Starting a career in photography requires more than a passion for capturing great images. To be successful, you also need the right equipment. With so many options available, it can be challenging to know where to start. In this blog post, I’ll discuss the essential equipment necessary to begin your photo career as well as share with you what I use, and what I started with.
The most crucial piece of equipment for any photographer is, of course, the camera. When it comes to selecting a camera, there are two main types: DSLR and mirrorless. Both types offer high-quality image capture, but they have their unique features.
DSLR cameras are larger and bulkier, but they typically have longer battery life. On the other hand, mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact. There is a very good technical comparison of these two types in “DSLR vs mirrorless cameras in 2023: which camera format is best, and why?” post by Rod Lawton. I used to shoot for many years with Canon 5D Mark II. And I shot indoors, outside in the most terrible conditions. That camera went through everything and still worked perfectly fine. The downside for me was the weight. Especially with an extra battery grip and a chunky lens, every shoot can become a serious workout.
A few years back I decided to make a switch to Sony A7 RIII. Mostly because it was way newer, with lots of great feedback on autofocus, speed, and image stabilization. It is a way smaller camera and its’ body fits into my, not very large, hand way better. But for my husband, it feels a bit too small. It also doesn’t feel as weather resilient as my Canon did.
Whichever type of camera you choose, look for a model with a high resolution, fast autofocus, and the ability to shoot in RAW format.
Choosing the right lens for your camera is as important as selecting the camera itself. Different lenses offer different focal lengths, which determine the type of images you can capture. Here are the most common types of lenses:
- Standard lens: This type of lens has a focal length of around 50mm and is ideal for everyday shooting.
- Wide-angle lens: A lens with a focal length of less than 35mm, which is perfect for capturing landscapes, architecture, interiors, and some funky portraits.
- Telephoto lens: A lens with a focal length of over 100mm, which is great for capturing distant subjects like wildlife and sports events.
- Zoom lens: A versatile lens that allows you to adjust the focal length, making it ideal for travel photography.
- Macro lens: A lens optimized to handle extremely close focusing distances. It is a perfect choice for shooting flowers, insects, jewelry, and any other small objects.
When starting, I would recommend investing in a high-quality standard lens and gradually building a collection of lenses based on the type of photography you want to focus on. I currently use my 85mm and 35mm Sony lenses the most, sometimes I use a Tamron 17x28mm wide-angle lens.
A tripod used to be a must-have accessory for any photographer. Nowadays, with modern cameras, you get insane image stabilization. For most of the shoots I do, I rarely use a tripod. But sometimes you want that extra crispness or just fix the viewpoint for multiple shots. This is when a tripod becomes a necessity. It provides stability for your camera, allowing you to capture sharp and clear images. Tripods come in various sizes and materials, but it’s essential to choose a sturdy one that can support your camera’s weight.
I tried multiple tripods throughout my 15 years career and I became obsessed with Manfrotto tripods and heads. I would recommend choosing the tripod where you can extend it vertically to the desired height, as well as the one with an option to extend it horizontally. Something like MT190XPRO4. And I would definitely recommend investing in a ball head, it makes the adjustments so much quicker and easier. I use 324RC2 and so happy with it.
Memory cards are essential for storing your images. When choosing a memory card, consider its capacity and speed. Higher capacity cards can store more images, while faster cards can write data quickly, allowing you to capture more shots in succession. A popular choice is the SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC, which offers high capacity and speed.
I would recommend having a few sets available, especially if you shoot often. I always use dual cards setup with my Sony camera, so all images are duplicated, just in case something goes wrong with one card. And then I have another set of two cards. So after every photo shoot, I swap cards, format them prep my camera for the next shoot.
Editing software and hardware
After capturing your images, you’ll need to edit them to enhance their quality. Editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are essential tools for any photographer. I extensively use both products with some extra plugins and filters to speed up my post-processing. I have developed a lesson explaining how I do all the retouching in Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve great sin color and make your images look really professional.
Whichever post-processing software you choose, please use the official version. Otherwise, you’ll be always struggling fighting with bugs and not having all the latest features available.
And in most cases, you would need to have a decent computer with enough RAM, and a powerful graphics card. I use one of the newest iMacs (24″) with extra RAM. I also have an external G-Drive for data storage, because each shoot takes around 100GB, so space disappears quickly. There are multiple options for your data storage. I trusted my husband’s research to choose this one for me, and so far pretty happy with it. It is super fast, easy to use, and looks and feels pretty cool.
While natural lighting is ideal, sometimes it’s necessary to use artificial lighting to achieve the desired effect. There are two main types of lighting: continuous and flash.
Continuous lighting provides a constant source of light and is ideal for shooting video and portraits. On the other hand, flash lighting provides a short burst of light and is great for freezing motion and capturing action shots.
When starting, I would recommend investing in a basic flash kit that includes a flashgun and a light stand. For continuous lighting, a softbox or umbrella can diffuse the light, providing a softer and more natural effect.
It takes some time and practice to get used to artificial light and learn how to operate with it quickly. But this is one of the must-have skills for fashion, studio, portrait, and all-arounder photographers.
I personally use Yongnuo flashguns. They work with a whole range of cameras, are super easy to use, and are very affordable. And for most of my studio shoots I use Profoto B10 with a bunch of modifiers, like an umbrella, octobox etc. It is quite expensive, but you can use it wirelessly, meaning you can shoot with it literally everywhere. You can control it from your mobile device (which is a way nicer UI than dealing with those tiny buttons on the transmitter), and it gives enough power for any kind of shot. Plus it is pretty light and compact. So I can fit a camera, a couple of lenses and a Profoto light in my backpack.
It does require some substantial investment to get all the gear required to start your photo career. But you don’t have to have it all from the very beginning. I use Budgetcam to rent any missing equipment I need for the shoot. They have a great variety of equipment and several locations in the Netherlands. Convenient opening times and a pretty smooth process. So when you start, consider a similar service in your neighborhood, might save you some money and give you a chance to try different cameras, lenses, and lights before you make your investment decision. The only downside – it does require extra time and admin to pick it up and drop it off.
But at the end of the day, although equipment is important, a lot depends on your skills and experience. So go out and shoot as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Attend workshops and masterclasses, do lots of TFPs, and experiment a lot.
Got a question? Shoot me a DM on Instagram, I’ll be happy to help!