What Is the Best Photography Equipment?

Buying photography equipment for the first time can be intimidating. But don’t let the shiny accessories and the newest high-tech toys blind you: You just need the photography equipment that gets the job done without wasting money when you first start out (after all, you have a budget to think about).

Here is a breakdown of the photography equipment you need when you first start a photography business.

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1. Camera
Your most important piece of equipment is your camera (you don’t have a business without it), but selecting the right one isn’t always simple. You need to look for a camera that fits your photography style and works for your specialty. Here are a few types of digital cameras to consider:

  • A compact digital camera, also known as a CSC, is an entry-level digital camera. While these basic point-and-shoot cameras are small and simple to use, most lack interchangeable lenses and other creative features that you may need.

  • An action camera is similar to a compact digital camera, but it’s designed to endure harsh weather elements. These durable cameras offer a higher-resolution output than compact digital cameras but have limited lens options.

  • A mirrorless camera has similar capabilities to a compact DSLR without the internal mirror that reflects light into the sensor. That makes it lighter and easier to manage. This high-resolution camera has a faster shutter speed than a DSLR camera but fewer lens options for a professional.

  • A digital SLR (DSLR) camera (or a digital single-lens reflex camera) is the preferred camera choice for many photographers. With interchangeable lenses and an array of other creative features, DSLR cameras produce high-resolution output. A DSLR camera can be either a full frame (35 mm) or a crop sensor (APS-C), with prices usually starting at $400.

  • A mirrorless camera has similar capabilities to a compact DSLR without the internal mirror that reflects light into the sensor. That makes it lighter and easier to manage. This high-resolution camera has a faster shutter speed than a DSLR camera but fewer lens options for a professional.

  • A 360 camera takes panoramic photos and videos using back-to-back lenses. These types of cameras are slightly more durable than a DSLR camera and can be mounted to moving surfaces like cars and helmets to capture engaging shots.

2. Lenses
One of the factors that dictates the quality of a photo is the camera lens. When you’re shopping for camera lenses, you want to think about two things: focal length and aperture.

The focal length is the distance from the lens and the image sensor. As a rule of thumb, smaller focal lengths are used to take wider shots, while larger lengths are used to capture more detailed shots.

Below are four common photo lenses and how photographers use them:

Focal Length Common Use
24 mm Landscapes and wide-angle photography
50 mm General purpose photography
85 mm Portrait and candid photography
300 mm Action photography

The lens aperture refers to the amount of light a lens can gather. Camera lenses with larger maximum apertures (the ones with lower numbers) are able to gather more light. Depending on your specialty, you may also look into investing in additional lighting kits that can help enhance your images.

3. Filters
Some of your photography work may require specific filters for your lenses. Filters can be useful for a variety of things, like protecting your lenses, enhancing certain colors, and even reducing light in a shot. Common lens filters that can help enhance your work include:

  • UV filter
  • Polarizing filter
  • Color warming/cooling filter
  • Graduated neutral density filter (hard edge, soft edge, or reverse)
  • Special effects filter

4. A tripod
A tripod is a three-legged frame used to keep your camera stable and can be used in a variety of photography styles. Tripod prices range from $30 to $300, depending on the type of camera you buy and your photo specialty.

5. Camera strap
Regardless of your camera’s size, it’s smart to invest in a camera strap that provides maximum comfort and stability without being too bulky.

6. Cleaning equipment
Keeping your equipment clean is a simple way to ensure crystal-clear pictures. It also helps the equipment last longer, which is a cost saver in the long run.

Microfiber lens cloths are chemical-free and safely clean your camera lens without leaving small scratches. To remove dust from your camera, you may want to buy a gel stick.

7. Memory cards
Depending on how many photos you take for each client, you may want to invest in additional memory cards to store your work. While most cameras come with memory cards, it’s always smart to have a few backup cards, just in case.

8. Editing software
After a photo shoot, you have to edit your pictures to produce high-quality photography. There is a variety of photo-editing software that ranges in price and complexity. Before you purchase one, make sure you do your homework — compare options and make sure that your current computer can support the software.

Paying for photography equipment

While you can eliminate some of the frills, the essential photography equipment listed above can still be expensive. If you don’t have the funds available to make the purchase, don’t worry. There are options for you.

Many strategic business owners take out a business loan for photography equipment. If you assess different loan offers, make sure you select a financing option with a convenient repayment schedule and no hidden fees. (Here are additional ways to use a small business loan that you can apply to your photography business.)

Renting photographic equipment is another viable option when you’re first starting out. Many photographers believe in the “try before you buy” philosophy, and renting equipment is a great way to test out different products without committing to something right away.

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