Starting in Photography: How to get started
Wondering how to get started in this big photography world? Every amateur and professional photographer has been at this stage, one time or another. So, congratulations on trying something new and taking an interest in a wonderful, lifetime hobby. Whether you plan to become a professional or just a hobbyist, it is my pleasure to help you any way I can. Although it is often competitive, photography is an art and should be much more welcoming to anyone who picks up a camera and joins in.
First off, we offer a free online 10 part training course if you are interested in learning the essentials of photography. This even covers beginner aperture, Shutter speed, ISO, Fields in Photography, camera bodies, lenses, and an advanced aperture class. Each session is numbered so start with #1 and we walk you through step by step. Then you can move on to our regularly updated blog that builds on your knowledge like common mistakes, maximizing bokeh, and intro to real estate photography.
This is by far, the most asked question I receive, practically on a daily basis. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Seven11photography.com, Quora, you name it! Folks want to know what the next steps are to enter the world of photography. And why not? You worked hard for your money, and you don’t want to waste it! So here, I am going to go into some recommendations for your next steps and hopefully help you navigate this early path until you are experienced enough to know exactly what you want to buy next. So here we go!
First, know that the world of photography is not only massive, but it is complicated. It requires baby-steps, you learn as you go. For this blog post, we are going to be talking “kit packages.” Most professionals have an arsenal of lenses and end up purchasing a camera body only, and perhaps an adapter, to fit all their lenses. And why not, I personally have lenses that are several thousand dollars apiece! But for the beginner, you are starting with nothing but an imagination, desire to shoot, and an artistic eye.
So, know that there may come a day that you want to upgrade, get rid of something I suggest, or trade it in on the new biggest and greatest thing. That’s okay but expect it one day. You aren’t going to buy a camera kit that is going to be perfect for every type of photography, again, you grow into it! So, right now our focus is bang for your buck, so below are my recommendations from lowest cost to highest looking at Canon’s line. Why Canon? Because I am extremely bias but base it on facts too. Just send me an email or comment and I am happy to explain.
Starting Photography- Under $500 Camera- Canon Rebel T7 with 18-55mm lens
Seems like everyone starts with this camera. It’s inexpensive, durable, and it really takes amazing images. This body saves money because it doesn’t have all the unnecessary gadgets that the more expensive bodies have, it’s an APS-C (crop sensor) instead of full frame, and it has a good bit of plastic. To top it off, it’s a DSLR instead of a mirrorless camera, which means when you look through the viewfinder to line up your shot, you are seeing a mirror reflection of that image which is unaffected by your camera settings.
So, you have to take a picture, then look at the back of the screen to make sure you don’t need to adjust anything. These cameras are slowly dying off but are still the go to for many professional and amateur photographers alike. The kit lens is 18-55mm, so on an APS-C camera, that is technically more like a 29-88mm lens. To put that into perspective, your eyes see at something like 40-50mm equivalent. So, this lens is great for landscapes at 29mm for being slightly wide angle and also great for getting in a little closer than your eyes can see at 88mm.
Overall, this is a great camera and lens to travel with, take portraits, scenery, and even some street and architectural photography. Don’t expect to do any wildlife shooting, closeup sports shots, etc. The camera body is fully capable, but you will need a longer lens for that, at least 200mm, probably more like 300mm+. Great for starting photography.
Affordability- At this price, you can afford to get it, use it to learn, and buy what you really want later
Versatility- This body and lens will really let you take pictures from several photography genres
Picture quality- at 24.1 megapixels, you can take great, sharp pictures that can be poster size or larger if you choose, but can also be heavily cropped and still retain quality.
Simplicity- A bonus for all these recommendations, but the buttons and learning curve is not difficult. Just need to know the basics.
APS-C- not everyone considers this a con, and I have produced professional work on a crop sensor camera.
DSLR- again, not everyone sees this as a con, but the industry is moving away from these. Mirrorless is just too easy and convenient
Slow- You can only take 3 frames per second on this camera which is very slow. But if you are not holding the shutter button down, you would never notice.
Under $1000 Camera- Canon M50 with 15-45mm Kit lens
The lowest cost Mirrorless camera on the list, so when you look at the image in the viewfinder, it’s a sensor generated image of what you are shooting and includes your settings. So, if the subject is too dark, you can make adjustments before ever taking a shot. Very nice, and super great for learning. It is an APS-C sensor, so I love this lens pairing for a beginner.
A 15-45mm is basically a 24-72mm which the 24-70mm is probably one of the best-selling adjustable lenses on the market for professionals (of course a much higher quality lens though in the cost range of $1,800 to $2,200). This lens is lighter, faster, easier to use, and comes with a lens with slightly wider angle to grab a little more of your landscapes. If you can spend the extra cash, I highly recommend this kit to start. But plan to buy a new lens or two soon after you get addicted, but great for starting photography.
Mirrorless- Remember you are paying for both a lens and camera, $850 really isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Affordability- this is a great entry level price for a mirrorless camera with these features and quality.
Picture quality- 24.1 megapixels again, high, clear quality when taken correctly.
Speed- 10 frames per second is as fast as you will ever need as a beginner
Lightweight- the T7 will feel like a brick compared to the M50
APS-C – again, there are pros that shoot with these sensors so don’t let that stop you.
4k- I’m told the 4k isn’t that great on this camera… but I never used it and loved this camera like a child.
Under $1500 Camera- Canon RP with 24-105mm Kit lens
So, you feel confident you are going to stick with this photography thing for a while, huh? I personally use a Canon RP regularly and have no regrets (and have plenty of publications and exhibition entries to prove it!) This full frame camera is your entry into professional photography. The quality is amazing, super portable and did I mention it’s mirrorless? You buy this camera when you are thinking you might dabble in professional photography or just want a camera you will probably never upgrade from.
Sure, the R5 is better, but this is a great backup camera, and I am never ashamed to whip it out and create magic. This kit lens is long gone, but it was a great starter lens for me. 24mm is that perfect wide angle for landscapes and 105mm is enough to zoom in a good bit to capture little league games at least. This may look pricy, but with everything you get, it might just meet all your needs!
Mirrorless- Just starting out, mirrorless is like having the answers in the back of your math book.. You can play with the settings and see what happens on the screen in real time.
Picture quality- bumping up the megapixels a little to 26.2 now.
Lightweight- compare this to any DSLR in this category and it’s feather light
Full Frame- higher quality, more pixels, bigger sensor, all the things that make a professional excited!
Affordability- I get it, buy a camera or pay rent.. It may not be the first camera to buy, but keep it on your mind if not as an upgrade one day
Speed- at 5 fps, when you hold that shutter down, it’s noticeable as a professional.
Battery life- this one loves batteries, definitely carry a spare if it’s a long shoot.
So, there you have it. Now check out some of my other free learning course and figure out how adjust your settings, fields of photography, camera buying, lens buying, etc. Just start at lesson one and go from there! The way to become a great photographer is through studying. Not just reading but getting out and learning from mistakes. I can’t wait to see what you create, and I am here anytime to provide feedback, suggestions, answers, etc. Together, we can make great art!
Photography and writing by Jon Frederick