3 Essential Tools for Photography Beginners

“Andrew what camera should I buy?”

That is the most common question that I usually get. I get it everywhere. I get it from emails, Facebook, Instagram DM, WhatsApp and in-person.

I believe you can know where people stand by the kind of question they ask. When they ask me that question, I can assume one or more of the following things:

  1. They are new to photography.
  2. The camera that they have is a smartphone or pocket camera.
  3. They think buying a new, more advanced camera will result in better photos.

I have sympathy for them. I used to be in their shoes. When I first started, I used to browse endlessly to find the best gear that I could purchase, hoping that it would help me take better photos.

But obviously, it didn’t. Your skill as a photographer determines the result of your photographs.

But yet people still insisted in finding the right camera and the right gear for them. So, with that in mind, I have created a list of tools and equipments that should help you, especially if you are new to photography. Let’s start with the first one, the camera.

1. Camera

Not all cameras are created equal. What’s best for one person might be a total crap for the other person. With that in mind, here are the criteria that I use when recommending a camera for beginner photographers that fits the 3 criteria that I mentioned earlier in this article.

  1. It must be small enough to put inside your bag and light enough for you to carry all day. What’s the use of having a camera if you don’t have it with you? When you carry the camera with you all the time, you increase the chance of using it and hence lets you practice photography more often.
  2. It must be an interchangeable lens camera with plenty of lens options. The real power of having a real, dedicated camera as opposed to a smartphone lies in the different optics that you can use. The lens that you use will dramatically impact the look of your photo and you should have access to experiment with many lenses. This will help you explore photography fully and find your shooting style.
  3. It must be affordable. Ideally the budget should be below USD $1,000 for the camera and couple of lenses. Now this is important for you in terms of finance. At this stage, I assume you are still not serious about photography and want to try things out before making a commitment. Having a budget will protect your loss, just in case you decide that you’re not going to go all in in photography.
  4. It must take better photos and be more responsive than your smartphone camera. The smartphone cameras are notorious for the image quality in low light and they can be slow to operate when you have too many apps open. Nowadays, smartphone camera manufacturers throw a lot of gimmicks inside the post processing side to make the picture “automatically” look better after you take the photo. However, the results are often unpredictable, giving you lots of fake and unnatural looks in your photos.

With those criteria in mind, here’s the camera that I recommend you to get.

Sony a6000

Sony a6000

The Sony a6000, combined with the kit lens is small enough for you to carry all day inside your bag. It has all the essential modes that allows you to learn photography, including the full Manual mode. There are plenty of lenses that you can try as well and the image quality will beat any smartphone in the market.

Autofocus is amazingly fast when compared to a smartphone. It will have no problem locking in and tracking a moving subject, something that a smartphone camera always struggle.

In terms of price, it will give you a very good value for money. It sells well below $1,000 for the camera and the kit lens. Other things that you need to buy is an extra battery and a fast SD Memory Card.

With this camera, you will be on your way in your photography learning journey.

2. Camera Lenses

As I mentioned previously, lenses will allow you to experiment with different point of view and it will directly affect the final result of your photographs. You can practice with your kit lens that comes with your camera, but the following will expand your vision greatly and gives you unique results. Here are the lenses that you should get.

The 3 Essentials

Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens – The Standard Lens

Sony 16-50mm

This is the kit lens that’s often sold in one package with the a6000. It’s a small lens which gives the minimum combined dimension when mounted on the camera. Optically it’s not the greatest but it’s a fine lens to use daily.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 Lens – The Fast Aperture Lens

Sony 35mm F1.8 E Mount Lens

This is a versatile, normal lens with fast aperture which will give you more creative control with your camera. Utilizing the f/1.8, you can get a nice, out of focus background blur. Another way to use this lens is for capturing fast moving action in a dimly lit environment. This lens is also light and easy to carry around.

Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 Lens – The Telephoto Lens

Sony 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 Lens

If you need more reach, this is the lens to get. This lens will allow you to zoom in close to the action without you having to be physically close to your subject. It is very useful for shooting wildlife or sports. When using a telephoto lens handheld, be mindful of the shutter speed that you use, otherwise you’ll end up with blurry pictures caused by motion blur.

So, those are the 3 essential lenses. If you want to further upgrade your lens collections, below are 2 options that’s worth considering.

Sony 10-18mm f/4 Lens – The Ultra Wide Angle Lens

Sony 10-18mm F4 Lens

An ultra wide angle lens will allow you to get very close to your subject and capture a really wide angle of view. This is very useful if you shoot interiors or landscape. Using an ultra wide angle lens will take some practice as there are more elements to consider when you compose your shots. But if you get it right, you can end up with a unique looking photo.

Sony 30mm Macro – The Macro Lens

Sony 30mm Macro

A macro lens will let you to focus really close to your subject and open a whole new world in your photography. If you’ve seen a close up photo of insects, most likely it was taken by a macro lens. Using a macro lens takes a lot of practice and patience. You need to consider the composition, depth of field, subject movement and camera movement. If everything comes into place, you can end up with an unusual shot like the one below.

3. Laptop & External Hard Drive

After you’ve captured your photos, you need to sort, edit and store your photos. You’ll need both a laptop and an external Hard Drive to do so.

When it comes to getting a laptop for photo editing, I recommend getting the largest screen that you can get and max out the processor and RAM. I personally recommend getting the MacBook Pro 15″ with at least 8GB of Ram and i7 Intel Processor.

The software that I use to sort and edit my photos is the Adobe Lightroom Classic. If you’re interested in knowing my complete workflow from start to finish in Lightroom, please check out my course Editing Superpower.

You don’t want to store all your photos inside your laptop. This is because photos can take lots of space inside your laptop and it can slow your laptop considerably. This is why you need to invest in External Hard Drive.

For External Hard Drive, I recommend getting at least 1TB of storage space. External Hard Drive (Hard Drive) comes in 2 flavors. There’s the classic hard drive and the SSD (Solid State Drive).

The classic hard drive has rotating parts. Given the same storage space, it is usually cheaper than the SSD counterpart but it’s more prone to damage when you drop it. The SSD (Solid State Drive) is more expensive. It has no rotating parts so it is much better protected from drop or bumps.

BONUS: SmugMug – The Online Photography Backup Site

If you really want a peace of mind when it comes to photo storage, you need to backup your photos online. Having your photos stored in external hard drive is great but what happens when the unexpected happens like fire or theft?

This is why having your photos backed up online is very, very important. For online photo backup site, I recommend using SmugMug. They offer you unlimited space to store your photos at a very competitive price. If you want, you can also build your own professional website and sell prints there.

There you have them! Those are all the recommended tools that I recommend for photography beginners. Here’s what you can do now.

Step 1: See what you already have and what you need to buy. Remember, you don’t have to buy everything that I recommend in this article. You just need to buy some just to get you started. Decide which of the three essentials are crucial for you to have right now and add on the rest in the future.

Step 2: Budget appropriately. Calculate how much money you need to get the essential tools.

Step 3: Backup your photos online! I cannot stress this enough. Join SmugMug using this link for free trial and extra discount. You’re welcome.

Good luck in gathering the essential tools for your photography and I’ll see you in future lessons!