Gear Essentials for Beginner Photographers
So you've just purchased your first DSLR. It probably came with a versatile zoom lens or 'kit lens' such as the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM or the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR. With a wide-angle to telephoto range, a lens like the 18-135mm is a great first lens because it lets you experiment with many different styles of photography.
But let's say that you've been using your kit lens for a while, you've figured out the basics, and now you want to try some new techniques. Below we list a few of our favourite pieces of gear to help you start taking your photography to the next level. Better yet, you won't find anything on this list over $250.
1. The Nifty 50
Both Canon and Nikon make their own version of this handy 50mm f/1.8 lens. If you're starting to understand aperture you'll know that you can use it to control your exposure, and your depth of field. With the bright f/1.8 maximum aperture of these lenses you'll be able to start experimenting with working in lower light conditions and creating bokeh (those nice out of focus backgrounds you see in most professional portraits). You'll be amazed what a difference it makes. You can often find these in our second hand store for less than $200.
There are plenty of external flash options available for most camera systems, including many third party models under $250. We often hear "I don't like the look of flash" but an external flash produces a very different effect to the pop up flash that may be included on your camera. An external flash will produce a further-reaching light, and most models offer advanced control over the light output to help you achieve the look you want. Used correctly, a flash can be both a powerful and essential tool.
If you've been trying your hand at natural-light portraiture, or if you've decided to purchase a flash, this one is for you. You've probably noticed that when you're outdoors at midday it can be difficult to find a flattering way to work with the sun and the harsh shadows it creates. Notice how this effect is lessened on a cloudy day. As the light passes through the clouds it is softened to create a much more pleasant result. In photography, a diffuser works much the same way. It softens, or diffuses your light source, evening out shadows.
If you are photographing outdoors using natural light, we recommend the 5-in-1 reflector, which is a large collapsible diffuser panel that you can position between your subject and the sun. Either have an assistant hold it in place, or attach it to a stand. It also comes with four different bounce panels, giving you even more creative control.
To diffuse the light from your external flash, the simplest method is to add a small flash diffuser. Many of these are model-specific, so if you already own a flash you will need to know your model before we can match you with the right diffuser.
4. Infrared Remote
This one doesn't require much explanation. With the correct type of infrared remote you can wirelessly trigger many different cameras, making it possible to avoid camera shake during long exposures and easy to take that family portrait Mum keeps asking you for with no running back and forth. You can pick one of these up for $40 or less, just remember to check whether your camera is compatible!
5. Intervalometer Remote
A wired intervalometer remote is a device that plugs in to your camera to automatically control how often, how long, and how many shots are taken. This allows you to take controlled long exposures using the "Bulb" setting, and manually set a regularly timed interval between shots. Create time lapse animations, capture star trails, or set your camera up to fire hands-free at a predetermined moment. There are intervalometers available to suit most cameras.
A tripod is a handy piece of gear for almost any photographer. There are two pieces to a tripod - the legs and the head. These can be purchased as separate pieces or together as kits. As a rough guide, if you like to shoot landscapes, look for a kit with a three-way head and bubble levels, which makes specific adjustments easy. If you prefer portraiture and a faster set-up, consider a kit with a ballhead. Tripods vary in price, but it is possible to pick up a good kit for under $250.
From clear protective filters to filters for creative effect, there is a huge range available. One of our favourites is a Neutral Density filter which will darken your exposure, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds to create dramatic long-exposures. Most filters screw on to the front of your lens and are measured in mm sizes, so you will need to decide which lens or lenses you want to use your filters with to determine which size filter will be compatible. Check your filter size by looking at the inside of your lens cap. Most caps will have this printed in a central location.
If you found this guide helpful but would like more advice, you can contact us. Our staff are all photographers themselves, and we're more than happy to help!