Get yourself in gear….

How many times when you were growing up did your parents or grandparents tell you that you needed to get yourself in gear? If you are like me, well, I can’t even begin to count the times. I am notorious for being “fashionably late”, but when it comes to my business I am always ready to go.

When I tell someone for their business that they need to get in gear, I am talking about equipment. (Unless they are being fashionably late for shoots which is a big no-no!).

If you are starting out what gear do you really need? It can be overwhelming. Just go to and type in photography, lenses, or flash and you get so many hits that you can spend a week going through them all and never figure it out. 

The first thing you need is a DSLR camera. (Obviously!). Now I know that there are people who call themselves photographers who use point and shoots and **gasp** their cell phones, but they aren’t. Don’t be fooled by them. If they show up with a point and shoot or their cell phone, you should just leave. 

But should you spend the money on the 12 mp or 18 mp camera? Guess what? There’s not that big of a difference! If the cameras are otherwise comparable, you will get more details with the higher resolution. If you make 4×6 prints you can’t see a difference between a 12 megapixel and an 18 megapixel image. If you are wanting to enlarge the photo, the higher resolution one will allow you to enlarge it more. You might end up with a little more noise with the 12 megapixel, but other than that, not a whole lot of difference!

So, whether you are shooting with a Rebel Xsi or a Canon 5D Mark III, that is irrelevant in the beginning. Upgrading your camera is something you can save up and invest in after you learn your camera and have everything else you need. (I am not covering backdrops here either…those vary in price and if you are an on-location photographer you won’t need to invest in those anyway!)

But, let’s say you are starting out and your budget is limited, where do you start?

Just typing in the words “camera lens” on Amazon. com yielded 171,833 results!!! Overwhelming? Yes! 

What lens do you really need? Well, that depends on your subject.  If you are shooting 
portraits and you are on a budget you probably aren’t going to jump right in and get the 
85 mm 1.4 at $2000 or spend $2500 on the 70-200mm 2.8, are you? Nope. 
You will need to think more budget friendly.

I am going to give you a few lenses that are good starting points! 

(I shoot Canon, so just find the Nikon equivalent if that is what you shoot! )

The 28-135 f/5.5-5.6 lens is only $358.

The Tamron 28-75 F/2.8 is a wonderful lens. (I know this because I have one!). I love this lens. It’s a great all-purpose walking around and even shooting portraits lens. Quite honestly, I tend to keep this lens on my camera more than any of them!
Now are you ready for an amazing little lens that won’t even come close to breaking the bank? It’s the 50 mm 1.8  and it’s $114. Yes, you read that right. $114. I have this lens too and sometimes I just think I need my 50 for this shot!

Obviously, Photoshop or Lightroom. I know they are expensive, but this is an investment. You will use this as a tool to create and magnify your work. You will use it for prepping the images for print. Think of the camera as your paintbrush and the PS or Lightroom as your canvas to bring your art to life.

Yes, we all want the Speedlites, but they don’t fit into every budget. (A 430 EX for Canon will set you back about $499) but, here is a good lil’ flash and at $65.35 this Tongnuo YN-560 is way more economical than the Speedlite for someone just starting out. As you make money you can save and upgrade!

If you are going to be doing outdoor portraits, you will need at least one reflector. (Preferably two!). You can find 5-in-1 reflectors  that start at $12.49. Get at least the 43 inch ones!

White Balance Lens Cap:
If you use custom white balance it will save you time in post processing. I know there are photographers who say they don’t use it, but I always do. I find that it makes my editing time go much quicker if I am not having to adjust my white balance in post. 

You can get the gray card or you can get a Custom White Balance Lens Cap. And there are all kind of brands out there, but you can find them for as low as $5.15. Simply hold in front of your lens (no focusing needed) and point. It will display a color and you can decide if that is the one you want to use to set your WB. 
(Eventually you will be able to read the lighting and know if the color is spot on! At least that is what happened to me!)

Lens Cleaner
Before shoots I always clean my lenses. I love this tool. It has a gentle little moist cleaner on one end and then the brush on the other for dust. I keep one of these around at all times!
The LensPEN  is only $6.74.

Tripod or Monopod
If you are shooting in low light you will need a tripod. If you are shooting images of the moon, you are going to need a tripod. There are instances where you are going to need a tripod. If I take my camera with me, I take a tripod, just in case. I would rather have it and not need it at the time, than to not have it. Tripods are not expensive at all, you can get a Tripod  for about $19.99

If you don’t want to invest in a tripod, you might want to think about a monopod. If you are shooting sports events and using a long lens, your arm is going to get very tired of supporting the weight of the camera and the lens. If you are a nature photographer, this folds up nicely and can be strapped to a backpack. For the times when you don’t want to use a tripod, a monopod works really well. This monopod is only $16.99.

Business Cards:
Yes, you are going to need business cards….that is pretty much a given part of this. But do you really need to break the bank for some fancy cards. Nope. Vistaprint  can hook you up with some nice and very professional looking cards and they have a lot of photography related designs. 
(pricing varies according to design, but some are as cheap as $10!)

Camera Strap Cover:

I bet you are thinking “How can that make me a better photographer or help my business?”. Well, it won’t. Sorry. ☺ But I want you to think about all the summer time shoots you are going to be doing. Think about how hot and sweaty and gross you just might get. Not pleasant, is it? Now picture doing that with the durable and very rough camera strap around your neck. Still not sounding good is it?

Now I want you to think about all the gross sweat that will accumulate on that. Still not pleasant is it? 

One of the reasons I think camera straps are soooo important is that you can take them off and wash them. My actual Canon camera strap has rubbed the back of my neck and made it red and raw. That’s just not an option for me when I am out shooting. If I am more comfortable when I shoot, I shoot better. Plain and simple.  Swanky Stitch  has a great selection and they are very affordable (starting at $25)! I recommend them to everyone who asks about camera strap covers.

Rain Sleeve:
If you plan to shoot out in the rain or think you might get caught in the rain, keep a rainsleeve in your camera bag. You will thank me for this, I promise! Keeping your gear dry and making sure nothing happens to the camera or the lens is always a priority! (They aren’t cheap, after all!). Investing in a $6.50 rainsleeve is worth saving you camera, your lenses and your peace of mind!

So, there you have it…my gear must-haves. Obviously depending on where you live and what subjects you shoot and whether you do this as a hobby or as a pro, you might add or take away a few of the items. This is just meant to be a guide to point you in the right direction. I was not compensated or asked to endorse any of the products….but I do because I believe that you should have them!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!


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