You’re going to want a bag to cart everything round in, but don’t be tempted to just buy the biggest you can get – if your kit ends up being big, bulky and heavy, you’ll tend to leave it at home! As with tripods, I’d avoid the cheapest stuff out there – good brands are LowePro, Think Tank, KATA, Manfrotto, and Crumpler.
I’d suggest physically going to a shop and opening bags up, with your kit to hand, to make sure everything fits – online measurements can be very deceptive, and you don’t want to find that you have to ram everything in each time! As yet another example of not making false economies, I’ve had this LowePro rucsac for 8 1/2 years, during which it has been on more than a thousand shoots, and been treated very roughly indeed. It’s got some scars on it, and is probably due for replacement in a couple of years, but it cost just over a couple of hundred pounds. Seems a lot for a rucsac, until you spread the cost out over 1000+ shoots, and realise how many I’d have bought if I’d opted for a cheaper version.
A remote release can be very handy if you regularly shoot images at a slow shutter speed – if you’re doing a lot of landscape or still-life work for example, and shouldn’t be too expensive. You can spend a fortune if you want one that’s got clever things like an intervalometer inside that allows you to take a timelapse, but many cameras now contain this feature as one of their menu settings, so I’d settle for the cheaper one if I were you.
Unless you never take your camera out of the bag, or enjoy paying for expensive repairs, I’d suggest you invest in a UV filter for each lens you own. These are a simple bit of glass that screw onto the front of your lens, and they cut down a TINY amount of the haze you get on landscape shots, but their main role is protection. They cost between £30 and £100, and whilst that seems like a lot of money, it’s cheaper than replacing your lens, trust me!
You’ll be stunned at how easy it is for unpleasant things to get on the front of your lens, from salt water, to mud, to flying stones and grit. If your UV filter gets smashed (and several of mine have) then it’s messy, but cheap to replace. The front element of your lens though, is not cheap to replace, and can easily cost as much as what the lens is now worth. If you spend enough time in online forums you’ll find some people claiming that adding a UV filter has a negative effect on your image quality. Ignore these people. Not only have I never noticed a shred of difference, but I can tell you there’s a big difference between an intact lens and broken one!
On the subject of filters, the only other filter I own and use regularly is a polarising filter. What this does is a bit tricky to explain (and not really essential to know) but in practice it cuts down reflections. This means it can be useful if you’re shooting something very reflective, say the glass exterior of a building, as it will cut down a lot of the reflections. A side effect of it doing this is that it also generally boosts saturation, and can make blue skies look incredibly blue – almost black. It’s effect on the sky is most marked at 90 degrees to the angle of the sun, so you might want to choose a specific time of day to take best advantage of it. Unless you’re using a really old camera and lens, you’ll need what’s called a “circular polariser” as this allows the autofocus in the lens to work properly. Decent polarisers aren’t cheap, and they cut down between 1 1/2 – 2 stops of light that are coming into the lens, but they’re a really handy piece of kit to have in the bag.
Straps and Flash
One piece of kit that’s really useful, and also stops you looking like a numpty, is a decent strap. You probably got a strap in the box. They’ll do a decent job of hanging the camera from around your neck, whilst also screaming “TOURIST” at anyone who sees you! The big drawback though is that hanging a camera round your neck can get really tiring really soon, it’s far more comfortable resting on your hip.
The best solution for this is a strap that hangs across your body, and attaches to the camera via the tripod mount like a Black Rapid. It’s much more comfortable down on the hip – trust me after years of using old-fashioned ones, it can be clipped to your belt to stop it swinging around, and should you ever end up shooting with more than one body, they can be doubled up. They’re not cheap, but then neither is your spine!
I’ve talked a little about flash already, enough to say that it’s a really complicated subject and not suitable for a beginner’s course! If your camera has a flash built-in, then obviously start with that. When you want more power or versatility, you can start to look at buying a separate flashgun, but for more info about this, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for my lighting course to materialise!
That’s all the basic kit I’d like to cover. Obviously, there’s a whole world I could go into, but equipment isn’t something I want to excite people about too much – you can go on the internet for that! Learn your technique and craft, and worry about equipment later.
So to wrap the whole course up – after 27 posts and videos, and hopefully covering all the basic technical photography you need to know to get started. Whilst learning technique and craft is really important – fundamental even – it’s far from the only thing. I was told a long time ago that without a good grounding in technique, I could never become a “great” photographer. Sure, I could get “good”, and these days that’s even easier since it’s now so simple to take a sharp, correctly exposed image with good colours and contrast.
Ideas and creativity ultimately matter more then technique – we’ve all seen technically perfect, but very boring photographs. However, a strong understanding of technique allows your ideas and creativity to express themselves without restrictions. If you can’t communicate those ideas to other people through your imagery because your technical craft skill is lacking, you’re going to be eternally frustrated, and never realise your full potential as a photographer.
So, get out there and practice, practice, practice. The topics I’ve covered in this course should become second nature to you – almost like breathing. Technique should empower you, not hold you back!