. The batteries are often the problem when I go and want to take photographs. It’s because my daughter uses the camera and often forget to turn it off after use.

    I’ll get a spare battery for sure. The towels I too forget every time maybe because I not yet have a special camera bag where I can store the whole equipment.

    I’m happy I bought the tripod a few months ago, it is amazing how much better some pics get with that.

    1. Hi Stefan, 

      Thank you for your comments. Having two batteries does make a big difference, it helps to know that you always have a spare that is charges (well if you remember to charge it after your last use) There are some newer cameras now that will go to sleep like a computer if left on for an extended period of time. I like to check my battery level in my menu (check your manual if you have this feature) 

      It is very handy to even have a smaller camera bag to keep your gear together.

      Yes a tripod can make quite a difference when you are shooting in tricky lighting situations and also if it is difficult for you to hold your camera steady.

      Feel free to drop me a note anytime if I can help you with your photography

  10. Thanks Monika for the excellent post on beginner photography. My son has developed a new hobby of photography and is asking for a DSLR now. I was a little scared as a new DSLR will cost tons of money and if the breaks or loses it then all of the hard earned cash is gone! I was not aware that you can also purchase refurbished cameras. Thanks for showing me the way to satisfy my son’s requirement as well as not burn a huge hole in my pocket. Can you please suggest which camera I should purchase for a kid to 14 years? He like to take photographs of nature and animals in natural habitat.



    1. Hi GeeEss

      Oh it is very exciting to hear that a teenager is excited about photography and not just using their phones.

      My suggestion would be to find a Nikon d5200 or d5300 or a Canon Rebel T4i or T5i These are good entry level cameras and your child will also be able to advance his skills using either of these cameras.

      If there is anything that I can help your child with, if your child has any questions please drop them below and I would be pleased to help.

  11. I enjoy cooking so I take a fair share of food photos. Seems like I have gotten everything you have on the list!  I too got a second hand camera and lens and even a simple light stand to take food photo at night. 

    And you are so right about the spare battery. Many times I happily grabbed my camera on my way out only to realise that the battery is flat. That is certainly a must on the list.

    1. Hi Grace, 

      Yes there is nothing more frustrating than grabbing your camera to do some photography and there is no life in the batteries. I actually have 4 batteries for one of my cameras just because if I go out on a photography job, I do not want to be left without power.

      With food photography you can also use white cardboard and make yourself a light box in which to get even light around your product. I will write and article soon explaining how to do this.

      If you have any photographic questions I can help with please drop them in the comments and I will be pleased to help. 

  12. Thank you for sharing with us this article on digital photography.I have been dreaming being a photographer since I was a small girl .My father bought a small camera which I was using to take pictures at home and when we went to a wedding ceremony.

    After getting married I bought a camera but my husband was not for my hobby, so I decided to stop to please him .I still have such drive into my heart and last month I went to a photography school for short courses and I need a cheap camera to do my training.

    I am happy that I found your website and find that I can shop a used camera at a low price.

    1. Photography can be very creative and also very important to record the history of your life and family. This is something that you can share with your husband to help him understand why you would like to continue taking photographs.

      Short courses are a great way to learn small amounts and then implement them into how you take your images. This is a very good choice in where to start to learn more.

      I am happy that you have also found my site and if there is anything that I can help you with to learn more, please ask by leaving comments below.

      A camera that I would recommend as an inexpensive starter DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera would be either the Canon rebel T4 or T5 or if you like Nikon their d5300 is also a reasonable choice and cameras that you can grow with as your skills improve.

  13. I once was very interested in photography and was a soldier at the time. I bought a really nice camera (Way outside my budget) and carried that camera with me everywhere I went. I would put the camera under the seat in my car so it wouldn’t be a temptation.

    One day, on the way to the beach, My car broke down and I got a ride into the next town where I could find a shop to pick up my car. When we got back to the car, it had been broken into and the camera was gone, along with my car battery, stereo and speakers!

    I continued to make payments on the camera, but never bought more than a pocket camera.

    This year, I’ve put a DSLR on my wish list hoping to get back into it and this article is a great reminder of equipment that I need for this and some good advice that I never afforded on my soldier’s income, like a nice camera bag. I carried mine around in a box store brand padded bag that didn’t have many features and was of such quality that I was still very ginger in sitting it down.

    Life has bumps. No more $10 bags!

    I’m curious. Your article has an ad for an 8GB card. Do digital cameras today have such small limits (I know! I never imagined I would suggest 8GB as a small card!)?

    Is there an article on your site reviewing cameras (Including starter DSLRs)?

    Thank you for this great advice! I’m going to bookmark this page so I can build my shopping list off of it!

    1. Sad to hear that you had your camera stolen. We do our best to take care of our gear and sometimes these things do happen. 

      There are some smaller aim and shoot cameras on the market that do take some amazing images in the right situations. But you do have more options using a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras. 

      If your budget is an issue, you can also look into purchasing a used camera. Most of my early cameras that I purchased were used, and if you can find out the shutter count (how many times the camera has taken an image) finding a used camera with a lower shutter count can be a good way for you to get back into having the use of a DSLR camera.

      Even finding a non camera bag that is padded will help to protect your camera. you can wrap or place small towels between your camera and and any other gear and around your camera to keep it from bumping. 

      I do show the 8gb and yes there are larger cards but if you do not shoot a lot and some people wish to not delete their cards once they have filled them up and just purchase new cards, this is an inexpensive way to do that. 

      Please check back to my site and watch for updates and upcoming reviews. 

      Thank you for your service to the country. 

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