If you’re new to photography and feel frustrated and confused by the amount of photography equipment and information out there, you’re not alone. Today I’m bringing you the tools I used to get started and the tools I use now that I’m much more comfortable around my camera. When I began shooting pictures of my beauty products, I was so frustrated by the lack of quality in my images. Despite having read all about composition theory and such, the images were just off. Turns out, what I needed was an upgrade on my equipment. It really does make a huge difference in the quality of your images. Composition, styling, and editing are important, of course, but having the tools to create crisp, clean images is key.
The Best Beginner Photography Equipment
DSLR–I’ve read people give the advice that you shouldn’t start to shoot with a DSLR, but I think that’s bullshit. Even if you don’t quite get how to use it, why wouldn’t you want to start learning on the device you’re going to get the best results out of? DSLR’s have an auto-setting that functions exactly the same as a point-and-shoot. I really don’t see the point in paying $300 for a less capable camera only to move onto a DSLR in the future.
Let me tell you a secret, I’ve been using the same beginner DSLR for about 6 years now. I’m finally going to upgrade this holiday season. Let the images on my site and Instagram be the proof that you don’t need to purchase the most expensive, tricked out camera you can find. Quality images are so much more than a fancy camera. The camera I’ve used is the Canon EOS Rebel T3I–which is now discontinued. Cannon has the newest model of this version called the EOS Rebel T7I–which is what I’m going to recommend to any beginner who wants to purchase their first DSLR.
When I purchased by Rebel, I decided to get one of the value starter kits. I don’t regret it at all. What companies do is bundle a bunch of little incentives–SD cards, external flashes, camera cases, etc, with the camera so that you buy from them and not a competitor. All of this comes with the camera for “free”. Usually I think these kind of gimmicks are annoying, but these items are actually super useful and can be expensive if purchased individually.
If this seems like a big investment that’s because it is. $900 isn’t cheap and that’s a beginner camera. Equipment is fucking expensive, but if you’re serious and passionate about improving your photography and starting a site, it’s worth it.
Lighting is everything. Your entire image depends on it. If you’re not properly lit you will get horrible grainy images–and I’m not talking about that cute #35mm #s0 #retro #vibe! Nope. They’ll just be shitty. Even if you live in a place full of sunshine and natural light, I think investing in some studio lights is a good move. I have some cheapies that work great. These are the one’s that I use. They’re easy to take around, come with quality light bulbs, and have an optional soft box that you can use to diffuse the light. I highly recommend these.
A reflector is important too. Even with two lights, you might want to brighten an image or change the direction of some light without loosing brightness on one side. Reflectors are super cheap, I bought this pack for around $14. I have some tutorials planned to show you all lighting techniques that can help you fake sunshine and natural light.
I’m not saying that your kit lens is garbage–it has it’s uses–but it’s not the best for beauty photography. The first lens I purchased was the “nifty fifty” on the advice of almost every blogger ever. It’s not my most favorite lens in the world anymore, but it was a revelation when I first started shooting and I still use it often. The 50mm lens is great for taking shots where you want one product in strong focus with the rest falling to the back.
Once you’ve got all of this stuff, or even just a camera and a lens, you have to mess around, experiment, and read some techniques. It can be frustrating but stick it out and remember that it should be fun.
Intermediate Camera Equipment
These are the items I’ve been using for the past year and a half that have helped me move on from beginner to someone who feels really confident in their work most of the time. Of course I’m still learning, that will never stop, but I feel that I’m actually qualified to give a bit of advice these days. It’s a pretty great feeling.
I’m still using my Rebel but in a month I’m going to be upgrading to the EOS 80D. I’m only purchasing the body because all of my cannon lenses that I love will work with it. I’ve tested this out extensively and I love the quality of the images. My dream is of course the EOS Mark 5D IV, but that’s a smooth $3,300. Yikes.
Lighting is also still this set that I mentioned in the beginner segment. The real difference in my pictures has been getting a new lens. I love cannon lenses, but they can be way expensive. Sigma is a brand–not the brushes–that makes incredible camera lenses that have mounts for whatever brand of camera you have. The Sigma 18-300 F3.5-6.3 Contemporary DC Macro Lens $399 is the true workhorse of my kit. I think everyone who’s moved passed kit lens should go for this one. The focal range is huge and it is SO sharp. The images are crystal clear with this thing at all focal ranges–it’s really incredible. It also has a solid macro setting and comes with an added glass attachment for clarity when shooting macro. Overall you’re not going to find such a versatile lens at such a decent price with any other brand. I researched the hell out of lenses before settling on this one and I can’t recommend it enough.
My Wish List
I by no means would call myself a professional, but some of the equipment on my list is charting into that territory. The Sigma Art Lenses are on my wish list and if I wasn’t going to ball out on the Canon EOS 80D I would be purchasing the Art Lens 35mm followed by the Art Lens 85mm. The art line from sigma is their latest lens collection aimed at professionals. I’ve trial run these two after seeing all the hype and beautiful images online. I can safely say that they are worth it if you’re thinking about going pro-ish, or if you’ve just got that kind of cash around!
Photography Series Mailing List
So I’ve decided to set up a mailing list specifically people who are interested in this photography series! If you sign up for this you’ll get a monthly email with exclusive tips and tricks, 5% off any resources (such as photoshop actions, lightroom effects, etc) in my upcoming web shop, and an alert every time I publish a new post in this series.
I hope this was useful to anyone trying to get started and feeling lost. Stay tuned into this series because I have some posts on styling, props, lighting techniques, and more coming at you all. If you’d like, sign up for the mailing list above! I promise I wont ever spam you. And as always, stay tuned into everything Critical Babe related by following me on Instagram//Pinterest//Twitter/Bloglovin!