Everyone has to start somewhere right? So if you're toying with the idea of turning that photographic passion into a career come the new year here's some great advice on the best bits you need on your Christmas list to get you going from a man in the know, photographer Matt Dowling.
Matt gives up his tips on what's needed to get started as a pro snapper and how to put your kit together on a budget.
Think photography, think camera. Many new photographers feel the need to jump straight into the top end of the camera market to justify their ‘professional’ tag but it’s not the tools that make a great worker. Cameras such as the Nikon D810 or Canon EOS 1D X tend to dominate the pro landscape but unless you have £5000 hanging around it’s not always a viable option. Thankfully there are alternatives for those on a budget.
Before making your decision, it pays to take a step back and consider what you plan on shooting. A great entry level camera is the Nikon d3300. Sturdy with a 24-megapixel sensor this piece of kit will set you back a mere £350 new. Slightly pricier at around £590 is Canon’s EOS 750D but it does offer another dimension with smart features like built in Wifi with NFC pairing.
New tech is ever-evolving which means there’s always a second hand bargain to be had. Make sure to request the total shutter actuations before committing to buy. Think golf - the lower the total, the better. Anything over 150,000 actuations for an entry level camera would be deemed a risky purchase.
Under appreciated but vitally important to your end result is the mighty lens. Your choice of lens should be based on what you plan on shooting as well as artistic taste. If you're not sure what type of photographer you would like to be and want a lens that can be used for multiple purposes plump for something that will provide you with range. Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 or Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 are solid options and can be used to shoot everything from portrait to landscape with good effect. Many entry level cameras will include a standard zoom (18mm - 55mm or 24mm - 70mm are common).
Pros will generally have a range of lenses in their camera bag. Prime lenses (lenses that are just one focal length) offer more quality and ask the photographer to physically move to capture the required shot. They also force new photographers to learn about the mechanics of lighting, aperture and depth of field. A 50mm is a great lens for fashion or portrait. Check out the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II for just £90-£100.
For landscape, property or to achieve an expansive frame, a wide angle lens is a must. Ranges from 14mm f/2.8, 16-35 f/2.8, and 24mm f/1.4. For more specialised work there’s telephoto for maximum zoom or macro for extreme close up detail. Shop around and remember to experiment. Online reviews can’t tell you how to be an artist.
Once you’ve got your camera and lens sorted, for those shooting interiors or studio, lighting is next on the check list. If you’ve spent all your money on the camera and lens fear not. A free-standing living room light and piece of cardboard wrapped in tinfoil as a reflector can produce great results. Slightly more reliable are LED portables. Used by amateurs and pros alike the LED is versatile and cheap. The Neewer CN-160 is only £20 at Amazon. Three of those beauties with three stands come in at less than £150.
Lastly we come to accessories. When starting out accessories are a bit of a luxury, but I'd always recommend a good bag to keep your kit safe. Check out LOWEPRO Streamline Sling at £30 at Currys. If you've spent more than £800, photographer’s insurance is also a sound investment. Not only will it cover your kit but also public liability and more. Depending on who you go with it can cost a few quid a week to give you peace of mind.
Most importantly, get out there, point and click. Happy shooting!
Matt Dowling is an internationally published photographer with a career that spanned over 12 years. Matt lectures at many of the country’s most prestigious creative universities and recently launched The Freelancer Club, a members club supporting photographers and other creative freelancers looking to start a career or established pros in need of more work. Check out www.thefreelancerclub.co.uk for more.
Why not share your own favourite starter kit and top tips below? Or if you have a question for Matt, ask away!
*Prices are approximate and were correct at time of publishing.