Beginners, experienced amateurs, or aspiring professionals, photography enthusiasts often ask themselves the same question: what equipment do I need to started in photography?
For a beginner in photography, it is important to start with equipment that is simple and affordable, yet has enough features to allow exploration and discovery of different photographic techniques.
Here is a “survival kit” for beginner photographers, allowing you to choose your equipment carefully to get started.
Choosing your photo equipment: the essentials
There is a huge range of cameras on the market today. However, it is not always easy for beginners to find their way around. The size and resolution of the sensor, the maximum focal length (zoom), the quality of the optics are all criteria that make the choice difficult. To get your bearings, you should know that there are 3 types of digital camera: compact, reflex and mirrorless. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is generally recommended for beginners, as they offer greater control over settings and better image quality than point-and-shoot cameras. They also allow you to use different types of lenses. The advantage of using different lenses is that you can cover a wide range of shooting situations. You can let your creativity run wild by playing with perspectives and discovering different styles of photography.
There are 2 types of lenses: the fixed focal length lens and the zoom lens. When starting out in photography, it is interesting to combine the two as this allows you to explore almost all types of photography. Fixed focal length lenses – 50mm f1.4 or f1.8 for full format and 35mm for APS-C – offer a wider aperture. You can also choose a zoom, either 24-70mm or 24-105mm (preferably with a constant aperture of f2.8 or f4).
A tripod is essential for shooting in low light, taking long exposures and taking self-portraits. It is a very useful piece of equipment in many areas of photography. However, you need to find the right model for your needs. A mid-range tripod will do for a start. However, it is better to avoid plastic tripods: they are lighter and cheaper, but less stable and resistant.
A computer capable of running Lightroom Classic and Photoshop image editing software is also required for post-production work. The following minimum technical specifications for using Lightroom Classic and Photoshop are:
- Operating system: MacOS Big Sur (version 11.0),
- CPU (processor/chip) / Apple Silicon M1 or Multicore Intel® i9 generation,
- Memory (RAM) 16GB unified, recommended 32GB (or more).
Photo filters are accessories that are placed in front of the camera lens to change the characteristics of incoming light before it reaches the sensor or film. There are several types. Filters, such as protection filters, help protect your lenses. While filters such as polarizing filters help improve the overall quality of the shot under certain conditions, including eliminating reflections on most reflective surfaces such as water or glass.
The main purpose of the reflector is to improve the lighting of the scene being photographed by adding light or modifying the quality of the existing light. When the subject is illuminated by a main light source, such as a flash, lamp, or sunlight, shadows may be cast on the opposite side of the subject. By using the reflector, the light from the main light source can be reflected to the shadowed area. This reduces unwanted shadows and softens contrasts, making the lighting in the photograph more balanced and harmonious.
The flash built into the camera body is often insufficient. The use of an external flash or Cobra flash, attached to the camera’s hot shoe, compensates for difficult lighting conditions (backlight, low light, shadows, etc.) by adding an artificial light source to the light environment. Small and compact, it allows you to fundamentally improve the rendering of your photos. It is therefore an ideal tool to start shooting in the studio.
Remote control or shutter release
A remote or cable release allows you to take pictures without physically touching the camera. This is very useful for self-portraits or long exposures. In fact, a remote shutter release offers more control over the precise moment of the shot. It avoids unwanted vibrations and captures sharper details.
Memory cards and additional batteries
During a photo shoot both indoors and outdoors, you can never plan enough. To avoid running out of storage space or battery power, make sure you have extra memory cards and charged batteries on hand. The storage capacities of memory cards vary between 4 GB and 256 GB. It is recommended to have at least two memory cards, opting for medium capacities ranging from 16 GB, 32 GB to 64 GB to limit the risk of data loss.
The camera cleaning kit is essential for keeping equipment clean and in good working order. Cleaning your lens and sensor regularly using brushes, blowing bulbs and cleaning spray helps preserve your equipment and keep it in good condition for as long as possible.
In order to transport and protect all this material, a good camera bag is very useful. There are different sizes and shapes with multiple options, shock protection, waterproofing, modular storage, etc. Attention: whether it is a small bag or a trekking backpack, it is important to measure the internal compartments correctly and to ensure that they are adapted and compatible with the different equipment that the ‘we own.
Different equipment according to the fields of photography
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. The type of equipment a photographer needs depends on several factors; their artistic preferences, their level of skill, and most importantly, the type of photos they want to take.
Depending on the area of specialization, the photographer may consider more specialized equipment. A wildlife or sports photographer will opt for a long-range telephoto lens (e.g., 300mm, 400mm) to capture subjects in action from a distance. A landscape photographer will opt for a wide-angle lens to capture wide landscapes, while portrait or fashion photographers will invest more in studio lights to control the light and create high quality images.
The type of equipment a photographer needs will vary depending on their specialty. It is therefore necessary to know how to equip yourself according to your specific needs.
There are also different types of prime lenses, strobe flashes, special filters, drones. So much equipment that it is interesting to know how to use to explore different fields of photography. However, it is important to remember that the equipment is only a tool at the service of the photographer’s creativity. Training, practice and experience are equally important to becoming an accomplished photographer.
Discover the Spéos training courses
Spéos offers various training courses ranging from a simple one-week photography course (initiation and improvement) to 3-year courses. The long training courses to become a professional photographer not only allow you to master all the photographic technique and vocabulary (blur, hyperfocal, zone of sharpness, depth of field, backlight, focal length, shutter release, autofocus, wide-angle, rule of thirds, etc.), but also all the stages of shooting and image processing.
Coming to visit the school allows you to discover the premises, studios and equipment. In addition to open days, Spéos offers visits by appointment throughout the year to discover the school in the company of a member of the team.