Buying camera gear can be a daunting task, especially if you’re just starting out with photography basics. If you recently got your hands on a new camera, chances are you’ll need a few extra accessories before you’re ready to start shooting like a pro. So, before you start snapping away, go through this checklist and make sure you consider adding a few extra accessories to your photography kit, before taking it out for a spin.
The two cameras on the right are interchangeable lens cameras; the two on the right are not.
1. Extra Lenses
The very first thing you’ll want to do is take a close look at your camera and determine whether or not it is an interchangeable lens camera. If your camera can change lenses, it is considered one, and you will definitely want to think about adding a lens or two to your kit. However, if your camera’s lens cannot be removed, skip this section and move on.
When evaluating which camera lenses to get first, it’s generally not a bad idea to start out with the kit lens that is usually sold with a new interchangeable lens camera (SLR or Mirrorless). These kit lenses are considered starters, and they are inexpensively priced and versatile. Most kit lenses are zooms, meaning you can take a close-up, or wide-angle shot, by simply twisting the zoom ring on the lens.
The two lenses on the left are zooms; the two lenses on the right are primes.
Another lens alternative, that most beginning photographers don’t usually know about off the bat, are prime lenses. They only have one focal length, meaning you have to physically move yourself to zoom in, or out, of a photo. The benefits of shooting with prime lenses are numerous including:
- Quality: Most primes are slightly higher quality, and have crisper images than those taken with zoom lenses.
- Size: Prime lenses are smaller, more compact, and weigh less than zooms.
- Price: Prime lenses are usually pretty reasonably priced, compared to zooms of the same quality (maximum aperture).
If you’re considering purchasing a prime lens to accompany your kit lens, start out with a 35mm or 50mm lens. In terms of composition, 35mm (on an APS-C or cropped sensor) is the closest focal composition of the human eye, meaning it will allow you to capture more or less the same amount of a scene that your eye sees. The only downside to 35mm lenses is that they tend to be a bit bulky and expensive, which is why the 50mm is often a preferred alternative at a fraction of the size and price.
As a beginner shopping for prime lenses, ignore the different f-stops (i.e. f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2) specified for each lens and simply purchase the cheapest prime lens that fits your budget. Lenses hold their values well over time, so you can always sell it later when you’re ready to upgrade.
2. Memory Cards
Before you can shoot anything with your new camera, you need memory cards to store all of your photos on your camera. There are a number of different memory cards available, with the most common being the SD (Secure Digital card) and the CF card (Compact Flash card). Be sure to check your camera’s manual, and make sure you buy the right type of memory card. As a beginner, start out with 16GB or 32GB memory cards, and have at least two on you just in case. Also, keep an eye out for sales on memory cards, and stock up when prices are low. You can never have too many!
SD memory cards are on the left. The large card on the right is a CF (compact flash) card.
3. Memory Card Case and Reader
After you purchase memory cards, consider also adding a case or wallet, dedicated to storing and organizing your extra memory cards, as well as a card reader to transfer images from your camera to your computer. Many laptops have built-in memory card readers, but these will generally only accept SD cards. Also, I’ve destroyed many of a memory card by incorrectly inserting SD cards into my laptop, so I always use a card reader. They’re inexpensive, compact, and can even transfer over several memory cards at a time.
A memory card reader in action.
4. Ergonomic Camera Strap
While every brand new camera will come with its own default camera strap, there is also a variety of others available that can help you carry your camera in a flexible, stylish manner. One of the most popular alternative straps is the camera sling, which rests comfortably on your shoulder and keeps your camera hanging closer to your hip, rather than dangling around your neck in front of your chest. There are also rugged, sturdy camera wrist straps if you prefer keeping your camera at arm’s length.
5. Adobe Creative Cloud Lightroom subscription
Just like all of the items previously mentioned in this article, there’s certainly no shortage of photo editing software choices. But if you’re just starting out, you may as well start with the industry standard for photo editing: Adobe Lightroom.
Considerably more user-friendly than Photoshop, Lightroom doesn’t let you do a ton of photo manipulations like putting your dog’s head on your cat’s body, but it does give you a plethora of tools to process your images. While Lightroom used to cost an arm and a leg, the new Creative Cloud subscription gives you unlimited access to the latest and greatest version, for a low monthly fee. Lightroom is used by pros and hobbyists alike, so if you plan to get serious about photography, take the time to learn how to edit photos in Lightroom.
Over to you
There are certainly plenty more recommended accessories for beginning photographers. You can see a list of the favorite photography gadgets of our dPS writers here.
Would you add any others to the list? Let me know in the comments below.