Buy Cheap – Buy Twice. We certainly wish we were told this when we started out! We wasted so much money buying cheap knockoffs and imports on eBay, that only had to be replaced a few months later. Stupidly we repeated this process over and over again for years!

It is also very easy to think that you needs loads of equipment when you first start out, and that really isn’t the case most of the time. And don’t forget, different types of photography require a different kit list. Weddings may require a different range of lenses to newborn photographers for example.

We aren’t really going to give you a definitive list of ‘what you need’ – but rather some ideas of what you may need to think about, and hopefully save you spending money unnecessarily.

Canon / Nikon / Sony / Fuji – who to choose?

If you don’t already own camera equipment – this will be one of your first decisions. We aren’t here to say one brand is better than the other – they all have great features. Pop along to a camera store and have a hold of them, see how they feel to you. Consider the weight, the cost and importantly – the availability of lenses and accessories, especially on the second hand market. New businesses are usually a little strapped for cash!

Don’t Forget Your Backups

If you are carrying out paid photographic work – you need to be thinking about carrying backup equipment. If you are photographing a wedding and your camera malfunctions, you can’t just say ‘ooops – sorry!’. You need to have a backup camera with you! Equipment fails – usually when you are using it. It doesn’t matter how old it is, or how well you look after it, eventually something will stop working. Please make sure you have plans in place for when that happens – in some cases you could be looking at legal action if it goes wrong.

BUT WHAT DO I NEED?

This is the tricky bit – what you need depends on what you want to photograph, and what your style is. Some people shoot weddings with full lighting rigs and assistants controlling them – others just sling a camera around their necks and use natural light and a 50mm lens.
A lens that is great for portrait photography, probably isn’t much good for a landscape photographer too – so you really need to think about what you want to shoot before deciding what you want to buy.

The Basics

Obviously you need a camera. Get the best you can afford – research the difference between full frame and crop sensors, see what accessories are available etc.
Once you have decided that – you want to look at what you need for your type of photography. This is FAR from a complete list, we will do some ‘what’s in your bag’ posts with various photographers soon, so you know what they carry.

Studio Photographers
Studio photography can generally mean a higher volume of work. This means your kit needs to be built to last. You will need your camera (full frame would be best) and at least one decent portrait lens. A good all-rounder would be the 24-70mm f2.8. This is available in Canon, Nikon and Tamron makes just to name a few.
You will also need a decent pair of flash heads. For general use, look at Bowens or Elinchrom for quality, and if you are thinking of Newborn photography, you need to be looking at the Elinchrom D-Lite RX1. (post to come soon to explain why!)
You will also need either soft boxes or umbrellas to start out with, and maybe build your lighting modifier collection as you grow.
Next up you will need backdrops, whether it’s a wall, seamless paper or printed paper – something needs to be behind your subject. (don’t forget something to hang it on!) Finally, a computer and software to edit on, and you are ready for your first shoot. This is FAR from everything we have in our studio, but if you are just starting out, this will enable you to earn some money to buy more!

Wedding Photographers
Wedding photography has that little extra pressure compared to studio. You can’t re-schedule a wedding shoot! If your camera fails, or you drop it, or uncle Bob spills his beer on it – you need a backup. Therefor our first recommendation is TWO cameras and TWO lenses. For weddings you generally need the ability to shoot wide angle, ‘standard’ and telephoto. Whether you choose to use Prime lenses, or a couple of zooms is up to you. For us, we had a Wide (16-28) a Mid-Range (24-70) and a Telephoto (70-200) at all times at a wedding.  This covered pretty much every eventuality. Churches and Receptions can be dark – make sure your lenses can open up to f2.8, and your camera can handle low light!
You will need LOTS of batteries, and LOTS of memory cards. Use small memory cards and change them often. That way, if one corrupts, you don’t loose the whole day’s photos. Ideally, use a camera which support dual cards, such as the 5Dmkiii, so you can record JPG to the SD card while recording RAW to your CF’s.
You will probably want at least one flash (strobe) and again, plenty of batteries. A large 5-in-1 reflector is also an incredibly useful tool at weddings, and only costs around £15! Finally, you need a bag to keep it all safe in! Again, over time your equipment list will grow, but this is what we would consider the minimum requirement for a wedding.

Newborn Photography
As well as everything in the Studio Photography list above, you also need to think about a newborn posing beanbag, heaters (it’s gotta be warm!), hats / outfits, blankets / material, incontinence mats, non-slip mats, floors, backdrops etc. You also need more specific lighting modifiers for newborns, ideally a minimum of 50″ (125cm) and an ideal size of 84″ (220cm) for umbrellas or softboxes.

Landscape Photography
Landscape photography will require a decent solid tripod, wide angle lenses, and once you get into it, probably a filter system for your lenses too. Your camera bag becomes ever more important when trekking over hills with your kit. Make sure it’s comfy and keeps things safe.

As we carry out our ‘what’s in your bag’ interviews, we will update this list, as we come across things that simply cannot be left out!

FAQ’s

It’s questions time! If we have missed something – let us know and we will add it!

What is a Grey Import - are they ok?

Grey Imports refer to equipment which is purchased from outside our ‘market’, such as China / Japan etc.
They can often be considerably cheaper, due to price differences around the world. They are genuine products, and are not ‘knock-offs’.
There are some risks involved though – many manufacturers won’t offer their warranty on ‘grey’ imports. Reputable grey market retailers offer their own warranty, which is usually just as good though. Panamoz have a great reputation for their warranty for their grey products, and are considerably cheaper than the UK market.
Another risk is that the company selling it may not have the stability or reputation of the ‘main’ company. A couple of grey import companies have gone bust recently, quite probably with people waiting for products they will never receive.
In short – it is perfectly legal, and in some cases makes business sense to import your equipment. However, you need to weigh up the risks, and how important local service is to you.

I can't afford 2 cameras for weddings, I'm just starting out?

Honest answer – don’t shoot weddings then. They are a massive event for the Bride and Groom, their family and their guests. They often spend thousands upon thousands of pounds for their day. If they are paying you to deliver a service, you need to have the skills and equipment to do it. This isn’t something you can fix later.
Get experience (second shoot, do courses, practice on your wife / girlfriend), save your pennies, get the proper equipment and THEN advertise to carry out paid work.

What about renting equipment?

Absolutely! Our first year of wedding photography was shot using hired lenses. It’s a great way of using pro kit before you have the capital to buy it yourself. Make sure you use a reputable company, and make sure you book it to arrive a few days BEFORE the wedding, just in case there is a delay with the courier etc.