As you know, I invite reader questions on this teaching blog, and I try to answer them on the blog.
A member of last weekend’s audience at the Photo Show wrote me some very kind words about how he enjoyed my seminars. He then added:
I am just entering the world of photography as a hobby and just have a quick question. So far, my equipment consists of the Canon T1i with the kit lens. I have also purchased an accessory kit for the camera that contained a bag, UV Haze filter, and a spare battery. I was wondering what you would recommend as my next move. I am interested in the 50mm 1.8 lens and plan on picking it up this week, but where should I go from there? A polarizing filter? An external flash? An additional lens? Any input/advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Interesting question – and a good one. As beginners in photography, there seems to us to be an infinite array of “must have” goodies, and it is important to decide where to spend our dollars.
So here’s my take on this. First of all, I think the choice is right:the Digital Rebel (any variety” XTI, XS, XSi, T1i, or T2i) is a great camera.
Not that there are bad cameras:today’s cameras are all great. While the Pros virtually all use Canon or Nikon, the offerings by Sony, Olympus, and Pentax are also great. It’s whatever you like best – how does it feel, how do the menus look to you: any small SLR will do exactly what a large expensive one does, so it is whatever you like.
So you have chosen a camera. And you have bought a spare battery (a must!) and hopefully also a few extra memory cards (I like 4GB cards: that size “fits on a DVD”).
More important than the camera is a lens. By all means start with the kit lens, but add the 50mm f/1.8 lens as soon as you can. (On Nikon starter cameras you need to manually focus that lens; on some others, there is no cheap 50mm lens availanel. This is one reason I like Canon). On a small DSLR, the 50mm f.1.8 lens works like an 80mm lens (50 x 1.6; a small sensor appears to magnify the lens length), and 80mm is perfect for portraits. And the large aperture (f/1.8, a low “f-number”) enables you to dramatically blur backgrounds and achieve very selective focus (“narrow depth of field”). Use this lens to take available light portraits and everyone will love their professional quality.
So what’s next? Here is my list.
- A flash. I would go for a 430EX II flash. You can read all about flash on this blog – and why you never aim it straight at the subject from on top of the camera (which is the worst possible place to mount a flash). Bounce the flash and you’re good with great light.
- A wide angle lens. A lens in the range of 10-20mm would be fabulous. Search this blog for “Wide Angle” to see why, and to see what these lenses can do.
- Then a long lens (say in the 70-200mm range), especially if you shoot things like sports, wildlife, or if you do a lot of studio portraits or other photos that need “zooming in”.
Then, and in no particular order, I would think of adding utilities, such as:
- A sturdy tripod
- A good camera bag (or “photography bag”: my camera does not go in a bag!)
- Lens hoods for each lens
- A circular polarizer filter
- A Hoodman Hood Loupe
- Perhaps some flash modifiers, like Honl bounce cards.
And from that point on, “it depends”. On what you like – and by then you will have a good idea.
The list goes on, but the good news: in the past, we used to spend $20 every time we used our camera. Today, that is gone: no more film or developing, So take that same money and use it for stuff that lasts, instead. In the end, you still spend less, and you end up with great equipment.
And keep in mind that lenses last forever: a good lens (with a low “F”-number”, i.e. a “fast lens”) will keep its value for decades. The same applies to flashes.
And above all – take some training. Even with one camera and lens, once you know how it works, you can do miracles!