Beginner Photography Essentials: The Camera Gear To Get You Going

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Navigating Photography On a Budget

Navigating professional photography gear can be daunting, especially since even today’s high-end smartphones with impressive lenses can put a strain on your finances. Camera equipment, in particular, can easily drain your bank account.

So, what should you do as a new photographer eager to learn basic camera techniques? The answer is simple: start with the basics. You don’t need to run out and get the latest mirrorless camera with an expensive prime lens. Instead, invest in a good entry-level camera that offers all the essential manual settings, allowing you to start your journey and enhance your skills.

For those who grew up using point-and-shoot cameras on full automatic mode, the transition to manually setting exposure, aperture, and shutter speed can feel overwhelming. If you’ve grown accustomed to taking impressive photos with your smartphone, you might even wonder why you should bother with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Why not let the camera handle everything for you?

In reality, you can! However, different methods yield different results. A fully manual camera offers incredible control over the look and feel of your photos. It allows you to adapt to varying conditions and settings, providing a unique and engaging experience as you explore the world through different lenses.  Plus, at the end of the day, if you’re in the business of providing your clients or yourself professional photos, a manual camera will give you higher quality results.

Here is the basic gear I started with, which supported me through numerous photo shoots and an essential learning curve: Since I use Canon gear, the recommendations are Canon compatible.  If you prefer to use another brand, make sure you’re looking at lenses and accessories compatible with your type camera.

ENTRY-LEVEL DSLR CAMERA (Option A)
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The Canon Rebel SL3 is a compact DSLR ideal for beginners. It features a 24.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 processor, offering high-quality photos and 4K video recording.  It’s one of the smallest and lightest Canon cameras, making it easier to carry around on your photo adventures.  This camera can easily become your daily companion, and I still use it as my second-shooter camera.

The Canon EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens is a standard zoom lens with high image quality that covers a wide variety of photography needs.  It is light and compact, and features image stabilization at up to 4 Stops of shake Correction.

FUN FACT:  This camera is known as Canon Rebel SL3 in the USA, Canon EOS 250D in the European market and throughout the world, and Kiss X10 in Japan.  All three versions are mechanically exactly the same.  The main difference is that technical support is limited to the market the camera is sold in.

TOP FEATURES:

  • Vari-angle Touchscreen: Great for shooting from various angles.
  • Guided User Interface: Helps beginners understand camera settings.
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Easy sharing and remote control.
  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Dual Pixel autofocus.
  • 4K video capability.

CONS:

  • Smaller battery life compared to larger DSLRs.
  • No headphone jack for monitoring audio.
  • Limited frame rate options in 4K.

Overall User Friendliness of Canon EOS Rebel SL3: Highly user-friendly, especially for beginners with its guided User Interface and compact form factor.

HELPFUL ACCESSORY
Canon Battery Pack LP-E17

User Rating: 4.8 out of 5 Stars

Having a backup battery is critical during longer photo shoots. The original Canon battery costs a bit more that a third party brand battery, however it guarantees compatibility with your camera and long-lasting value.

COMPATIBILITY: Canon Rebel SL3

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HELPFUL ACCESSORY
LP-E17 Battery (2-Pack) with Dual Slot Battery Charger

User Rating: 4.6 out of 5 Stars

This battery and charger pack is compatible with the Canon Rebel SL3 and more budget-friendly than an original Canon battery. It has good charging speed and overall value. It may not last as long as an original Canon battery, but it should get you through plenty of photo shoots.

COMPATIBILITY: Canon Rebel SL3

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HELPFUL ACCESSORY
Canon Speedlite EL-100 Flash

A compact and versatile flash compatible with Canon Rebel SL3. This is the flash I use for my camera.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE:

The Canon SL3 flash hot shoe has a different pin configuration than other Canon DSLR cameras, making it more difficult to find a compatible flash unit. 

Many of the aftermarket kits you will see on Amazon include an incorrect version of the flash. Please verify with the seller before purchasing.

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ENTRY-LEVEL DSLR CAMERA (OPTION B)
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This camera bundle is perfect for beginners looking to dive into photography. This bundle provides a user-friendly camera with a 24.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor for high-quality images, built-in Wi-Fi for easy sharing, and a versatile lens suitable for various shooting scenarios. It’s an excellent entry point into the world of DSLR photography with all the essential accessories included.

This bundle also comes with two auxiliary lenses, an extra battery pack, flash, a tripod, and memory cards, making it easy to get started.

TOP FEATURES:

  • Fast Autofocus: The 9-point AF system ensures that your subject is in sharp focus, making it ideal for action shots and moving subjects.
  • Beginner-Friendly: The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is an excellent choice for novice photographers, offering intuitive controls and user-friendly features.
  • Versatile Lens: The included Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens is perfect for a wide range of shooting scenarios, from landscapes to portraits.
  • High-Resolution Images: With a 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, this camera captures detailed and vibrant images.
  • Built-In Wi-Fi: Easily share your photos and videos with the built-in Wi-Fi feature, allowing for quick and convenient transfers to your smart devices and social media.

CONS:

  • Limited Battery Life: The battery life might not be sufficient for extended shooting sessions without carrying a spare.
  • Basic Video Capabilities: While it can record in Full HD, the video capabilities are somewhat limited compared to more advanced models.
  • Plastic Build: The camera body is primarily made of plastic, which may not be as durable as higher-end models.
  • Fixed LCD: The non-articulating screen can be a limitation for shooting at difficult angles.
  • Limited Low Light Performance: The camera’s performance in low light conditions isn’t as strong as some more advanced models.

Overall User Friendliness of Canon EOS Rebel T7: Designed with beginners in mind, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 is straightforward to use with a helpful guided menu system that makes learning photography enjoyable.

OTHER BEGINNER DSLR CAMERAS

Check out other options for entry-level cameras at the link below.  Please be sure to read descriptions and reviews, so you feel confident making your purchase (especially from a third-party seller).

WHAT ABOUT OTHER GEAR AND ACCESSORIES?

The two DSLR camera options above are enough to get you going, especially if you end up with a bundle like the Canon Rebel T7.  However, you will quickly find that the right accessories make your photography journey so much better.

I have gone through many various accessories, many of which ended up in the dark corner of the closet.  The ones below still see the light of day, so let’s explore them.

CAMERA GEAR

This professional tripod is made of high-quality lightweight aluminum and feels sturdy and stable, which can be a big deal when shooting outdoors in windy conditions.  The legs and center rod are all retractable, allowing the tripod to extend up to 77″.

My favorite feature is the metal ball head, which makes adjusting the position and angle of your camera a breeze.

One thing to look out for: when locking the quick-release locks on the legs back into position, push down on them and try not to get your fingers pinched.  I still do it at least once during each shoot.  But I still love my tripod.

CAMERA GEAR
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This versatile camera bag can be worn as a sling or waist bag, providing convenient access to your camera gear. I needed a comfortable and convenient solution to swapping my lenses during event shoots.  Running back and forth to my camera gear was absolutely not an option when trying not to miss shots, and strapping on two cameras with different lenses was way outside my starter budget.  After trying other “cute” alternatives that weren’t very functional, this little bag became my go to.

CAMERA GEAR
Cwatcun Waist and Sling Camera Bag, Water Resistant

User Rating: 4.6 out of 5 Stars

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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Flexible wearing options as a sling or around your waist.
  • Ample storage for essentials, such as SD cards, a lens or two, batteries, etc.

Cons:

  • Limited space for larger camera setups.
  • Durability of zippers may be questionable (although I’ve had this bag for a couple years now and my zippers are still good).

The CADeN Camera Backpack Bag is a multi-functional photography backpack designed to carry camera equipment along with a laptop. It features customizable compartments for DSLR/SLR or mirrorless cameras and lenses, alongside additional storage for personal items. This backpack is built with water-resistant materials, making it suitable for various weather conditions.  It goes with me everywhere!

CAMERA GEAR
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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Customizable Compartments: Adjustable dividers allow for a personalized layout, accommodating various camera bodies, lenses, and accessories.
  • Laptop Storage: A padded compartment securely holds laptops, offering protection and easy access.
  • Water-Resistant Material: Ensures that gear stays dry in light rain and humid conditions.
  • Ergonomic Design: Padded shoulder straps and back panel provide comfort during extended use, reducing strain on the back and shoulders.
  • Affordable: Provides professional-level features at a budget-friendly price, making it accessible for amateur photographers.

Cons:

  • Limited space for non-photography items, making it less versatile for all-day travel.
  • Zippers may not be as durable as those on more expensive bags
  • The backpack can become bulky and heavy when fully loaded
  • Limited color options

The waka Rapid Camera Neck Strap is an adjustable, durable strap designed for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus DSLR cameras. Featuring a quick-release mechanism for instant camera access and a safety tether for added security, this strap ensures your camera is both accessible and protected. With its adjustable length and comfortable design, it’s perfect for photographers who need a reliable and convenient way to carry their camera during shoots.

CAMERA GEAR
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Top Features:

  • Quick-release mechanism for fast and easy access to your camera.
  • Safety tether included for added security.
  • Comfortable and adjustable length for a customized fit.
  • Storage pocket for SD cards and small batteries.

Cons:

  • The quick-release mechanism may need periodic checks for wear and tear.
  • Some may find the strap a bit bulky for compact cameras.

These little Altura Photo lens cap keepers can be a lifesaver!  They prevent loss or dropping of lens caps by attaching them to your camera.  Some lens caps can be hard to grasp with your fingers, and I’m constantly dropping mine.  Attaching a lens cap keeper like this is a simple and cheap solution.

CAMERA GEAR
Altura Photo 5 Pcs Lens Cap Keeper

User Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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WHAT ABOUT MY STUDIO SETUP?

As you begin taking photos, you can get by using whatever you have around the house to create interesting backgrounds and lighting conditions.  As you get more into traditional portrait photography, or even products and headshots, you’ll need a more structured setup. 

Being on a tight budget, I looked for inexpensive options that would get me to the next step.  Below are some of the gear that did just that.

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP

A continuous lighting kit with 20x28in softboxes and adjustable color temperature LED bulbs is a great entry level kit.  It will allow you to practice different lighting techniques and get used to controlling your light while you save up for the more expensive, high quality lights.

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP
Skytex Softbox Lighting Kit

User Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Adjustable Lighting: Wide range of color temperatures.
  • Easy Assembly: Quick setup for on-the-go shoots.

Cons:

  • Light stands could be sturdier
  • Bulbs not as bright as professional-level lighting

All the beautiful  backdrops will do you no good if you don’t have a way to hang them.  Enter…the EMART backdrop stand.  It’s an adjustable backdrop stand kit perfect for supporting various types of backdrops for studio photography.

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP
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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Adjustable Dimensions: Fits various backdrop sizes.
  • Portable: Comes with a carrying case for easy transport.
  • Comes with two weighted bags to hold your stands in place

Cons:

  • Stability in outdoor settings, especially in windy conditions
  • Clamps could be stronger

If you’re planning on doing studio photoshoots, such as portraits or headshots, it’s helpful to have some basic, clean backdrop options.  This backdrop screen bundle includes white, black, and green backgrounds ideal for various photographic needs.

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP
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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Versatile Use: Ideal for portraits, product photography, and videography.
  • Large Dimensions: Provides ample background coverage.
  • Variety of color.

Cons:

  • Wrinkles easily (a steam iron can be a life saver).
  • Requires sturdy mounting support.
  • Setup can be cumbersome.

A versatile 5-in-1 reflector that includes gold, silver, white, black, and translucent surfaces for varied lighting effects.  They are used to reflect light back onto the subject, giving you a bit more control of your environment.  

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP
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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Versatility: Offers multiple lighting options in one product.
  • Portability: Portable and collapsible.

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to fold back up (think twist and fold!).
  • Not suitable for long-term outdoor use in strong winds.

This tripod with clamp holder is a helpful accessory for the reflector kit listed above.

It adjusts from 2.9ft to 8.5ft and has a maximum load capacity of 22lb.  It can be used with any light head, 1/4″ screw tip on the stem it supports all of photo equipment such as softbox, reflector, umbrella.

LIGHTING & STUDIO SETUP
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READY TO GO BEYOND THE STOCK LENS?

Although the 18-55mm stock lens that comes with many beginner DSLR camera bundles can take beautiful photos in a variety of settings, it won’t be very useful if you’d like to zoom in on birds or capture wide angle landscapes or architecture.

If you’re not quite ready to graduated to the prime lenses yet (the expensive kind, I’m still saving for mine!), the lenses below are a great option! 

ADDITIONAL LENSES

This is a versatile telephoto zoom lens for APS-C Canon cameras, known for its image stabilization and quiet autofocus.  It produces sharp images in good light conditions, and has impressive zoom.  This lens comes with me whenever I want to shoot photographs of birds, wildlife and landscapes, and even events like parades.

TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS
Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM

User Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Stars

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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Image Stabilization: Reduces blur in low-light conditions.
  • Quiet Autofocus: Perfect for video recording.

Cons:

  • Aperture limited to F4-5.6.
  • Images not as sharp in low light conditions.
  • Not compatible with full-frame cameras.
  • Build quality is mostly plastic.

This Tokina ATX-i 11-20mm F2.8 is a versatile ultra-wide-angle zoom lens designed for Canon EF-S mount crop-sensor DSLRs. With a constant f/2.8 aperture, it excels in low-light conditions and provides excellent control over depth of field. Its focal length range makes it a great choice for landscapes, architecture, interior and real estate photography, and creative portraiture.

WIDE ANGLE LENS
Tokina ATX-i 11-20mm F2.8 for Canon EF-S Mount

User Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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Top Features and Benefits:

  • Constant f/2.8 Aperture: Allows for consistent low-light performance and creative depth control throughout the zoom range.
  • Exceptional Sharpness: Delivers high-resolution images with impressive detail, especially in the center of the frame.
  • Durable Construction: Built with a robust metal body, ensuring longevity and reliability in various shooting conditions.
  • Wide Angle of View: Perfect for capturing expansive scenes, making it ideal for landscapes and architectural shots.
  • Low Distortion: Helps maintain straight lines and true-to-life proportions.

Cons:

  • Heavier and bulkier compared to some other lenses in its class.
  • Some softness at the edges, especially when wide open.
  • Autofocus can be slow and noisy in certain situations.

A lens hood is a necessity for any lens.  It not only protects your lens from bumps, it also helps minimize lens glare.

Lenses comes in different sizes, even for the same camera.  Verify the size of your lens before purchasing a hood.  The size will generally be displayed on the front rim of your lens.

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