Although I’m a full-time editor here at SPY, you might be surprised to know that on the side, I’m a photographer — and it’s safe to say I’ve come a long way in my photography journey.
As someone who is self-taught in Photoshop in addition to digital and film cameras (including 35mm film, medium format cameras, large format cameras, instant cameras, and even the best disposable cameras), I’ve had a lure toward photography since I was an early teen. Now, as someone with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography, I thank nothing more than 14-year-old me for purchasing 5 incredible products that have taught me to become the photographer I am today.
Photography is an excellent hobby, no matter your age. Sure, everyone thinks they’re a photographer these days due to apps like Instagram and VSCO. Still, with the right tools to start out with, you can surpass the average Instagram photographer by allowing yourself to have access to the proper tools needed. I can attest that everything I started with pushed me to become better and better, helping me create some of the photos you can check out below.
Everyone starts out differently. Some folks have access to more money, some to less. Growing up, I didn’t have a ton of cash. That said, I opted for a cheaper route when it came to starting my journey as a photographer. Camera hand-me-downs from aunts and cousins, old film that expired years prior in my parents’ junk drawer, and the like. That said, working as a teenager in a restaurant did allow me to “splurge” on some items you see below that, truthfully, aren’t even the most splurge-worthy. Nonetheless, I believe these are essential to beginners like yourself.
Ready to get started and change the way you take photos forever? Check out all of the products I recommend below for those getting started with photography.
NEEWER Photography Lighting Kit with Backdrops
Every aspiring photographer needs a starter lighting kit for shooting indoors. Whether you’re shooting on backdrops or home interiors, a lighting kit is essential for properly exposing fine details your camera otherwise won’t see. The NEEWER Photography Lighting Kit looks extremely similar to the first kit I purchased when I was just starting. This kit comes with all the lighting equipment you need for portraiture, still-life, home interior shots, and more. It comes with three muslin backdrops in white, black, and green which are also excellent for starting off with when it comes to headshots.
To keep it real, I used the lights I got in my very first lighting kit up until post-college graduation. In total, I used them for about 8 years religiously, which was well worth the money.
Kate Blue Paper Backdrops
You might get confused here for a minute. Why am I suggesting you purchase backdrops when the kit above offers some? Well, the kit above offers muslin backdrops, while these backdrops below are paper. Muslin is an excellent fabric to start off with but needs a lot of upkeep. You’ll often need to iron or steam these backdrops to create the flat, seamless look you desire when taking photos. Paper backdrops stay completely seamless unless they get wrinkled or damaged. If that’s the case, simply roll it down and sip the messed-up pieces off.
I’ve been using the same paper backdrops for as long as I can remember and have only found the need to make cuts a handful of times. You’ll almost always find yourself reusing the same section of paper if you take good care of your backdrops. Plus, there are a number of color options you can choose from outside of the white, black, and green options pictured above.
Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash 400 Disposable 35mm Camera
Anyone that knows me knows that I swear relentlessly by disposable cameras. As a photographer, I think these are the most underrated tools anyone can own. Let me explain why:
Although disposable cameras are not high quality, I always like to tell people to remember that it’s about the photographer, not the camera. If you can’t shoot a great photo on a disposable camera, then you can’t shoot a great photo on a camera that will cost you thousands of dollars. I keep a disposable on me at all times for just-in-case moments out and about; I otherwise wouldn’t have access to shoot with my camera. It’s also a great way to shoot something to check how it might look so you can see whether or not you want to go back and shoot it with a better camera later.
Anyone interested in shooting film spends a little bit of time with a disposable camera first. It’s a less daunting approach to the medium because it’s playful, yet it still can slow you down the way film does. Don’t undermine the power of these bad boys.
Brevite Jumper Photo Compact Camera Backpack
Even if you’re a beginner, you need a camera backpack to keep all of your gear nearby. You might be thinking, “well, I don’t have too much gear quite yet, so why would I need one?” Let me tell you something: gear comes quickly. Whether you want it or not, if someone in your life (even if it’s your mom’s ex-coworker’s husband’s brother) finds out about your interest in photography, unused cameras, lenses, and the like come rushing in. That said, you’ll be filling a camera backpack in no time.
My personal favorite camera backpack comes from a brand called Brevite. Lots of camera bags are that — bags. Backpacks are way easier to carry around because they have a sense of complacency on your back instead of the whole lug approach. In addition, this backpack has so many pockets and storage spaces to keep literally anything you want to take with you. Topping it off in several cool colors, you really can’t go wrong with this one.
I’ve been playing around with Photoshop since I was a teenager; it was all self-taught. But, I believe every photographer should know how to use Photoshop, even if it is just some light knowledge. No one has to be a Photoshop wizard if you don’t want to be, but having basic knowledge of color correction, spot healing, and more is essential. Sure, it might seem like a splurge if you don’t know how to use Photoshop, but I promise you will want to continue learning once you know the basics.
While I learned from a number of different YouTube videos, I really suggest first-time Photoshop users take a couple of courses to get a grip on the basics. While I’m not as familiar with Lightroom, I also suggest throwing yourself into a couple of those courses, too — that’s something I have to do myself. Photoshop will cost users $239.88 a year (or $19.99 a month), and you can cancel whenever you want.