5 Things I Wish I Bought When Starting in Photography (Plus a Bonus Tip)

There are countless ways to spend money, especially when you’re starting out. Camera companies do a very good job of selling you gear, some of it you’re not even sure you need. Here are 5 things I wish I bought when starting out in photography. 

Light: Science & Magic 

The first item on my list isn’t even a camera. It is a book about light. I quote this book in a lot of my articles, and indeed, this is a brilliant book if you want to learn the basics of light. Sure, it won’t satisfy the physics professors in the readership, but it will be sufficient to have a basic background in light. Unlike most other books, Light: Science & Magic don’t teach setups. Instead, it goes into the raw detail. At the end of the day, photographers recreate an aesthetic with light, doing a 10-light setup is practically useless. I would struggle to find a photographer who was asked to do a 3-light setup in his career. I would not struggle to find one who was asked to recreate a certain feel for a particular image. Naturally, light is only one component, but an important one indeed. 

As a beginner, you want to familiarize yourself with light, no matter what your genre is. Without light, you cannot take a picture. With light, you can. Light is the ABC of photography. Your images are essays that you write using the ABC.  

Used Pro Camera and Lens Combo 

There seems to be some sort of negative stigma around used gear. I find that a little funny, to say the least. Beginner photographers tend to go to a camera store and shell out a grand at least for a subpar camera. While I am not against beginner and prosumer gear, I find that there are far better options if you look at the used market. My very first camera was a 1D mark II. Released in 2004, it could do ISO 3,200 and shoot 8.9 frames a second. For the style of shooting, I did (events) it was perfect. The sensor wasn’t full-frame, it was 1.3x crop. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic camera with a big sensor that I loved using. I’m certain that you can find a used pro camera from a brand you like and have a lot more fun with it. The 5D Mark II is probably the most obvious choice. 

Lens-wise you can get a good 24-70mm f/2.8 for next to nothing too. The rise of mirrorless has decreased DSLR lens prices by quite a bit. While this isn’t an article on buying gear, it is a good idea to consider buying used. It saves money and you probably end up getting a better deal.  

Coaching Session With a Photographer You Admire

This didn’t seem important when I started out. I got on with taking images without really thinking about the greater meaning behind it all. Sure it was loads of fun, but it started to become less fun. When photography turned into a business, I was treating it like a cash cow, not like my partner. Photography was there to pay for some stuff, not to inspire me on a daily. 

Another thing I did is post my images to Facebook groups. Of course, these groups are designed to be a space to get feedback on images. The problem was that this feedback was rarely constructive. Not only was it mostly judgment, it was also someone else’s point of view that didn’t apply to my situation. When getting feedback, it is important to understand that that is only 1 single point of view, it is no better or worse than your own. 

These things came to me a few years after I started. I booked a session with Andrea Belluso, who has since become a good friend of mine. Funny enough, I booked it to get feedback on my images. After that session, my world was turned upside down. Since then I started having much more fun with my photography and in fact became a lot more creative in day-to-day life.   

A Book About Your Genre

In a different article, I talked about the importance of knowing your genre. Very few photographers start photography because they are absolutely fascinated by how the capacitors inside a flash work. For most, it’s the desire to capture what they are passionate about. 

However, when you start photographing that seems to fly out the window. Hence you should continue being passionate about what you love, the very reason you began photographing. Keep digging deep in your genre, niche, style. If you’re anything like me, you dive deep and dig the rabbit hole until there’s nothing left. Fortunately, the rabbit hole most people dig only gets deeper but never ends. 

Two Hard Drives

While for some this is as basic as it gets, others may only learn this the hard way. I learned this the hard way. While buying hard drives gets expensive very fast, it is vital that you have a robust 3-2-1 backup system. That means having 3 copies of your files: 2 on-site and 1 off-site. Many beginner photographers store their images on their laptop 

Speaking of storage, here is a bonus point: 

Bonus Tip

This isn’t a purchase, but a bit of advice. Come up with a filing system for your photos, and stick to it. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not having a robust ordered system to store my images. One day it was organized by genre, and another day it was by date. Now that’s changed, but the first year of my archives is a little bit messy, to say the least. Don’t be like me and figure out a way of organizing your files from the very start. 

Another thing is to never delete files. Sure, there is reason to let go of old work, but never delete it. It is not that expensive to store and serves really well as a memory of what you used to do. 

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