Essential Tools for Every Beginner Photographer
Often, we have the misconception that the better the camera is, the better your photos are more likely to be. And, to a certain extent, this is true. But, it’s not always the case. If you’re a beginner, it’s highly recommended that you start with second-hand DSLRs or mirrorless cameras to give you the feel of what you truly need and prefer. And, this also gives you the chance to practice more efficiently and work with more constraints and challenges that are likely to expand not only your skills but also your resourcefulness.
This article was written by Paula Candelaria.
On that note, we recommend investing in accessories and tools. While it might seem overwhelming at first, you’ll find that buying the essentials will do you more good than a pricey camera right off the bat. After all, if there’s anything any seasoned photographer will tell you: it’s not the camera that matters, rather the equipment you have for lighting, storing, and overall stabilizing your shots (and, of course, the skills to use these to their true potential).
This leads us to the question: what do you need to get started? Please take a look at our guide down below to see the ten most essential tools and accessories you need to ease you in your new journey into the vast world of photography.
While kit lenses are great at the beginning, you’ll likely start to wonder real quick why you can’t seem to get those nice bokeh effects that you see a lot in portraits and street photography. Often, this is because most kit lenses are zoom lenses that come with a wide range of focal lengths but varying apertures.
This is why prime lenses are important to any photographer’s tool kits. These give you a set focal length and consistent aperture, so you don’t have to worry about constantly changing your ISO or shutter speeds to meet low light conditions….as well as that stunning bokeh everyone is after nowadays.
As a small tip, we recommend getting at least one 35mm and 50mm lenses with low apertures. These will give you ample room to experiment with portrait shots, street photography, product photos, and evening photo walks! Save the macro lenses and wide lenses for another day…unless, of course, you’re aiming for a specific type of photography niche.
Tripods are essential to anyone who wants stable and crisp shots. While some cameras do offer built-in stabilizers, it’s always a wise option to invest in a durable and portable tripod.
After all, as much as we want to believe our hands are steady enough to capture clean and crisp images….well, let’s just say it takes a whole lot of practice to get to that point. And, even then, you’re still likely to reach for a tripod now and then, especially if you want to do long-exposure or product photography.
You’ll probably hear a lot of debate around whether you need an external flash or not. But, to keep it short, if you want to experiment with portraits or creative still images, then an external flash is probably a great addition to your camera bag.
But, wait, don’t cameras already have built-in flashes? Well, while these are adequate in some scenarios, they don’t offer the most flexible lighting option and can often overexpose your images or delay your shot. On the other hand, external flashes are great for rectifying these problems. They’re often highly flexible with settings, immediately flash a burst of light once your shutter is activated, and usually come with external components that can diffuse or enhance them even further.
Extra Storage (Hard Drives and Memory Cards)
One of the things you never want to run out of is memory. After all, you don’t want to be on a gig or photo walk only to find out you’re out of space and have no extra memory cards or hard drives to dump important files in. Also, going through your images and deleting photos manually can take up a lot of precious time!
On that note, it’s recommended that you have at least 1-2 backup memory cards in your camera bag or a laptop and hard drive to dump files quickly. Likewise, it would be wise to invest in high-class storage accessories as these contain the most important aspect of your photography career: your images.
You’ll probably hear a lot of people say that the true key to great images is lighting. And, they’re correct. Bad lighting can ruin a great shot and can be more than a headache to fix post-process. But, external flashes or lighting fixtures are not your only arsenal to attain great lighting.
A great tool to always have is reflectors. Often, these come in portable circular packages that are multipurpose. They usually contain diffusers, different kinds of reflectors, and even black flags, which helps in overexposure, creating more contrast and deepening shadows. It’s highly recommended that you practice with all types of reflectors under natural lighting conditions, so you can fully grasp the full potential of these nifty lighting accessories – making your transition to artificial lighting all the easier.
Unlike studio set-ups, outdoor photography can be quite tricky when it comes to manipulating lighting conditions. And, as much as we want to take our photos within that oh-so-sweet golden hour…well, that’s only 2-3 hours a day max – if you’re lucky. That’s where lens filters come in.
A great way to combat lens flare and that weird fog that comes over during harsh outdoor lighting are polarizing filters or ND filters. These significantly remove overblown highlights so that you can achieve those crisp and clear images even under the harsh noon sun. Although, you may want to practice on the right settings for appropriate times of the day because overusing your ND filters can often cause vignetting or even unnatural-looking photos.
A great investment to keep your camera equipment portable and safe while traveling is a camera bag or case. Let’s just say you don’t want to be lugging around expensive equipment in flimsy bags that might break at a moment’s notice.
Likewise, investing in a sturdy camera bag can help keep your equipment organized and reduce all sorts of environmental or situational issues like dust accumulation, rusting, and even oxidation. As a bonus tip, you may want to add a few desiccant gel packs to your bag to keep your lenses and other accessories dehumidified.
Remote Shutter Release
Just like a tripod, remote shutter releases are great tools to enhance stability. These prevent shaky hands or accidental bumps from ruining a great shot – especially when you’re trying to do candid shots or long-exposure ones. And, the best part about these is that they often come relatively inexpensive. You don’t have to buy fancy or expensive ones as the cheap ones are just as useful and will likely last you a long time since they’re pretty simple devices.
Next to having no storage, running low on battery is probably one of the most annoying experiences you’ll have when you’re starting. Mirrorless cameras often come with the downside of having very poor battery life…and can you just imagine the frustration of running out of charge just when you’re about to take that great shot?
That’s why investing in rechargeable batteries and chargers is very important. And, if you love to shoot outdoors, it’s highly recommended that you have at least one or two spare batteries that are fully charged in your camera bag.
While most cameras come with camera straps in their starter kits, these are often very rigid and uncomfortable to wear. But, opting to go rogue and just holding your camera is just not an option – no matter how daring you want to be. Not only will this inevitably lead to dropping your camera, but can you also imagine the hand fatigue of having to hold on to your camera the whole day constantly?
Luckily, there are a variety of camera straps that are available online for cheap. You can opt for wrist style variants or comfortable long straps. Although, I highly recommend starting with the latter as they’re just a lot easier to carry around as you can easily just wear them around your neck.
More than equipment, focus on skill
While having the right set of equipment is very important to start your photography career, nothing beats pure skill. However, sometimes having limited equipment and using found resources can do you more good to hone your skills. After all, being reliant purely on tools and accessories is only likely to cripple your chance of stimulating your creativity, exploring the limits of your resourcefulness, and expanding your skillset.
At the end of the day, it’s not the equipment that makes a good photographer; rather, it’s the skill – and it’s only through challenging yourself that you’ll indeed find the best way to hone your inner creativity and passion.