Photography, like most hobbies, can become a money pit if you let it. I know I bought a lot of stuff I really didn’t need. While everyone's kit will look different based on their needs, I’ve put together a list that everyone getting into photography will need and can feel safe investing some money into.
While this might be putting the cart before the horse, or really the lens before the camera, lenses are the most important thing you can invest in during your photographic career. Unlike cameras, the technology in lenses changes very slowly, so your lens collection will stay with you as you change cameras. People are still shooting on 20 year old lenses, but when was the last time you saw someone shoot with a digital camera from 1996.
There are two things you'll have to consider before buying your first lens. Camera mount and full frame or crop lenses. Before you start buying lenses you’ll have to decide on a camera you want. Every brand has a different mount and sometimes a couple of different mounts. The most popular are Canon EF, Nikon F-mount, Fuji X mount, Sony FE-mount & A-mount. If you buy a camera with one of these mounts it’s safe to say they’ll still be making lenses for it in 10 or 15 years. Once you make that decision, it’s important to stick with that brand/mount. You only get the benefits of building a great lens collection if you, for example, stick with Canon and upgrade to new Canon EF cameras throughout the years. And while it’s impossible to know what new camera you’ll want in 5 years, most modern cameras are very close in quality and performance so it’s not something you really have to fret over.
The second thing to consider is full frame or crop lenses. Some lenses are made only for crop sensor cameras and would be marked with an EF-S, F-mount DX or E-mount. When used on a full frame camera, crop lenses will show a dark circle around your image. Crop sensor lenses are generally cheaper in price but can only be used on one type of camera. Full frame lenses can be used on both types of cameras, but will be more expensive. If you don’t think you’ll ever need a full frame camera buy whatever suits your needs. If you see yourself upgrading it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one or two full frame lenses.
Once all of that is figured out, buy the best lens you can afford and don’t look back. I’m still shooting on glass I bought 3 cameras ago.
This one is surprisingly simple. Take a look on a site like B&H and compare a few cameras in your price range that have the features you’d want and go for it. You really can’t go wrong with a modern camera from one of the big manufacturers. One thing to keep in mind though is lens selection. Nikon and Canon have a much larger lens selection then Sony or Fuji, though that will probably change with time.
You can also take a look a few review sites like The Wirecutter and see what’s recommended.
If you really want to get serious about your photos, then invest in software. Luckily getting the most used and trusted photo editing software won’t cost you much. For 10 bucks a month you can get both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop with Adobe’s Creative Cloud service. Taking the photo is half the battle and editing is the other half. This one is kind of a no-brainer.
Now that you have all this great gear where do you put it? You could throw everything into an old Jansport but you’ll risk damaging your new investment. Buying a purposed built camera bag is cheap insurance to both protect and organize your gear. There are a million different options and an equally large price range for bags. I personally use a Lowepro bag but you can also check out yard sales or Craigslist for used bags. The main idea is to keep everything safe and in one location.
You’ll need one or two, trust me. And stuck with the name brand batteries, don’t be tempted by cheaper 3rd party stuff.
Don’t skimp on memory cards. Buy SanDisk or Samsung with a class 10 or higher. I’ve used a bunch of cheap SD cards in the past and they have all let me down. High end memory cards will be able to handle whatever you throw at them.
Also, having four 8GB cards is better than having one 32GB card. You will loose cards, they’re small and will get misplaced. Always have multiples. It’s also much easier to sort through 300 photos on one card vs 1200.
This one is pretty simple. Buy This kit and keep your gear clean.
That’s it! Now all that's left is to get out and take photos.