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.

16 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.

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