How To Shoot Manual Series – Mini Guide and Beginner Gear Tips!


Hey friends!

If you’ve been following along with my How To Shoot in Manual series, thank you! I can’t believe we’re already at the end. Today, I wanted to share a bit about gear, as well as summarize the whole series in a free downloadable PDF! Some of my mentoring clients have found this guide helpful to print out and keep in their camera bag. Remember, this is all a lot to learn, but the more you practice, the more easy it becomes. I highly recommend reaching out to a mentor and learning in person with someone! I’m here for a mentoring session if you need me, but there are so many other great photographers who love to teach and would be happy to help you learn as well!

Tips on Purchasing Gear!

First, let me preface this by saying that so much of what I’m going to share with you is just my opinion based on my own experiences. Second, gear is highly dependent upon what you’re using it for! A real estate photographer will use entirely different gear than a portrait photographer in most cases. I’m just going to give you a quick run-down on a few options I recommend for starters, and what they are good for! If you’re wanting to get into weddings, this blog post I wrote on wedding photography gear will help you even more!

Camera Bodies

If you want to get into photography, my philosophy is to start with an entry level DSLR (read about what that is here) with a low investment. The reason being, is there is so much to learn and the nicest gear won’t help image quality until you know how to use it. First make sure you want to keep doing this, and as you start booking your first clients, use that money to save up for better gear if you’re committed! Any of the Canon Rebel camera bodies are a great start. There are so many options here, so simply look at the specs to see what you prefer. Some have video, and some do not, for example.

Starter Lenses

The first thing you want to understand is that there are prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths, and they do not zoom. I actually prefer these, because in my experience, they are often faster to focus (depending on which lens it is) and they are sharper. They have more depth, which goes well with my style. The great thing about a zoom lens, is clearly that you have a range.; you can zoom in and out. Just make sure you don’t get a digital zoom, which magnifies the photo and can pixelate. Optical zooms are best for image quality.

Below I’m attaching some image examples shot on higher priced lenses, but with similar focal lengths, just to give a general idea! This won’t be exact, and lighting is also so dependent upon what the image looks like. This is why you need a mentor! Here are just some general tips and on which lenses you may want to purchase to get started. There are so many great starter lenses, so I’ll just name a few favorites!

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens

Great for portraits!

If you’re on a full frame sensor (such as a Canon 5D Mark 1-3), this is a great starter lens for the cost! If you have a crop sensor (like the Canon Rebels), I recommend buying a 35mm 2.0/f to get the same effect as the 50mm on a full frame.

What’s a crop sensor and a full fram sensor? Check out this great article on SLR Lounge to get the scoop!

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Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens
Captures the story/background on full frame – good portrait lens for crop sensor.

If you’re on a full frame sensor, this one is great for story telling. It brings more into the frame and is a bit wider of a lens. If you’re on a crop sensor and want the 50mm look, this one is for you.

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jones-reception-34 copy
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens
This was my first lens, and it was great for a starter zoom lens! Again, I really believe in prime lenses, but for those who want a zoom option that is a reasonable price for great quality, this is a good lens to look into. The only time I personally use a zoom lens, is when my subject is coming towards my camera very quickly (like a grand entrance!) and I simply want to capture the story.

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Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens
This lens is so pretty and great for close-up portraits, or really getting a beautiful blurred background (bokeh!). It’s relatively very inexpensive and is great to start with! I recommend this one for portraits in controlled environments. Maybe get a wider lens first (like a 50mm or 35mm), because this lens is more for close-up shots, and then make this second on your list!

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Something to note…

My philosophy on gear for just getting started is minimalism. Invest more time and money into your education first. Buy a couple of good pieces of gear to learn on, and then upgrade and add to your bag as your business is actually making money. It’s easy to become “gear poor” and go out of business quickly if you purchase all of the nice stuff first! I also recommend shooting in more controlled environments to learn (such as a portrait session rather than a wedding or event), and finding a mentor that can help train you in areas you just can’t read online. There’s nothing more valuable than having someone guide you through it right by your side.

If becoming a full-time photographer becomes your dream, you’ll most definitely want to invest in high grade lenses, such as the Canon L Series! These lenses are the sharpest, most durable and reliable lenses on the market in the Canon world. All that I have mentioned here about Canon is translatable into the Nikon world, but I’m sticking to what I know best here!

I hope this post was helpful! Here are a couple of my favorite places to purchase gear:

BH Photo
George’s Camera (For San Diego Locals!)

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Now for my free guide! Click here to download my free PDF How To Shoot in Manual – Intro to DSLR. Print this out and keep it in your camera bag for reference. It should be a great help if you’re just getting started!

Questions? Leave a comment, and I’ll be sure to reply! Want to set up a mentoring session? Simply click “Contact’ at the top of this page to get in touch!

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