As a beginner photographer, deciding what to buy can get pretty overwhelming – which is where this article is practical.
We provide a photography equipment list, covering all the essential items you need to purchase (including cameras, lenses, flashes, storage, and more). And for convenience, we’ve added a PDF checklist at the end of this article – that way, you can print it off and use it to fill up your shopping cart, wish list, or gear bag.
Note that we haven’t included a camera on the list, though a camera is obviously necessary and should be your first photography purchase.
Let’s get started!
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1. Prime Lenses
If you own a camera, then you probably own a lens; after all, most cameras come equipped with a standard kit lens. However, the average kit lens just can’t match the quality or versatility of a simple prime lens, which is why I highly recommend you invest in a good prime lens as soon as you’re able.
Although they lack an adjustable focal length, a prime lens offers unbeatable image quality and portability. Keep in mind, though, no two lenses are the same. Shapes, sizes, and prices vary significantly. More notably, each model accomplishes something different.
Also, before making a purchase, it’s important to consider the direction you’d like to take as a photographer. For instance, landscape photographers will likely want to invest in a wide-angle lens, such as the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens
On the other hand, portrait and aspiring macro photographers will likely want to check out a model that offers a longer focal length, like the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G.
For those on a budget, 50mm is an excellent jumping-off point. In fact, third-party glass lenses such as the Yongnuo YN50mm f/1.8 can be purchased for as little as $50. (Don’t let the low price fool you – it provides a superb image and can reach apertures as low as f/1.8.)
A decent tripod is a worthwhile purchase for anyone working with a camera. After all, a tripod makes it possible to utilize long exposures and low ISOs without the risk of motion blur. Plus, a tripod lets you neatly bracket shots for HDR composites.
But how do you choose the right tripod? It all depends on your priorities.
In short, it comes down to finding the right balance of portability and strength. A hiker might prefer a model that’s easy to carry long distances, while a photographer sporting a bulky lens might prefer something that offers above-average support.
For beginners, the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod is a great place to start. With the ability to safely support 20 lbs/9 kg, you feel confident in its strength and stability. Also, it weighs just over 5 lbs/2.3 kg, making it lightweight and practical for photographers on the go.
In other words, the Manfrotto 055 is an excellent first tripod, one that offers the best of both worlds while helping you determine the qualities you value most.
What’s the most helpful tool a photographer can have on hand? A light to spare. For most shooters, a speedlight is the easiest way to illuminate a scene quickly and efficiently.
Able to be synced directly to a camera’s shutter, a speedlight offers a powerful burst of light that lasts a fraction of a second. Most major brands and third-party manufacturers produce flash units of their own, and a great pick is the Neewer NW-670 TTL Flash Speedlite with LCD Display for Canon 7D Mark II, 5D Mark II..., which has everything a beginner might need.
With a Neewer flash or two on hand, you can achieve beautiful results just about anywhere.
4. External Hard Drive
Think of external hard drives as a form of insurance. Having a catalog of images tucked away can offer peace of mind should your computer suddenly fail (which is always a possibility!). In fact, a wise photographer should have two or three backups on hand at any given time.
There are plenty of viable options out there, but we recommend the WD 4TB Elements Portable HDD, External Hard Drive, USB 3.0 for PC & Mac, Plug and...; these days, files are huge, and with 4 terabytes of storage, you can safely store tens of thousands of RAW images.
5. Memory Cards (and Memory Card Holders)
Without a memory card, you can’t take pictures – so a decent set of memory cards is an absolute requirement for the beginner photographer. You’ll need to match the right memory card to your camera, however, as not all models use the same formats.
SD cards are the most common, and beginner and enthusiast cameras tend to offer a single SD slot. You can find SD cards just about anywhere, from corner convenience stores to specialized photography shops.
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Some older and/or higher-end cameras are compatible with Compact Flash (CF) cards. They are a bit larger than their SD counterparts and are significantly more durable (though also a bit pricier).
By the way, SD and CF cards are quite small, and therefore easy to lose track of without proper storage and organization. So consider purchasing the LYNCA Memory Card Case Holder, which offers a safe place to store unused memory cards (8 SD cards, 4 CF cards, and 12 Micro SD/TF Cards, or 24 cards in total).
An inexpensive yet essential addition to the portrait photography beginner’s kit, a reflector is used to direct supplementary light into the frame. While a speedlight may be more convenient, no two light modifiers look the same, so it’s important for photographers to have multiple options on hand to create different looks.
Related Post: 7 Amazing Photography Backdrops
Note that there are several different types of reflectors available, each sporting different surfaces. For instance, a shiny silver reflector will significantly brighten highlights and shadows, while a white reflector will produce a much softer, more subtle light.
Those still figuring out the lighting basics may want to opt for the Neewer 43 Inch/110 Centimeter Light Reflector 5-in-1, which offers several reflector colors to try out.
7. Polarizing and ND Filters
Though it may not look like much, a polarizing filter can make a huge difference to landscape and nature photography – which is why the Hoya 58mm HD Digital Circular Polarizing Screw-in Filter is an excellent tool for every beginner.
Polarizers eliminate reflections and bring out colors, such as lush green foliage, beautiful blue skies, and more.
Related Post: Best Polarizing Filters
Also useful is the neutral density (ND) filter, which drops the overall light levels in a scene; as a result, you can create long exposure images during daylight hours while retaining detail in the highlights.
8. Bag/Carrying Gear
You’re buying all this gear – but what will you store it in? Depending on your needs, there are an array of available options.
For those traveling long distances – especially via airplane – the Pelican 1510 Case With Foam is a good buy. It’s sturdy, secure, and capable of keeping fragile, expensive gear locked down and protected. Also, the design is reminiscent of a piece of luggage, complete with wheels and a retractable handle for easy movement.
Obviously, weight is important, and a huge case isn’t always practical. So, for those packing lighter, consider a backpack such as the GOgroove Full-Size DSLR Photography Backpack Case for Camera and Laptop, which is great for outdoor use (and can certainly handle indoor use, as well!).
9. Cleaning Supplies
Camera upkeep may not be the most glamorous part of a photographer’s responsibilities, but keeping your camera clean ultimately saves both time and money. Cameras are sensitive pieces of equipment, so any dirt or grime buildup left untreated can be problematic.
That said, haphazard cleaning techniques (and low-quality supplies) can irreparably damage the body, the lens, and the sensor. As a result, we recommend the Altura Photo Professional Camera Cleaning Kit; it provides the supplies needed to maintain every element of the camera, including microfiber cloths, cleaning spray, a lens brush, a rocket blower, and more.
10. Rechargeable Batteries
Above all, no matter the situation, run-of-the-mill AA batteries are handy to have around. These batteries can be used to keep tools like speedlights, syncs, and remotes in working order – so you can shoot all day without missing a beat.
(Bonus: You can even use AA batteries to revive a dead camera via a battery grip.)
So which batteries should you buy? The EBL Rechargeable AA Batteries With Battery Charger are popular among photographers and everyday consumers.
By the way, it’s never a bad idea to stock up on extra batteries and chargers designated specifically for your camera. But because many of the major manufacturers use proprietary equipment, you’ll have to determine which battery models are compatible with your camera before making any purchases.
11. Color Checker
The color of the light can change dramatically, depending on the time of day, the weather, and the environment. And you, as the photographer, need to keep your images looking both accurate and consistent, especially when doing portrait and product shoots.
That’s where a color checker comes in; you place it in the scene, then use its gray values to adjust the white balance in post-processing.
While a color checker isn’t the most important piece of kit on a photography equipment list, it’s essential to have one for any sort of commissioned professional work. You’ll want to be sure that your colors are spot on.
In particular, the ColorChecker Passport Photo 2 Kit is a useful tool to have. Also, by simply referencing a photograph of the color grid taken within the environment that you’re photographing, you can easily get the perfect color by sampling a gray patch in a post. This immediately eliminates any sort of color casting.
Consequently, the other colors included can be used to instantaneously apply tints. So, even if you’re in a sterile studio or a specific location, this little tool can save you hours worth of editing.
Photography Equipment List for Beginners: Conclusion
We hope you liked this basic list of gear for beginners, and that it’s been of some help to you. Ultimately, the choice of equipment you use is going to come down to your budget, preferences, and the type of photography you want to do, so keep your options open and don’t end up buying something expensive that you may not actually need.
If you want a more extensive guides, make sure to check out our photography gear buying guides.
Checklists are great for helping you remember stuff, so we’ve put our photography equipment list PDF checklist here for you to download.
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