Every year around this time, I am asked lots of questions about cameras, lenses, camera bags...if it's photography related, I've probably been asked. I absolutely love answering these questions so I thought I'd put together Andrea's favorite things for the beginner photographer. Sorry, it won't be as good as Oprah (you get a lens, and you get a lens!) but it will help you delight that photographer on your list!
Drumroll please...the best gifts for beginner photographers
(Please note: a few of these items are affiliate links where I get a small commission if you purchase them. However, the only reason I signed up to be an affiliate is because I use the product and/or service and love it. I've been recommending these sites for years so why not get a few bucks? I would never, ever recommend something I don't use.)
Lenses (oh how I love a new lens!)
Most entry level cameras come with entry level lenses. One of the best investments you can make as a newbie photographer is a new lens. I always recommend a nifty 50. What is a nifty 50 you ask? It is a very affordable (Nikon and Canon are less than $150 and Sony is less than $200) 50mm lens (it does not zoom in and out...you zoom with your feet, as in walk forward, walk backward) and it has a very wide aperture which makes it great for low light and indoor classrooms. It is a great learning lens with a minimal investment.
I also like the 35mm 1.4 or 1.8 on entry level cameras because most of the cameras have crop sensors. This simply means that they actually zoom in more than the lens says on the side. For example, a 50mm on a crop sensor is actually around 80mm. This can be great for sports because you can get in closer but sometimes indoors it will make you have to back way up. That's where the 35mm comes in. On a crop sensor it is around 50mm which makes it the perfect walk around lens.
Nikon makes a 35 1.8 for less than $200. Unfortunately, Canon does not. Your options are to go big (a 35mm 1.4 is $1600 on Amazon) or you can purchase the Sigma Art line for just under $800.
Your most affordable option is definitely the 50mm.
ooh la la...a stylish new bag
What girl doesn't love a pretty bag to carry their camera in? I've personally asked for the Kelly Moore weekender bag. What I love about it is the removable camera insert so that I can also use it as a large tote when I am not carrying around my camera.
Full disclosure, I use two different bags. When I am shooting for a client, I use a Manfrotto backpack that I got at Costco several years ago. It is great to put all of my lenses and extra stuff I need to tote around and keep it on my back as we move from location to location. It is pure function.
When I go to a conference or meet with potential clients, I usually want to be a little more stylish. That's where the fun camera bags come in to play. If you are saying to yourself, "there is no way I could ever pick out a bag...she's too picky," I've got great news. You can purchase an insert that can be used in ANY bag. There are some great options on Etsy.
travel+photography =great fun!
One of the best ways to learn as a beginner photographer is to get out and shoot with other people. It's a little like tennis. As a beginner, you want to hit with people who are better than you so you improve. As a newbie photographer, you want to shoot with people from beginner to advanced to learn from them and up your game.
Give the gift of a photography get away this holiday. For the past couple of years I have attended Click Away. This year it is in Dana Point, California. It's such a fun girls trip. There are speakers, demos, shooting boutiques...there is a little bit of something for everyone. It's a great place to bond with other women and talk about photography non-stop without annoying anyone (win for me!)
There are also tons of small photography retreats being held all over the world. It's a great way to learn in a more intimate setting.
Give the Gift of Learning! Purchase a Gift Certificate to The Big Girl School.
give the gift of learning
One of the best gifts for a beginner photographer is the gift of learning. There are so many resources out there but sometimes, you just want someone to guide you from A to B. Here is where I am going to do a little plug for my class, but I am not the only resource out there. I am, however, very geared toward the beginner. My 3-week class will explain all those buttons and menus. I don't use super techy language, and I tell you straight out what you don't need to know at this stage in the game. If you want to learn more, you can click here.
Classes aren't the only way to learn. Sometimes being inspired by an incredible photography book (especially if it is in a genre that interests you) can really motivate you to grow. I have amassed a beautiful collection of coffee table books throughout the years on subjects as varied as sports, dance, portraits, and women's workspaces. I just love looking at how other people interpret their subjects. It makes me think differently.
One of my favorite books is Picture Perfect Practice. It has really practical tips and assignments that get you out DOING what you just learned. As a beginner photographer, it helps you "see" things that might have gone unnoticed before.
who wouldn't love a new camera?
Maybe you are just getting the photography bug because a new grandchild is on the way or you are retiring and looking for a hobby. Or maybe, you've been doing this for a while and think it may be time for a new camera.
Related Article: When Should I Upgrade My Camera?
I am asked all the time about which camera to buy. I've been asked so many times that I've written a short, FREE course on that very subject. It is a 20-minute video explaining what to look for in a camera, with two printable downloads to use when shopping. I've compared four cameras at two different price points to help you narrow it down in a literal sea of choices. You can take the class here.
If you just want the shopping guide but don't want to take the course, you can download it here.
Maybe you aren't sure if buying a new camera is the best option. Are you unsure if you will stick with it? Do you want to learn it first and then invest in something more advanced? A GREAT place to buy used is keh.com. I have personally bought a lens through them and have been very, very happy. The lens I purchased was $1600 new and I bought it for $700. They are VERY particular on their rating system, so you know you are getting a nearly new product at their highest rating.
If you'd like to purchase new, I highly recommend this Costco bundle. It comes with 3 lenses (including the aforementioned nifty 50. It's the perfect gift for the beginner photographer.
the ultimate gifts for beginner photographers
Tell me what's on your wishlist in the comments below. Maybe I'll find something I'd like to add to mine.
Need an idea? Have a question? Ask me in the comments and let me help you out. I am really good at getting people to buy awesome gifts for their loved ones 😉
Andrea Ferenchik, Founder
Andrea started The Big Girl School because she loves sharing her passion of photography with other women. As a former trainer at Microsoft and current professional photographer, she has the unique ability to break down technical jargon of the camera into easy to understand language. She loves nothing more than to see her students grow and thrive in their photographic journey.
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