Ever wondered why your photos just don’t look up to scratch? You got the shot you came for, you perfected the pose in front of an instagrammable monument but you can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that even the F2 filter on VSCO won’t cure.
Despite my Samsung S8 boasting about its camera capabilities the photos only ever looked professional grade if taken close up, outdoors and in sunlight. Coupled with the decision to quit my job and find my passion, I decided I wanted to take better photos but like most people I didn’t have a fortune for the latest gadgets made for professional photographers. You know, the ones that make money from taking beautiful photos, (jealous much?) but I did have an idea of how much I wanted to spend and I wanted to get the most equipment for my money so I’ve broken down my collection so far.
Here’s what I started with:
Canon EOS 100d 18.0MP DSLR – 1080 –
I bought my first and currently only DLSR camera last year. I went for one of the cheapest in the store because I hadn’t even started and would promise to upgrade as soon as I’d learnt how to use one. I wouldn’t say I scrimped on quality though because I’d still class the Canon 100d to be a very decent and capable DSLR with its high resolution, simple touch screen LCD and video/sound recording capabilities and due to being the smallest and lightest of the range of Canon cameras plus the benefit of being inexpensive compared to its upgrades, this makes it perfect for beginners, travellers or photography on a budget.
I bought the display model in the store which was also the last one due to a clearance and saved £70 from the selling price. I paid £270 for the body which came with a kit lens; EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. If you’re looking at those letters and numbers and thinking WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?! then you aren’t alone, I’ve been there but it’s actually not overwhelming or confusing once you know what they mean.
Anyway, I’d recommend getting a DSLR because there are so many settings and lenses to play with for all types of situations that it would be a shame not to be able to get the best out of it and get closer to achieve whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. But if you just want a simple “point and shoot” camera that’s easier to use, (I haven’t got time to learn all the settings) small and compact (I don’t want to carry a bag full of equipment around with me) and more affordable (I don’t want an investment I just want to replace my ancient camera from the 2000’s) then I’d probably look into compact cameras which have much less versatility in terms of lighting, field of view and shutter speed for those crisp details but it all depends if you want to take good photos (compact) or photos with no limits on what you can do with them (DSLR). With the latter, the photos will be as good as you want them to be depending on how much passion you have for photography and every day you’ll learn something new, push yourself and most of all, get creative!
The link below is for specifications but if you’re literally just starting to get into it and on a small budget, I’d probably look at either second-hand or bidding websites such as eBay. Just make sure you read the descriptions carefully as not all will come with a lens or even work perfectly but there’s definitely bargains out there.
This lens is really affordable and was my only lens for a long time and I love the versatility. The zoom range 18-55mm makes it perfect for so many occasions which makes it good for travelling too. Set it to 18mm for wider shots such as landscape or group photos, 18mm can also be used to get up close down to 25cm away from a subject for a crisp image and the focus can be manually adjusted if needed. Set it to 55mm to zoom in on something further away but I’d recommend using a tripod or a fast shutter speed setting to avoid an out-of-focus image. The minimum aperture f/3.5 doesn’t make it the best for portraits because the blurred background won’t be as….. well…… BLURRED as a lens with a wider aperture such as the EF 50mm f/1.2 STM.
Specifications can be found here: https://www.canon.co.uk/lenses/ef-s-18-55mm-f-3-5-5-6-is-ii-lens/#specification
Before I go on I’ll just explain some meanings. I’ve highlighted in BOLD throughout this post any words referring to Aperture. Click on my other post here (COMING SOON) to learn more about the settings on the camera.
This lens is perfect for portraits due to its wide aperture (that number we spoke about above) and also for capturing details from a little further away for example shooting at an event where you want to capture moments without getting too close to people like the sneaky salmon you are. I plan to use this lens more over time as I want to build a portfolio of portrait shots. This lens lets in more light than my other lenses so can be really good for indoor shots too. Mine is Yongnuo not Canon as I bought it from a friend for £20 but I have used the canon version too and I can say as a non-expert that the results for me are very much the same. Prime lenses have no option to zoom in or out so for that reason I wanted what this lens could offer but with a wider angle (frame to appear further away) as the the 50mm can be very close up so for someone wanting to photograph a range of things this is quite restricting but still number one for portraits!
Specifications can be found here: https://www.canon.co.uk/lenses/ef-50mm-f-1-8-stm-lens/
Considered a “pancake lens” due to being absolutely tiny in the lens world. I wanted something like the 50mm lens but with a wider angle to fit more in the frame. For me this lens is still REALLY good for portraits although not AS good as the 50mm due to its aperture (f/2.8) compared with the 50mm (f/1.8) but with the versatility to photograph buildings, groups of people or objects so would be better for travel and street photography than the 50mm due to its size, weight and capabilities. My lens is white because I found a bargain and bought it on a bidding website for £82 but I’ve seen them go on eBay for as little as £60.
Specifications can be found here: https://www.canon.co.uk/lenses/ef-40mm-f-2-8-stm-lens/
Bought recently, my goal for 2018 is to take more videos and I wanted something less breakable and more compact than my DSLR. The GoPro action cameras were an obvious choice due to their impossibly small size and weight but while still having amazing abilities to be used in countless situations. Did you see the video of the GoPro that went to space via weather balloon?! The GoPro hero6 has the choice of so many resolutions and recording speeds for different scenarios it would be easier to direct you to another site than to list them all. I still need to play around with this nifty little gadget and figure out the settings but I’m looking forward to adding some underwater shots and slow motion video to my travel albums! This little guy is also easier than a DSLR to take selfies with if you’re travelling solo, stick it on a gimbal or selfie stick and take the photo using your phone in the other hand via the GoPro app!
Apple MacBook Air 13″
Now I needed something to edit my photos and get those creative juices flowing. I was due a new laptop, mine was from 2005 and only works plugged in and with the battery removed. It’s also slow as s**t and wouldn’t have been able to handle all the photos I wanted to upload from my camera. I did my research, I asked fellow photographers and I even borrowed friends’ MacBooks to be able to edit some photos and give it a test whirl. I set out on Black Friday looking for a bargain. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a number of laptops out there for less money that can support Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop but I was also looking into video editing and a means of communication to loved ones for when I travel solo. My heart was set on this one and I bought it during the sales when it was £879 saving over £70.
Other things to consider when setting a budget for photography equipment are:
Memory Cards – These are needed to save your images onto your camera and transfer to your computer, your camera won’t save photos without one so consider these essential. I started with one and now I have 6!
Camera Bag – Seems unnecessary this isn’t a fashion show! Wrong, you need a bag with padding to secure all of your equipment and also to transport/carry it all around safely and easily. Bags with separated sections would be best. Mine was 99p in a bargain bin but I’ll need a bigger one soon as my collection grows.
Laptop Bag – Funnily enough laptops don’t come with a free bag to keep it in but they are important for keeping this expensive item safe especially if it holds all your valuable photos and edits you worked so long and hard doing.
Spare Batteries – If you’re planning a trip where you are out for long periods of time, such as a hike where there is no access to electricity or a photoshoot that lasts a while you’ll need a spare battery for your camera. During a shoot you could charge one battery while using the other so you never run out of juice during a shoot. That would be embarrassing.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Package – I pay about £10 a month for a 12 month package and I get full use of Lightroom Desktop, Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. This package is all I use to edit my photos. Sometimes I will just brighten them up and other times I love a complete transformation of an image. You can also download presets which are good if you’re looking to create a consistent look for your photos when branding on instagram or for photoshoot prints but presets are also a massive time saver as you can edit a series of photos with one click. I haven’t used Photoshop as I’ve yet to learn how to use it.
Some other things I purchased:
Tripod – I was going to put this in the list above as I think every photography enthusiast needs one. They stabilise your camera for a crisper image but also give the freedom for self-timer or long-exposures. You NEED a tripod when taking long exposures or night-time photography or the image will be out of focus and blurry.
Selfie Stick Tripod – This will be the one I travel solo with, it’s compatible with Phones, DSLR cameras and GoPros and can be used 3 ways as a selfie stick, tabletop tripod or tall-standing tripod.
Lens Filters – Can be used for colour correcting, reducing the amount of light or to add effects such as a graduating sky.
Backdrop stand and White Vinyl Backdrop – I bought and used this for a baby photoshoot for a friend and learnt a lot as I went along because it was my first time going into a shoot solo and because it was for a friend who knew I was starting out there was no pressure to get everything perfect right away. She got a free shoot for her cute little boy and I gained experience points and gratification. Win, win!
Power Bank – I use this to top up the charge on my Phone and my GoPro and anything else with a USB port that I manage to acquire.
On The Go Cable and Memory Card Reader – These 2 combined are great for transferring images from your camera’s memory card onto your phone for instant uploads whilst on the go. Mainly for when you don’t have your computer with you but you can’t wait to show everyone what you’re eating. You can even use Lightroom on your phone to edit them as well as a number of other photo editing apps. VSCO is my favourite.
GoPro Underwater Housing – A see-through housing that encases the GoPro camera for shooting in deeper water as the GoPro is only waterproof up to 10metres.
GoPro Colour Correction Filters – From red to light pink filters, these underwater filters clip over the lens and corrects the colour of green or yellow water that no editing software would be able to fix without effecting the quality of the image.
Domain Name – If you want to start a website you have to pay for it!
Website Host – I’ve used WordPress to host my site with the much needed help from one of my best friends who is a professional photographer and website designer. Without her I would be clueless so hopefully posting about my journey can be helpful to the next person that wants to start out but maybe doesn’t have as many resources as I did.
You’ve splashed the cash but now what?
Owning the products can be a bit pointless if you don’t know what to do with them. Trust me when I say I knew absolutely nothing about any of the buttons, numbers or settings when I bought my DSLR but I would say 60% of the fun of owning one is learning how to use it and I purchased it with the intention of learning. Every time I learn something new and get a hang of it, it really gives me a feeling of getting that one step closer to my goals. Most of the time I’d get advice from other photographers and ask questions as we were shooting. Other times I’d get some tips online or from magazines.
Although I’ve mentioned companies and products, this post is in no way affiliated or sponsored. I’m making no money from posting this, I just wanted to document my journey for those wanting to start their own but need an idea of where to start because I did a lot of my own research online reading blog posts and reviews and felt the need for more content from amateurs for a more simpler understanding!
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this post head over to my next post “A Simple Guide to Using Your DSLR Camera” (COMING SOON) which includes tips, example photos and cheat sheets that tell you the best settings for photographing in all situations!