A Beginners Gear Guide And Purchasing Timeline

By Jason Row / December 6, 2018

As amazing as photography is, it can be a daunting hobby for the newcomer. Perhaps the most daunting topic of all is gear. You read about how different hardware will utterly change the quality of your images. You are told you need this, you need that. 

You are drowned with information about so much equipment that it’s difficult to sort out the chaff from the wheat.

Today we're hoping to clarify your hardware root with a logical route for upgrading your photographic equipment.

For this article, we will assume you already have your camera and a kit lens.

The Important Sundries.

As the photographic bug bites, your first urge might be to go out and buy a second lens. However, there are some important items that you should consider before spending a significant sum on new optics. 

First up is some spare SD cards. As you progress with your photography you will shoot more and more. Eventually, you will find yourself running out of card space. Invest in a couple of spare cards, 32-64Gb will give you the best bang for your buck.

Another sundry item, often overlooked is a decent card reader. Plugging the camera into your computer or connecting wirelessly can be a frustrating exercise. For $20-30 you can buy a good quality reader that can remain plugged into to your computer and make uploading images so much easier.

Before you even consider expanding your photographic hardware, you should invest in a good camera bag. Look for one that will take your current camera, plus a couple of extra lenses, flash and other items. Where possible, a bricks-and-mortar camera store is the best place to buy a camera bag. Here you can try it on, test it for comfort and get a good idea of its size. 

Don't neglect the important sundries like cards and readers. Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

The Tripod

It might seem odd to suggest a tripod before a new lens but there is a rationale to it. First and foremost, a tripod will slow you down and force you to think about the shot. To this end, you learn the limitations and advantages of your current lens. 

It’s also quite possible that you are experiencing a certain amount of camera shake and this is affecting your image quality. A good quality tripod will eliminate that and make your current lens shine.

Lastly, a tripod will open up the diverse and creative world of low light photography to you, a genre that you can spend a huge amount of time pursuing even with just one lens. 

A tripod will open up huge creative possibilities. Photo by Diana Parkhouse on Unsplash

A Flashgun

Another tool to consider before a second lens is a flashgun. This is another piece of equipment that can greatly expand your creativity. As well as being great for portraits, indoor or out, a flash can help light macro subjects, indoor studio and many other creative possibilities. For the price of a single cheap lens, you can get two flashguns and connect them wirelessly to give more lighting possibilities. 

Flashguns are not restricted to people or indoors. Photo by Chris Charles on Unsplash

A Second Lens

Finally, you might gasp. Well yes and no. A second lens will, of course, be on the radar of many newcomers but you should not solely focus all your energy on getting one. The above tips will help you expand your abilities to the point that when you do buy a new lens, you will be able to make maximum use of it. 

The question is of course, which lens should I buy. Fortunately, we have written an article to help you with that. In short, you need to analyse where your photographic passion lies. If it’s people, a nice fast 85mm prime would be a good choice. A landscape photographer, however, might consider an ultra wide prime or zoom. Choose a lens to compliment your style of photography.

You need to analyse your own work to help you buy a second lens. Photo by Nielsen Ramon on Unsplash

Apps and Software

As your skills progress you will also want to expand yourself in post-production. Many cameras will come with a basic editing suite such as Photoshop Elements but you will soon find these limiting. 

As your catalogue expands you will find it increasingly difficult to keep tabs on your photos. This is where an image management program will be useful, for example, Adobe Lightroom. Such programs will also be useful if you are shooting RAW rather than JPEG.  

Beyond the desktop post-production software, there are many useful apps for your smartphone that can help you with your photography. The Photographer’s Ephemeris helps you analyse where the light will be at anytime and location. Photopills does a similar thing and has long exposure calculators and many other useful tools. Many of these smartphone apps cost just a few dollars and yet are extremely useful. 

Apps like Lightroom will help you keep your burgeoning collection under control. Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

A Filter System

Once you have got that second lens, it may be time to invest in a filter system. Filters can add a huge range of possibilities, creatively. Improved colour and saturation from a polariser, holding back bright skies with a graduated ND, ultra slow shutter speeds with ND filters.

As you increase your lens collection, you will probably find lenses have different filter screw sizes. For this reason, it’s best to invest in a square filter system such as Lee or Hitech-Formatt. This will negate the need for multiple filters for multiple lenses. 

Filters such as ND Graduated give you lots of creative potential. Photo by Dieter Kühl on Unsplash

This, of course, is not a hard and fastened timeline, merely our own suggestion. How you upgrade and progress your photographic equipment will be a lot down to your photographic style.

However, for many, the above route will give you a wider range of creative possibilities without a large upfront expense. If you have any other upgrade suggestions, please let us know in the comments below. 

Further Learning


About the author

Jason Row

Jason has been writing for Light Stalking for over six years now and has 35 years of experience as a professional photographer. He now concentrates on producing travel stock photography and video from around the world. You can find his portfolio here. His work has been featured in numerous publications, both online and in print, as well as for major companies such as Virgin, Etihad, Tripadvisor and Booking.com. Jason has also produced a number of video tutorials for Light Stalking and Photzy. Born in London he now lives in the beautiful city of Odessa, Ukraine.

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