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Must-Have Photography Equipment for Beginners
Must-Have Photography Equipment for Beginners

Finding the best photography equipment for beginners can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

Yes, we know that it is not the gear that makes a photographer great. A talented photographer can rock any type of camera because they know how to use light, composition and the situation to create a dynamic image.

That being said, it helps to have the right gear to learn on which is why we created this photography equipment for beginners list. It can be a challenge to learn manual mode on a point and shoot or try to get those blurry backgrounds with a kit lens.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through one of the links I will earn a commission at not additional cost to you.

What equipment does a beginner photographer need?

Please don’t get caught up in the laundry list of equipment you think you need. Ultimately, it all boils down to a camera and a lens. There is a famous quote that talks about the best camera is the one in your hands. Keep this in mind when you are shopping around and feel the need to buy everything.

Check out our most recommended photography equipment for beginners below!

DSLR camera

If you are serious about photography you will be wondering what your first camera should be. I recommend a DSLR as your first camera. However, mirrorless cameras are becoming more popular so if you have a mirrorless camera that works as well. According to Wikipedia, a DSLR is a “digital single-lens reflex camera is a digital camera that combines the optics and the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film”. Basically, that means you are looking for a camera that has interchangeable lenses.

What should be my first camera?

You may be wondering what camera should you get when it comes to photography equipment for beginners. The quick answer is any DSLR camera will work great and help you learn manual mode. 
However, I suggest purchasing the best camera your budget allows while still leaving money left over to purchase a lens. You want to avoid purchasing a kit lens. The kit lens is the lens that comes with the camera. Often times camera companies will create a whole package with the camera body and a couple of lenses to try and sweeten the deal. However, these lenses aren’t the highest quality so I suggest skipping them altogether.

Read more about the lenses I recommend starting with below. Now you may be wondering, should I get a Canon or Nikon. Basically, they are both amazing camera brands and it really depends on which camera body & look you prefer. I talk more about that in the video below. https://www.youtube.com/embed/KVZ55jNy5U8

Best Nikon DSLR Cameras for Beginners

Nikon 3400 – Great entry level camera. You may outgrow it quickly once you learn manual mode but if you aren’t 100% you want to learn manual mode this is a great camera to start with.

Nikon 5600 – Middle of the road entry level camera. The ISO is higher than the 3400 series but still an affordable camera.

Best Canon DSLR Cameras for Beginners

Canon EOS Rebel T7i – Honestly, any camera in the Rebel series is a great one. I started with a Rebel myself. This is a great entry level camera.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i – This is an older version as the T7i has replaced this one but is still an amazing camera for a less expensive price tag. essential items that are must-have photography equipment for beginners

Best camera lenses for Beginners

Either one of these lenses is what I recommend you start with. They are both affordable when it comes to photography gear.

If you aren’t sure, a lot of people prefer the 35mm 1.8 as it allows you to include more in the frame since it’s focal length is 35mm vs 50mm so if you do a lot of indoor shooting you may prefer this lens. Nikon 50mm 1.8G Nikon 35mm 1.8 Canon 50mm 1.8

Unfortunately, Canon does not make a 35mm 1.8 version for Canon. Read more on lens comparisons
What lens should I buy first?
Ultimate Lens Comparison for Finding Your Perfect Lens

Prime lens

As I mentioned above when you purchase your DSLR you want to skip the kit lens. However, if you already purchased your camera and kit lens, don’t worry. I did the same thing.

But when I got serious about photography and started asking a friend how I could get those blurry background and amazing photos she was taking, she not only told me about manual mode but how I needed a better lens.

She suggested I purchase a prime lens, the 50mm 1.8. I couldn’t believe she wanted me to purchase a lens after I just spent all this money on a new camera. But I instantly saw a difference in my photos as soon as I put that lens on my camera. What a difference!

Skip the kit lens

You don’t have to start with one of these prime lenses but having a lens with a fixed aperture (meaning the aperture doesn’t move if you zoom in and out) will help you as you get your settings where you want them for the exposure triangle. A prime lens will not zoom lens. Some people don’t like that it doesn’t zoom back and forth but all you need to do is move your feet to get closer or further away. Pretend it’s like a workout combined with photography.

Gray Card/Expodisc for White balance

Personally, I use Kelvin for white balance but when I first started I didn’t have a lens that had that option and relied on my gray card to help me set my white balance. If you aren’t familiar with white balance it is the temperature of your photo. Have you ever taken a photo indoors at night and noticed it looked really yellow? That is because the white balance was off from the artificial light. This is a common problem. You can rely on your camera for auto white balance but expect to need to adjust it when shooting indoors without natural light.

Use a gray card or expodisc

You can use a gray card or an Expodisc to set your custom white balance. Basically, you are telling your camera exactly how to read the colors of the scene so you don’t get a too yellow or too blue image. It will save you hours in post processing from trying to fix your white balance which can be a massive headache.

Lens Pen

If you are photographing children they will inevitably touch your lens. It happens. But instead of feeling frustrated, you can use your lens pen to clean it up. This is also great if you are like me and lose your lens caps often. My lenses get dust and smudges on them all the time but I can easily use my lens pen to clean them up.

Editing software

The two most popular options for editing software for photographers are Lightroom & Photoshop. Personally, I prefer Lightroom as I feel it is a lot more user friendly than Photoshop. Lightroom not only allows you to edit your photos but also offers a great system for organizing your images from key words, stars, and color coding. 
 It has everything you need to get started with photo editing. I’ve been editing my photos for eight years and use Lightroom exclusively to edit my images.

Camera bag

Let’s face it, you spent all this money on a nice camera and lens, you need to make sure you are putting in it a safe place when you take it out of the house. And yes, you need to take it out of the house with you. 
In fact, when just starting out, I challenge you to take it everywhere. I remember practicing in the grocery store among other places.

Camera bags to check out

You can turn any bag into a camera bag with the proper protection of your camera and lens. I recommend the Roma by Ona. I fit this in any big purse or backpack when I carry around my camera. The reason I love this is because I don’t ever want to carry around a bag that screams “I have a lot of expensive camera gear in this bag”.

There are so many more things you can purchase when it comes to photography equipment for beginners. However, I think it’s important to start simple. Learn to use this gear before moving on. Don’t get distracted by the thought of if I only had (blank) my photos would be so much better. If your photos aren’t where you want them it isn’t more gear you need, it’s more education.

Find out more about best photography equipment for beginners:

5 Must Have Tips for Traveling with Photography Gear
What to Pack for a Photo Shoot
Go-To Camera Lenses
-The Ultimate Gift Guide of the Best Gifts for Photographers

Every beginner needs to get their hands on this list. Read - "Must-have Photography Equipment Every Beginner Needs" Read more: What to Pack for a Photo Shoot

  • Ellesse
    December 20, 2017 at 12:40 PM

    Great advice! How exactly do you use a gray card?

  • Diane Falconer
    December 20, 2017 at 8:26 PM

    Thanks for this helpful list. I would add a protective filter like a UV to the list. An extra battery and charger. And a lens cap keeper!

    I suppose you wanted to keep things simple for beginners, but I’m disappointed you did not mention mirrorless cameras and the brands that are pioneering this wave-of-the-future technology–like Sony and Olympus. Beginners should consider mirrorless before commiting to any system. The Sony a6000 remains highly recommended and takes other brands of lenses as well.

    • Courtney Slazinik
      January 4, 2018 at 1:52 PM

      Yes, mirrorless are good cameras as well. Since I’m not personally familiar with them I am hesitant to recommend them to people. I know several of my students love them. Definitely worth doing the research :)

  • Katie
    December 21, 2017 at 12:47 AM

    How should I use my camera bag and take care of camerA? Do I always need a lens on it? Wheat if my lens is too big? (24-70mm)? Is it awful to not have the lens cover? I have a bad habit of not keeping up with it and not using one

    • Courtney Slazinik
      January 4, 2018 at 1:50 PM

      I always have a lens on my camera. This bag pictured here holds my camera with the 24-70mm on it. Honestly, all my lenses fit on my camera in my bag except my 70-200mm. I don’t always have a lens cap on but I’m lazy ha ha

  • Stephanie
    December 21, 2017 at 9:19 AM

    Great list! Do you know if Nikon lenses work well with a Canok body? I shoot with a Canon and would love to get a 35 mm f 1.8. Just not sure what to get since Canon doesn’t make that exact lens. Trying to figure out what I should get that’s comparable to it. Thanks!

    • Courtney Slazinik
      January 4, 2018 at 1:51 PM

      No, a Nikon lens doesn’t work on a Canon camera body. You will need to purchase a lens made for a Canon. Look into Tamron as they have a 35mm version that will work with Canon.

  • Kat
    January 16, 2018 at 10:15 AM

    What are you recommend for a zoom lens? I already have 70-200 f2.8. I do want something that zoom less then 200 and good for portrait and travel. Thanks! Ps. I have Nikon d610

  • Cheri
    January 28, 2018 at 10:24 AM

    I saw the Tamron 35mm 1.8, but it’s priced out of my budget, @ $600. Do you know of another brand for the canon rebel? Also what is the difference in 1.8 vs 2.8? I wasn’t sure what changes with pics when that number is higher.

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    February 7, 2018 at 5:19 PM

    What’s your recommendation for a sturdy stable tripod?

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    So when purchasing a new camera, you recommend buying the “body” only and then purchasing lenses separately versus buying the camera with the lens as a set?

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    About bags on a budget – there are great small photo backpacks on Aliexpress for next to nothing; They’re great for people willing to spend more on a new lens than a bag. :)

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