I recently have been receiving a lot of email and questions about what kind of equipment I use or would recommend for a beginning/amateur photographer on a budget. Now, I love hearing that people are getting into photography and I love talking about it, so I decided to give you the insiders scoop on not only what is in my bag as a professional photographer, but what I have been recommending to others looking to broaden there equipment collection.
Keep in mind, all you aspiring photographers…I shot my first big job on a now $300 camera and $80 lens and still did great! It is not all about the equipment! If you have a great eye for composition and know how to control your light, you can begin with the basics and once you feel comfortable start adding lenses and off the wall stuff to your collection. If you start small and work your way up, I believe you will become more aware of the kind of photographer you and and the kinds of conditions you shoot best in. Explore every possible realm of your equipment and subject before you judge it!
But first, Lets start with what I currently have in my bag. This is essentially my bread and butter. I have included a photo (android photo, my big guns camera is in the shot) with numbers describing what everything is and what I use it for. And also some photos I have taken with certain pieces of equipment. Look Below or skip (don’t really!) to the next part on equipment I suggest for beginning photographers on a budget.
1. My Baby, Nikon D700. With a Battery Pack and a custom made strap by yours truly.
2. Nikon D60. With a Battery Pack, this is my backup camera, rarely gets used, but gets the job done if my big guns goes out. I started with the D60 and loved it, but ultimately wanted a bigger sensor and higher quality camera with a focusing motor in it, so I bought the Nikon D700.
3. Batteries of all kinds. AA, AAA, 4 batteries for both the D60 & D700, and probably some more I have not seen in a while. All tucked away nicely in my crown royal purple velvet bag.
4. 70-200 f/2.8 AF Nikkor Lens Great Lens for spying on people…ha kidding. But good for getting long shots. I’ve used this taking surf photography, shooting first looks before weddings from far away, or if I really want to throw out the background, bringing it down to 2.8 does just that. But it will set you back about $1200-$2000 depending on new or refurbished.
Photo Taken at Jacksonville Beach Pier with 70-200mm find the full image here:
5. 50mm 1.8 Nikon Prime Lens I would have to say my favorite lens and almost least expensive at $125, I have used it for Weddings, landscape, architecture, newborns, on and on….. Not only is it an amazing portrait lens for a very moody and dramatic feeling. But its wide enough to capture somewhat wide shots from afar and still focus in on your subject. Great for low light as well if you drop it all the way to 1.8 and crank your ISO up. All in all, I think, no matter what photographer you are, you need this lens.
taken with 50mm @ f/1.8 (first wedding I ever photographed)
6. Lensbaby & Custom Aperture adapters This Lens is pretty neat for only $150. I get real weird with light sometimes, it is after all one of my best friends as a photographer. The lensbaby allows you to control your point of focus while converging all light and objects towards what you are focusing on. The lensbaby, which is essentially a lens with a metal circle over the front (where you would normally put a filter) that you attach a magnetic aperture ring to which changes the amount of light that comes through the lens. If you put an aperture ring in it that is shaped like a star, all of your light sources shining in the photo will become shaped like a star. Essentially, you can get real creative with this stuff.
Soft Focus with A Lens Baby
Using the Star Aperture with the Lensbaby
7. Sigma 10-20mm Wide Angle Lens I have an issue sometime with some lenses. They can never get all of the scene in the photo. So to solve that, I bought this guy for about $500. He can see EVERYTHING! I’ve used it for landscapes to architecture, but it does provide a bit of distortion, so if your not into that effect, you may not like such a wide shot.
Long Exposure at Twilight @ Casa Marina in Jacksonville Beach. Photographed with 10-20mm Sigma
8. Business Cards Mama’s Got to Make Money! When people see you with a camera, sometimes they want a business card. Or its fun to leave them around for people to find. Whichever makes you happy.
9. Lens Hood Blocks glare away, Honestly I never use it, because I like a little glare.
10. Teleconverter I use this to add onto my 70-200mm when I need to get a closer shot, but I am further away. I use this for surf photography and long shots from the boat or sea. But for the most part, as I said before, I like really wide shots, so 200mm is already close enough. If you don’t want to spend the money on the big 600mm (about $2000) then this $110 fix will do it for you!
11. IR Remote I will use this when I am shooting alone, which is often. If I need to be near a light, but trigger the camera, this works well. Or if I am taking a self portrait where I don’t want to use self timer for focusing or timing purposes, this works well. Or if I don’t want camera shake from my shaky hands, again, this works well.
12. 28mm f/2.8 Nikon Prime Lens What I love about Nikons, is that you can use film lenses on digital bodies. It gives your image that film like quality, that is essentially the mixture of color and softness. This is a film lens, cost less than $200 and work great for landscapes without distorting the scene. When Im hiking up hills or doing some kind of intense physical routine in order to get to my photography location, I do not want to carry all this. At least I would bring this lens, my camera & maybe a tripod. It has a big bang for its buck.
Taken with the 28mm at full f/2.8 for a creamy effect
13. Extra Lens Cap The majority of mine have either been lost due to falling of a hill or in tall grass, or who knows where? Its good to have an extra to protect your lens, if not already a UV filter.
14. Set of Macro Lens Filters I honestly use this for the rings shots at weddings or very small details, and that is about it. I find it unnecessary to buy an $800-$1000 lens for something that is about 1% of what I photograph. When these guys (about $50) work just as amazing.
An unedited shot from Leslie & Sean’s Wedding Last week with the Macro Filters with a 28mm lens
15. Variable ND Filter Whats cool about it being a variable ND filter is that if you want to make the sky have more contrast but not the sand, you can turn the ring on the filter and control the amount of density. Absolutely essential for landscape photographers, and I think and amazing thing to have for any photographer to really get the true contrast and color of what you are photographing. I would suggest getting a good one, it is afterall the final point of what your looking through to make the photo. Mine was about $70
Moody Day, Black & White, Photographed with 10-20 mm Sigma & ND Filter. Love it.
16. ND Filters for a smaller lens, 52mm to be exact. Same explanation as above.
17. D700 Quick Tips Manual Read it before, I will probably read it again. Sometimes good to have, because sometimes stuff goes wrong.
18. Memory Cards No explanation needed, you need them to photograph. I always carry at least 4.
19. Multi Tool This is great for so many things, especially if your an everything photographer like me. I have used this to cut trees, screw back in parts of my tripod or camera, and all in all its just good to have around, because murphy’s law, its real.
20. Transmitter & Receiver Set of 2. The things are awesome! You can remote channel your lights, or multiple lights from almost a football field away. You can set them off if your upstairs and its downstairs, through walls, all kinds of goodies. I use this with my Alien B800 (not pictured) or my Hot Shoe Flash (number 26). Very Inexpensive (under $100) and really gives you some creative edge.
Photographed with a 28mm and my hot shoe flash on a receiver out behind the doors.
21. Mini Softbox for Hot Show Flash. So mini it only cost $10! Good to soften light in tight corners or use when you don’t want to be carrying around tripods and battery packs.
22. Video Lights set of 2, about $30 each. These things are great for all kinds of things. They provide an ample amount of light for being about 4 inches, but unfortunately they take 6 AA batteries each. I use them if I have a lot of yellow light because they provide a blue color or you can attach the filters in the grey pack to change the color for more effects. They provide dramatic and bright light. Mostly I use them in dark light.
Boom Drama! One Video Light on the side.
Full image @https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=530084673709782&set=a.530083557043227.1073741831.127626787288908&type=3&theater
23. Pen & Paper Cant forget those ideas! Write your location down, coordinates, wedding timeline, ideas for a shoot? Draw a picture? You name it & you can write it!
24. Bandaids It may be me that needs it, it may be a bride that I make walk through a bed of sticks so I can get a great shot. Either way, its another goody in my Mary Poppins camera bag!
25. FlashBender Another neat tool for my hot shoe flash and only about $40. You can bend it any way you want and ultimately control the direction of your flash anywhere. Really awesome to make it into a snoot by rolling it into a tube.
26. Sigma Hot Shoe Flash This guy is a work horse, been with me on adventures for about 4 years now. I use it for everything. I put it on the transmitter and receiver set and hide it in logs when Im photographing, or put it behind couples for backlighting. It is portable and strong and essential to my photography recently, especially at night. Its about $300, but worth it in the end.
27. ILFORD anti static cloth Good to clean your lenses with.
28. Headphones If I have signal I like to listen to music while I work. Check out Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood if you like Jazz, Little Dragon if you like some upbeat tunes, or Alpine radio for some indie rock. Thats whats been on my station lately.
29. Cable Release Good for self portraits, long exposures with no camera shake. You would think you didn’t need it for just that second, but you wouldn’t believe the kind of movement you produce in a second.
30. Mag Light This little baby packs a punch for all 3 inches & $3. I use this for close ups when I am trying to emphasis something small, but still want the area around it dark. It is really epic when you combine it with the right image.
Definitely added that pop! Used with a Mag Light & Macro Filters
31. Head Lamp another addition to my strange collection. I use it essentially for the same purpose as above, but if I have no one to hold it I can strap it to my camera or believe it or not my head. I’ll do just about anything for that photo!
32. Towel I have found, as I have photographed different situations, that you need things to get the job done, that they don’t sell on B&H or at the local photo store. When I want couples to sit on the floor, this is good for that pretty dress the girl is wearing. Or if I need something to prop up my camera that has cushion because my camera is sitting on a rock on the beach for a long exposure as my tripod sits a mile back in my car, where I accidentally left it, then this works perfectly. All in all, I’m sure this little towel will provide me with other uses later that I cannot think of right now.
33. Rope & Bungee You notice I put all the unconventional stuff at the bottom? These are great for wrapping your flash around a tree in a high angle during wind so it doesn’t knock down. OR bungee cord your tripod to a tree branch as high tide comes in. What? You don’t put your camera that close to the water? That’s what insurance is for!
34. Hair Tie I have long hair, if you do too, this may help to prevent your hair from blowing in the shot. If not, you can use it as a really bad bracelet.
35. Electrical Tape My back fell of my light once and I was glad I had this to keep the batteries in place. It has also been used to tape backdrops or even clothes onto a model. Another good thing to have.
36. My Dog Dax Not essential, but its good to have a pal.
This is a copy/paste of the email I have been sending lately with info, comparisons and links for camera equipment. Im a Nikon Girl…So its all Nikon. And again, keep in mind, your equipment will change based on what you are photographing. Don’t go spending money on stuff just because it looks cool or you want to fill your ginormous camera bag you just got from Lowepro. You don’t need it all, and as you can see above (if you did not skip that section sneaky) I don’t have it ALL…and I still make it work.
Lots of links, but I tried to sum it up.
Cameras & Equipment I think may be good for an amateur or beginning photographer under $1000:
Here is a comparison chart of all three (d3200,d5200,d90):
Nikon 5200. Very similar to 3200 (same specs as below). I could honestly tell no difference between the 3200 and 5200 other than the fact that a 5200 has more gadgets and presets that the 3200 which may be fun to use and its a couple hundred more (is it worth it?).
INFO ON 5200:
Good Deals for 5200 on EBAY:
this one comes with an 18-55 and card
this one comes with a warranty and 18-55
this ones a really good kit of everything, but its $950.
Nikon 3200. It has 24.2 megapixels, so image quality would be great, you can shoot RAW which is the highest quality image, and has a high ISO for shooting in dark situations. But it does not have a focusing motor inside the camera, which means some lenses will not auto focus. Not a big deal, but just thought I would throw it out there. I hardly use auto focus anyways.
INFO ON 3200:
Good deals for 3200 on EBAY:
this one comes with a lot of good stuff. has fish eye screw ons, that make your image real wide, but its in a shape of a circle, so cropping or keeping it a circle would be something you’d have to do. But its a good beginner because true fish eyes are expensive.
this just comes with a 18-55. which is standard, I’m not fond of the lens. But it is really good for the screw on fish eye and the macro screw ons. And I photographed my first couple of weddings with this as I was beginning. Good Starter
Nikon D90: Less megapixels, but a larger sensor and more expensive. I like this one because its more of a pro camera, takes a nicer card reader and battery (which of course are a little bit more $$) But it has a motor in it, so you can use any lens with auto focus (including old film lenses), there are also more features like better quality, longer battery life, etc. But Ultimately it may not be the best idea to spend the more money, if you not going to use the features.
INFO ON D90:
Good deals for 90 on EBAY:
this one comes with an 18-105 and 50mm (both real good lenses) but you have to bid on it.
This one literally has everything you need for under $1000. you have a telephoto lens, 18-55, macro screw ons, card, card reader, batteries, etc. I will be honest its not all quality equipment, but it will get the job done and as you go along you can resell and replace items with higher quality stuff.
Once you pick your camera, get into lenses:
50mm 1.8 Nikon Portrait lens:
This is probably my absolute favorite lens, especially for portrait. And its real inexpensive, like $120. Auto focus will not work on 3200/5200, but again not a big deal.
Macro Screw on filters:
this is all I use, a macro lens is like $600, I would like to have one, but these guys work great and I honestly use the macro lens for one shot (the wedding rings). Just make sure you get good quality glass lenses and make sure they are the right thread size as the lens you are intending to use it for. Usually a 52mm is you are using the 18-55 which comes with all of these cameras pretty much. I always get new filters, because its what your looking through, they should be in good condition.
Nikon Wide Angle:
You can get screw on ones cheap, but not the best quality, or you can get a sigma instead of nikon. there are a few suggestions below.
24mm nikon, good no distortion wide angle:
10-20mm distortion lens, way more expensive, but good quality:
If I were you I would do this:
Get one of the 3200 lens kits with an 18-55 in the kit ($500-$600)
get a screw on macro lenses for that 18-55 (comes with kit)
and a screw on wide angle (save money for a nicer one) ($50) OR
get the 24mm Nikon wide angle and deal with not having auto focus ($150)
and get the 50mm Lens for portraits, etc. ($150)
total it would be about $900, which is good.
Links To Equipment Listed:
ilford photo accessories
photographer & all photos on this blog
transmitter & receiver
Alien B Lighting system
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