- This post has been updated in 2021 to feature the newest camera info
why I picked up a camera
A brief summary of why I started taking photographs. I fell in love with photography when I had my first baby. That baby is now 19... where does the time go!? I didn't know anything about “real” photography when I first started. I consumed everything I could about the subject. I read books, joined forums, took classes, and just practiced. I've tried several camera models before I settled on what I currently use and love. Although this works for me, that doesn't mean it will be perfect or even ideal for you.
The Camera Body
I don't think you have to invest in a $2,000 camera body to achieve fantastic pictures. I started out with a very small budget and traded up when my skills were in a place I could justify the expense. Cameras are a lot like technology, always changing and in most instances constantly getting better. I've owned three Nikon cameras which I've loved. I initially started with a Canon but found I liked the way Nikon fit better; you will just have to try them both and see what suits you best.
Don’t let that title fool ya! The pictures you get from this body will far surpass anything you could get on your cell phone or point and shoot! A coin this good starter camera because you can dip your toe in and see if it is right. I actually started out with the D7000, a few models older than this one. It was a great price point, taught me how to use my camera, and gave me the desire to produce nice images and actually get better!
Mid Point Camera
After using my D7000 (old equivalent to the above camera) I decided I wanted to upgrade to a full-frame camera, especially for better low light performance. I settled on the Nikon D700. This camera was my go-to for eight solid years! I used this for shows, family photos, and product photography. This is a great middle-ground depending on your budget. If you have aspirations of taking photos for a side hustle I would recommend skipping the above and starting here or a similar model.
My camera was old and technology has advanced so much
I wanted to go mirror-less
This camera is lighter than my old model
So far I am in love with it! I’ve taken a few hundred photos of my girls and some product shots and not been disappointed. I did have to get the adapter for the lens but my old glass all work with the new camera!
The real magic is in your glass, and this is where I've invested a lot of my money. Whenever you can buy the top end lens, just do it. You can have a lower budget camera body, the better your glass, the better your photos. Bonus, once you've decided on a brand, you can always upgrade your camera body and continue using your lenses.
What makes a lens expensive is the f stop. The lower the f-stop the more expensive it is. To put it simply, the f-stop is what gives you a nice blurry background. Something we all want in our pictures!
My absolute favorite
Nine times out of ten this is what I am shooting with. My favorite lens is my 85mm f/1.4G Lens; it rarely leaves my camera. I use this for just about everything, almost every single portrait style photo or show image with a sheep in it was taken with this lens. I seriously LOVE this lens. This lens is a fixed focal length, meaning I have to move to change the distance to my subject; I can't adjust it on my camera. This is my preferred method to take pictures, take note of your own style.
Need some zoom?
Another good lens to carry all the time is the 24-70mm. This will come in handy at shows or even when taking portrait-style photos. You get some zoom. This is a workhorse at shows when you can’t always find yourself close enough for a great shot. These are not cheap but an investment you will treasure and if you take care of it you’ll never have to replace it!
I also own the Nikon 50mm. Originally this was my most used and is a great lens on a budget. You will be very pleased with the images you capture with it, and I will always have it in my arsenal. This one is good in the lamb/hog/goat barn and wonderful for portraits as well. This lens is also a fixed length.
The biggest investment in glass happens to be the lens I use in the cattle arena. The 70-200mm f/2.8G is a killer on your pocketbook, and there are some lenses you can purchase with very similar results (Tamron and Sigma brand come to mind). This lens is an adjustable focal length so I can change the distance to my subject through my lens. I consider a zoom lens a necessity at the cattle show.
Where Can You Start?
my suggestions for you
Save money and rent gear to see what you like. Rent a camera body you are interested in and a 50mm lens to go with it. Give it a trial run at home and see if it is the one for you. Try both a Nikon and a Canon to see which fits your hands the best. You can rent almost any gear and ship it right to your home at Borrow Lenses, such a great resource!
Save money and purchased used. There is no shame in buying used gear. I’ve done just that and it has worked out just fine. My only recommendation is to make sure it is a reputable company. Adorama and B+H are both highly respected companies in the industry. Even after you have purchased a camera, you may decide you need to rent lenses. I rented the 70-200mm for years before I broke down and bought it. I still don't think I've used it enough to justify the purchase but hopefully, someday that isn’t the case.
Get the book Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson. Read it. Learn it. Test it out so you have a real understanding of how your camera works. This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to get better.
If you want to take a course (something I do every chance I get), a good place to start is SkillShare, there are a TON of classes you can watch and learn there (use that link and you'll get 2 months free). Lastly, I have a vast collection of pins on Pinterest related to photography. I would love for you to follow me here.