I get asked this question all the time by my students. Frankly, the best answer is the gear you should buy is the gear that fits the type of photography you want to do. But I’ve put together a list of different items that are helpful to buy when you are starting out and when you get a little further along. Canon is my favorite camera brand but if you prefer Nikon, Sony, or Fuji you can find cameras, lenses, and flashes with similar features made by those brands at Adorama or Amazon as well.
Canon 90D, Canon T8i, Canon R, and Canon RP, Canon 6D Mark II: Any of these cameras will do a fantastic job for a photo enthusiast of varying levels of ability. From a person who knows nothing about photography, up to someone who likes to shoot in manual all the time. These cameras will do the job nicely and the T8i and the RP are under $1000. The 90D and T8i are crop sensors. The R and RP are mirrorless.
Canon 5d Mark IV, Canon 1Dx Mark III, Canon R6, and Canon R5: These cameras are for a person ready to jump to a professional level full frame camera body. All four of these cameras are weather sealed so they can be taken in much harsher conditions than consumer grade cameras and have more durable shutters that will last longer. The 5D Mark III and the 1Dx are both full frame cameras. The 7D Mark II is a crop sensor. The 1Dx Mark III is the top of the line for Canon’s dSLRs. The R5 and R6 are mirrorless.
2 Sandisk 128 GB SD Cards: the only memory card company I suggest people use is Sandisk. They are the very best and most reliable. They are a little bit more expensive than the competition but they are much less likely to result in card failures than other brands. Always own at least 2 memory cards as you don’t want to be left having to delete shots because your card filled up. I would suggest purchasing either 64GB size or 128GB size.
A second camera battery: it is a smart idea to have at least 2 batteries for your camera, particularly if you are taking the camera on trips where electricity will be in short supply. I suggest getting only Canon brand batteries, not 3rd party versions.
External hard drive: the pictures we take are very important to us. Nowadays people everyone just leaves pictures on their computer hard drives. Unfortunately, these devices are prone to failure. So be sure to have a backup. I suggest all my students have an on site external hard drive and an off site back up as well. Now you can get 8 Terabyte hard drives that cost only about $100!
Camera bag: You should have a properly padded bag to transport your camera with you. Digital SLR cameras are expensive and delicate. A good camera bag can help keep your camera in good working order for years to come.
Photo editing software: I suggest to all my students that they get or a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Photoshop + Lightroom) which only costs $9.99/month. Adobe Lightroom is an amazing user friendly program that will allow you to edit your images and catalog them as well.
Canon 50mm 1.8 “nifty fifty” lens: this is one of the very best photography buys on the market. For a lens that is only $125 you get amazing image quality and all the benefits of a maximum F 1.8 aperture lens. This allows you to have nice blurry background with your subjects in crisp focus. It also lets you shoot in much lower light than the kit lens that comes with the camera does. Once most of my students put this lens on their camera they never want to shoot with anything else because the pictures are so much better. If you have a mirrorless camera body you may want to consider the RF version 50mm 1.8.
Canon 75mm-300mm 4.0-5.6 lens: If you are shooting things like your children’s soccer game this lens will become your best friend. It allows you to zoom in on the action. Another great option for crop body cameras is the EF-S 55-250 4.0-5.6 lens that has Image Stabilization included.
Canon 24mm-70mm L 2.8 lens: For those who are ready to jump to the next level the first L lens I suggest people buy is the 24-70. It is extremely versatile, is tack sharp, and focuses incredibly quickly. The large 2.8 aperture allows for beautiful shallow depth of field. If you have a mirrorless body you should check out the RF 24mm-70mm 2.8 or the RF 28mm-70mm 2.0.
Canon 70mm-200 L 2.8 Lens: This is the lens I use when I shoot the runways at fashion week in New York City. It is also wonderful for sports. It is very heavy though. You need to either be very strong or use a monopod when using this lens for any extended period of time. It is a fantastic portrait lens as well. If you have a mirrorless body you should check out the RF 70mm-200 2.8 lens. If these lenses are too heavy for you, check out the EF 135mm 2.0.
Canon 135 L 2.0 Lens: This lens is a personal favorite. It focuses so quickly it blows my mind. It is what I love to use for portraits. Unlike the 70-200L lens it isn’t terribly heavy, so I can hold it for extended periods of time without a monopod and still get steady shots. The bokeh is creamy and beautiful. I find for portraits it just can’t be beat.
Canon 100-400 L 4.5-5.6 Lens: If you are taking shots of high speed action from the sidelines during the day or are going on a daytime safari, this is a wonderful lens. The only drawback is the variable aperture and it is not particularly “fast glass” with a maximum aperture of f/4.5, so it is best suited for shooting on bright sunny days.
Canon 430 EXIII speedlite: This is an external flash for your camera that is much more powerful than the one that pops up on the camera and can be used to bounce the flash so that you get much better results when doing flash photography. Canon does make weaker and more powerful flashes. Most students outgrow the less powerful flashes quickly and want the versatility afforded by the 430EXIII. Others may choose to go ahead and purchase the more powerful professional grade 600EXII-RT at the very start. Usually I don’t suggest using third party equipment, but the Yongnuo 600EX-RTII and the Flashpoint Zoom (Godox V1) are also a very good flashes for the money. If you eventually want to get into studio photography, the Flashpoint Zoom may be your best choice as it works seamlessly with the rest of the Flashpoint (Godox) line.
Rechargeable AA Batteries: Flashes eat up batteries quickly. Rechargeable ones will save you money over time. I suggest the ones that hold their charge for a long time like the high capacity Powerex ones. Be sure to pick up a battery charger as well if you don’t already have one lying around the house.
Fucci’s Photos LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, Adobe Creative Cloud Affiliate Program, and Adorama Affiliate Program. These affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, adobe.com, and adorama.com. All the products Vail Fucci has mentioned above are ones she has personally picked out. She does not receive endorsements directly from the companies that make the products.