What do you need in your kit to kick off your career?
As a new photographer who is looking to turn a loved hobby into something more – the first thing you are struck with is what equipment you need? There is so much out there but what do you really need and what is something that you can hold off on until you are making some money off the hobby-turned-job?
Now I must tell you before we start to build up a list of equipment that it is impossible to tell you exactly what you will and won’t need at any given time for any given shoot and of course what you do and don’t buy on your first round all depends on your budget. So what I will do, the best I can do, is to list the items in order of most necessary down to “necessary but can wait” depending on your budget.
The first item, without argument, that every photographer needs to step up their career is a camera. Not just any camera!
Even as I want to type this next line I can hear the argument developing…so I am going to say it and then defend it straight away.
NOT JUST ANY CAMERA – it needs to be a camera that can deliver a decent quality of images that matches the price that you want to charge, which is pretty much any amount because why would a client want to pay anything for poor quality images. I know that there is an age old argument that states that a good photographer can work with any equipment and deliver beautiful images and I know this is true. The images can be beautiful no matter what you are shooting with – but the quality of those beautiful images is what I am referring to and the unfortunate reality is that you cannot deliver a high image quality on a camera that is not made to deliver high image quality.
In the Canon range I would not recommend a camera below the 60D.
In the Nikon range, the Nikon D7000 is the minimum.
I am not discrediting any other brands by not mentioning them, I am just trying to give a generalised example of the minimum standard of camera required in order to enable you to deliver professional quality.
When your client is paying you for a shoot (be it a wedding or a birthday etc) they expect to be able to print those images at larger than normal sizes. The better the quality of the camera – the bigger that print can be. Also (and actually more importantly) the better the camera – the better performance it will have in low light situations like the inside of a church.
With your camera you will need:
- A battery
- A spare battery or a battery grip
- Memory cards (2gigs is too small for a professional shoot, you will be more comfortable with around 8gigs of shooting space. It is recommended that you don’t have all your memory space in “one basket” so to speak. Instead of having one 8gig card – purchase two 4 gig cards so that you have a back up card should anything happen to the one card.)
- A card holder which is, preferably, weather-sealed and small enough to fit in you pocket. You don’t want to be carrying loose cards in your pocket.
You can start off with just a general all rounded lens. The high end cameras come with beautiful kit lenses and this will keep you going for a while until you can afford more lenses.
If your kit lens isn’t delivering the quality that you hope to provide but your budget is tight – then I recommend getting yourself a 50mm F1.8 lens. They are affordable and the quality is incredible.
If your budget allows for it then I recommend purchasing the following two lenses in your starter pack:
1) a lens to cover the wider and general ranges (17-85mm)
2) a lens to cover the zoomed range (70-200mm F2.8) the F2.8 70-200mm is a lens that provides the most amazing image quality as well as giving you a more diverse range of photo opportunities as with this lens you will be able to get closer and thereby provide more intimate photos such as the expression on a brides face when her groom says “I do” or the intimate exchanging of rings and the moment of the kiss. A long lens is essential if you plan to shoot children as the further away you can stand from the child the less interfering your presence will be and the more natural your photographs will be.
Later on you can add a wider angle lens (8mm) and a higher quality kit lens.
With your lenses I recommend purchasing a UV filter for each one as it is so much cheaper to replace a cracked UV filter than it is to replace a cracked lens glass.
A lot of new photographers don’t understand or know about the great impact that lighting has on your images. With the correct lighting you up the quality of your image drastically. As I have mentioned above – the better the camera – the better it performs in low light. So if you are controlling the light then you are taking the strain off the camera by asking it to perform in low light.
You can control the light by purchasing a high quality off camera flash.
The 580EX or 580EXii are both beautiful off-camera flashes for Canon. The flash is a pricey addition to your camera equipment but I recommend that you treat it as being as vital as the lens and do not skimp on the quality.
You cannot do wedding photography or event photography as a professional without using an off-camera flash.
With your flash, while it might not be vital in the beginning as you can just use your off-camera flash on the camera’s hot-shoe, you should also look at getting the following if your budget allows:
1) Additional rechargeable batteries to keep on you when the flash batteries start getting low
2) A battery pack is definitely recommended as this keeps the power up for a full wedding shoot (as an example)
3) Wireless triggers (see below for a few comments on wireless triggers)
4) A diffuser
5) A basic/budget tripod for your flash to stand on in the event of using your wireless triggers. You can just use the little stand your flash comes with instead of a tripod, but obviously a tripod gives you more control over the height and thereby the direction of the lighting.
Ask any professional wedding photographer and they will tell you that wireless triggers are not an option, but rather a necessity. How does it work? Well the best way to explain it is to think of it as a giant (wireless) extension cable for your camera’s hot shoe. There are two parts to a wireless trigger kit. The one part clicks into your camera’s hot-shoe and when you take a photo this part will send a signal. The other part attaches to the bottom of your off-camera flash and this part receives the signal and then fires the flash at the correct moment. This means that your flash can be sitting almost anywhere around your model (depending on the range of your wireless trigger set) and you, as the photographer, now have full control of the lighting effects in your images.
A QUALITY CAMERA BAG
Preferably one that is easy to carry around with you while you shoot. In some shooting situations it is not an option to leave your equipment somewhere while you roam around and in these cases it is great to have a camera bag that is similar to a backpack so that you can comfortably carry everything without it getting in your way.
A micro fiber camera cleaning cloth and a lens pen to ensure that your equipment stays clean and those annoying lens smudges don’t end up in your photos.
ADOBE PHOTOSHOP & LIGHTROOM
A professional photographer either needs to learn to edit their work themselves or they will need to outsource this to someone else. You cannot charge your client for professional quality images without also providing an editing service.
OTHER THINGS TO TAKE ALONG WITH YOU
- Some business cards. Even when going to a wedding you will always find someone who wants a business card, don’t get caught without one!
- A positive attitude! No-one likes to be photographed by a grumpy photographer, and even if you are in a “not-so-friendly” mood, never let your client see it. It also helps to compliment your subjects when you take photos, even if they are not that great, take another shot after the compliment and see how much friendlier/relaxed they look.
That is the basic requirements for a photographers kit. What? You still have more money in your budget? Lucky You! Let’s keep shopping then….
A reflector is a great way to control natural light. I have a reflector that is large enough to double as a backdrop as well which is fantastic.
The best reflector is the 5-in-1 that provides 5 different lighting options.
Silver reflector, Gold reflector, Black reflector, White reflector and Frosted reflector.
A SECOND FLASH
To add even more control over your lighting an additional light source is a great extra in your photography kit.
There is ALWAYS room for more lenses in your kit so the more your budget allows for the more you should get!
There are an incredibly large assortment of filters that you can use in your photography. It would be up to you to research the type of effect that you want and then the filter that can provide the effect.
(or just a lot of time browsing the internet and reading “how to” articles)
For anyone who is very determind to learn a new skill – you can find what you are looking for online. It takes time and dedication but its all there. I recommend that anyone wanting to turn the hobby into something more serious be willing to put in the time to LEARN how to use your camera properly. NO professional who is charging for shoots should be shooting on auto…ever…that pop up flash…its a killer!