New to photography and wondering what camera and lens to buy?

Sep 27, 2021

This world of family, newborn and maternity photography can be truly daunting. 

7 years ago when I started off I had no one to guide me. And here were some of my biggest worries:

1. What camera gear should I buy?

2. How do I get my first clients?

3. What should I charge?

4. When I book a shoot what kind of preparation should I ask the clients to do?

5. What props to buy?

6. Do I need a photography client contract?

7. Do I need an insurance cover for my photography business?

8. Will I be able to make a proper living out of photography? 

9. Do I need to pay for marketing my photography business?

10. Do I need to learn photography, attend classes or workshops?

Do any of these questions sound like what is exactly resonating in your mind? if yes, then read on.

Let's cover the most important question in this post. 

What camera gear should I buy?

That is one question that haunted me for very long. Camera gear is expensive and it is so difficult to understand all the different features of different camera and what it all exactly means so I will try and keep it very very simple for you.

If you want to become a professional photographer then it is important for you to invest in proper gear. Remember this will be your bread and butter and if in the beginning you invest in the right gear you will be able to reap returns on them investment several times over. 

Simply put there are two kinds of cameras. Crop frame and full frame. If you are looking to pursue photography full time or as a serious hobby then make sure to invest in a "full frame" camera body. I got both my Nikon D800 and Canon 5D MK IV camera bodies online from this website: https://www.wexphotovideo.com

There are many many full frame cameras available in the market and now there is also an option for going for the much lighter and compact "mirrorless" full frame cameras as well so which camera body you will go for will entirely depend on your budget and also which product's user interface you are most comfortable with. If you have some extra bucks then it would help to hire a camera and lens for a few days and try and use it first before buying it. I used to hire my camera gear from https://lensesforhire.co.uk

Which lens?

Now this depends on what kind of photography you want to pursue. I am a newborn baby, family and maternity / pregnancy photographer so I need a variety of lenses and to keep it super simple for you again I will explain your from example what kind of lenses I have in my kit. 

Family Photography: My style of Family images is painterly and with this amazing depth of field and creamy bokeh. I like that separation between the subject and the background and which is why a long lens is something that works perfectly for my style. 

  • That is the reason why I invested in 135mm f1.8 Sigma Art DG HSM  It is a stunning lens that is sharp, fast and creates this stunning separation between the subject and the background. 
  • Also, its not a very heavy lens. Usually long lenses such as 70-200 f2.8 or 200mm f2 are seriously heavy. I mean I developed this insane lower back pain that lingered forever, once I started to use those lenses.
  • Additionally, It is not just as expensive as a 200mm F2 lens which is perhaps the lens every family portrait photographer lusts for. I am going to share some of my images here I have shot with 135mm f1.8 sigma Art lens and also 135mm f2 DC Nikon lenses (both produce almost similar results, though I find sigma art to be sharper).

Having said that, if you visit the camera store and ask the store manager "which is the best lens to buys?" (PS: this is what my husband went and asked when he wanted to surprise me with a camera and lens pre-giving-birth-to-our-baby-girl-gift ;-)) I can assure you the manage will say "24-70 f2.8 is the best and most versatile lens). Which, mind you... is true in some sense. That lens has great variation. I took it out on holidays and photographed famous monuments and tall mountains just as well as I used that lens to capture my very first family photoshoot. However, it is not an ideal lens for family photography. For the same reasons for which a 135mm focal length IS!!!

24-70 f2.8 will never give you the depth of field that adds that magical, painterly touch to images and gives them that natural fine art effect. 

Newborn Photography: This genre of photography is most done indoors in a studio style set up. I usually use a small corner in my living room to create that set up and when it comes to lens, I use either a 50mm f1.4 (Nikon) or 50mm f1.2 (canon) or 35mm f1.8 (sigma art). 

Now the idea is to focus around focal lengths that are between this range. You can also consider getting a 24-70 f2.8 lens for newborn photography. That is a great lens that will help you cover everything from poses you shoot from the front like these:

Or poses that need to be captured from above like these:

or even the family portraits in the studio itself like these:

Maternity Photography: This is easy now that I have explained to you about the above to kind of photography genres that being family photography and newborn photography. 

If you want to do Maternity portraits outdoors, like I do, then go ahead and invest in a 135mm focal length lens. That's what I use for all my maternity portraits as well. Like I told you, I have both the sigma art 135mm lens and also the 135mm f2 Nikon lens and I prefer the former simply because the images are much sharper with the sigma art lens. With my Nikon 135mm lens I often missed the focus. A lot of my students (yes, I run photography workshops as well) have 135mm F2L USM Canon lens too and I have seen the output from that lens as well and its beautiful. Depending on what camera body you own, you could go for any of these versions of course. Here are some images I took with my 135mm f1.8 sigma art lens:

Now, just to be clear. I am speaking from my personal experiences. I am not here endorsing any brand. This is friendly advice. I have played with a lot of outdoor portrait lens lengths such as 100mm, 105 mm, 85mm and more, however, I can tell your from experience of having taught photography to over 3000 students (professionals) globally, that for outdoor fine art photography 135mm is the ideal focal length to go for. If you are into more fun and quirky style of outdoor photography and do not worry to much about a creamy bokeh, then go ahead and grab your 24-70 focal length or even 35mm or 50mm and It would serve you well outdoors just as it would treat you during indoor shoots. So, that's another direction to take. Maybe just invest in one lens (like the store manager suggested to my husband) to begin with, if you are on a tight budget. Grab a 24-70 f2.8 and use it for both outdoor and indoor photography until your business has earned enough for you to invest in a more dedicated lens for each genre. 

We will look into the other topics I have mentioned in this blog in the next posts. I hope this one helped you. 

Feel free to reach out to me on [email protected] for any help you may need. 

You can also find my online course about understanding natural light here: https://education.butnaturalphotography.com/all-about-light

 

 

 

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