Photography Part 1: Camera, Lenses, Equipment and Tools

A few months after I started this website, I realized I really needed to get serious about photography to produce the quality of content I can be proud of. There was no getting around it: stock photos can only get you so far, using other photographers’ photos is illegal even if you credit them, always using product shots from companies can get boring, and hiring a professional photographer can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month.

A few other EWC bloggers and I have been exchanging photography tips on our private forum, but I want to share with you what I’m doing to improve my photog game in case some of you are on the same boat. I’m flattered when asked by friends and brand reps who’s behind the photos on my site. I take them, unless otherwise credited, or if I’m in the shots. In that case, I choose the location, set the camera, and a friend helps me shoot. I bribe them with dinner and/or drinks after.

In this post, I’m sharing all the equipment and tools that I use. In future posts, I’ll write about the online classes I’m taking or have taken, and maybe other tricks I’ve learned or will learn along the way.

photography-for-beginners-camera-and-essential-equipment-and-tools

 

Up until March, I was borrowing my sister’s Sony Alpha a5000. It’s a small and portable mirrorless camera. The quality is good enough, as you can see from the photos for this post. But I felt it was limiting in that I couldn’t easily manipulate the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed settings.

I’d looked into buying a pro DSLR, until I realized a relative had a Canon 5D Mark II lying around. It hadn’t been used for years. I’m so lucky to be handed down a full-frame DSLR that professionals photographers use. The Mark II is 7 years old, I believe, and there are newer versions now, such as the Mark III and the very recent Mark IV, which has a few new features. The quality of the image from the different versions is comparable. If you want a pro full frame DSRL but are on a budget, I highly recommend the older Mark II. To compare, the newly released Mark IV is currently $3500 with no lens, but the Mark II is $800, maybe less if you find a used one.

I also inherited a Canon telephoto zoom lens with the camera. It’s an awesome and versatile pro lens, but it’s also big and heavy, something I wouldn’t bring on location unless I’m driving. I still haven’t used it yet, but I might one day when I want to play around with bokeh.

I bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens from Canon to use with the camera instead. I’d read that the 50mm prime is a great lens to get started with photography. It’s not too wide and not too tight, so it’s good for everything from portraits to street photography. At $125, it’s one of the most affordable, high quality lenses out there, and the reviews are great. Another plus is that it’s light and travel friendly. I’m glad I didn’t invest in a better 50mm because I learned that I personally preferred a wider lens.

This travel post and all of my fashion posts until the end of August have been shot with my Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. With travel photography, I did find the 50mm frustrating to use because it’s not wide enough for me. That’s why I decided to buy a 35mm f/1.4 prime. Zoom lenses may be more versatile, but the image quality is not as sharp as with prime lenses.

After doing a wack of research, I decided on Sigma’s 35mm f/1.4 art lens, which is pictured attached to my camera body. Pros often use Canon’s 35mm f/1.4 from the L-series, but it’s almost twice the price of the Sigma at $1800. Reviewers have determined the the Sigma and Canon are comparable, sometimes with the Sigma coming out ahead. Even though $900 is still a hefty investment, the Sigma was a no-brainer for me. This Sigma bundle is a good deal on Amazon—it’s the same price as the lens alone. I got a similar bundle from Amazon.ca, which I have to buy from to avoid crazy US custom fees because I’m in Canada. It came with lens filters, but I haven’t learned how to use filters yet.

I’ll probably be using my new 35mm for all of my fashion posts and travel stories from now on. The image quality is really sharp, and it’s not so wide that it noticeably distorts my photos. If I ever find the lens to be too wide, I can always crop the image. I’ll probably still use my 50mm lens for portraits/beauty shots however, since it won’t distort the face as much.

I also own a flash, but I don’t like to use it, even for events. It’s just a personal preference. My camera is good enough to use in most low light situations. I do have a friend who uses his flash as a fill light for portraits. He attaches the flash to his camera with a shoe cord, and holds the flash away from the camera, at another angle near his subject, to fill in shadows. I like this use for the flash and might try it in the future.

If you’re wondering what that little toy camera is in my photo, it’s a 4GB USB drive. It’s cute, but if you’re going to be taking a lot of photos, you’ll want an external hard drive to keep all your RAW files. 4GB won’t be enough. I doubt you’ll have enough room on your Dropbox, and you probably won’t want all your photos on your computer even if you have the space. I use this external hard drive, which I use to back up my computer as well.

Also pictured is my adorable Hello Killy Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 Instant Film Camera. I use it on occasion for fun, but not yet for this site.

Update: Bought this Canon Wireless Remote so I can take photos of myself when there’s no one around to help me. It has the option of a 2-second delay so you have time to pose. Very handy.

In short, these are the most important equipment and tools I use for my photos now:

Canon 5d Mark II – body only

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens bundle

Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens for portraits

Extra Flash Cards

External Hard Drive 

Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom for editing

Canon Wireless Remote

In the next post, I’ll compile some online photography courses I used to improve everything from shooting to editing. If you’re not familiar with the photography terms I used in this post, the videos will hopefully clear it up. Watch for the post in the next 2-3 weeks.

P.S. In case you’re wondering what I used to shoot the photo of my camera equipment, it’s the camera on my Samsung tablet. I edited the image in Lightroom. Tablet and cell phone cameras can be adequate for flatlay photos.

See Photography for Beginners Part 2 for the online courses I recommend.

March 2018 update: I now use the Fujifilm X-T20 mirrorless camera on my travels. See my review of the camera.

What are you currently using to take and edit photos? Let me know in the comments below!

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