What You Actually NEED When Getting Started With Photography


So you’re ready to upgrade from your phone camera.  You know you want a DSLR, but you have no idea where to begin.  Well, let us walk you through what we think you’ll actually need (and use) when getting started taking photos of your kids.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but remember that camera equipment, especially the core pieces, are always an investment.  I’m a huge fan of quality over quantity.  I’ll take a few, high quality, key components over a pile of camera gear I’ll only use a handful of times any day.  From one mom to another, this guide is meant to give you a starting point for useful, quality equipment that you’ll use everyday to photograph your kids.  Because let’s be honest, the last thing we need in the house is more junk to trip over :)

1 | A DSLR camera

Shooting in manual mode is what gives you full control over your images.  There are tons of options to consider, so we’ve got you covered with our DSLR camera guide.

2 | A lens for your new DSLR camera  

To say there are a ton of lenses to choose from is an understatement.  It can be seriously overwhelming when you start learning about all of your options.  Just know that less is more when it comes to starting out with lenses.  You can purchase a ton of lenses before you get started, but as you learn you may find that you prefer something totally different.  Don’t be afraid to wait.  And don’t waste your money.

Often times your camera comes with a ‘kit lens’.  If so, you can make that work, but I highly recommend investing in a basic 50mm prime lens as well. As you start learning more about the exposure triangle and apertures, you’ll come to really appreciate the 50mm lens.  This lens is great because it has fabulous aperture options to give you beautiful, blurry backgrounds - something that’s a bit harder to achieve with basic ‘kit lenses’.

Canon 50mm f/1.8
Canon 50mm f/1.4  (A slightly nicer version of the same lens)
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
Nikon 50mm f/1.4   (Again, a slightly nicer version of the same lens)

Check out our complete lens guide here.

3 | A couple of memory cards

I’m always trying to look for the path of least resistance when it comes to photographing kids.  Sometimes it’s hard enough to remember to bring the camera or even pick it up - don’t let lack of memory space hold you up.  I always recommend having at least two memory cards, that way you can have a backup on hand if you run out of space on one.  It’s also nice if you haven’t had a chance to transfer one of your cards to your computer yet.  Don’t let not having memory card space stop you from taking photos!  

And along the lines of quality over quantity - keep in mind that all memory cards are not created equal.  I highly recommend sticking with the name brand cards.  There is nothing worse than seeing ‘file corrupted’ when you go to transfer your cards!

Depending on the type of camera you choose, you'll need either an SD or a Compact Flash card.  You can purchase either in a variety of storage sizes.  I recommend the ones below.

16G SD Card
16G CF Card

4 | An extra battery

Just like with memory cards, I always recommend having at least two batteries.  This way you can always have a fully charged backup ready to go.  Don’t let not having battery power stop you from taking photos!

And similar with the memory cards, not all batteries are created equal.  I always recommend sticking with the battery your camera manufacturer makes.  You might be able to find an off brand battery a bit cheaper, but you’d be replacing your entire system if that battery every backfires on you.

5 | A software program to process images on Your computer

I know most people assume Photoshop when they think of editing photos, but my software of choice is always Adobe Lightroom.  And thank goodness, because it’s much cheaper!  It offers everything you’ll need - and more.

Don’t be tempted to purchase presets or actions right away.  Once you learn to use Lightroom, you’ll be able to make all of your own edits and make your photos look exactly how you want them - without wasting your money on things you don’t need.

Adobe Lightroom

6 | Lessons on how to actually use your camera!

What good is investing all of this money into a nice camera if you’re not going to learn how to actually use it to its full potential? All the fancy equipment in the world isn’t going to make you a better photographer if you don’t know how to use it.  Make sure you budget in not only money, but time, to learn how to actually use your new toys.  

I’d love to join you on your journey…  For more information on learning alongside of me, check out the Full Circle Photo School here.

If the first 6 are the basic components that we feel you MUST have, the following are like the icing on the cake.  Totally not necessary, but definitely nice to have.  You may want to purchase them now, or just save up for them in the future.

7 | Flash

Indoors, especially at night, it’s always nice to have a flash on hand.  Even if your camera has a flash built in, you’ll find that the images it captures are less than ideal.  Having control of where your flash points makes all the difference in the world.

Canon Speedlite 430EX
Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight
Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite (A very affordable option for an off-brand external flash) 

8 | Consider expanding your lens collection

Now is when you can start prioritizing other lenses.  But I literally wouldn’t purchase anything but a 50mm lens before this point.  Check out our lens guide to learn all about your options and decide which lenses fit your style best.  And you might want to start a monthly line item in your budget to save up as well :)


As always, I encourage you to do your research and set a realistic budget.  You may even find that it’s worth saving up for a bit to make sure that you have the gear you actually want before you compromise too much.  It is my hope that you use your camera everyday and that you capture your family’s legacy through this device.  Buy your camera.  Learn to use it.  Then carefully consider what you’ll add to your camera bag next.  The more you learn about photography, the more you’ll learn about what you might actually use to complement your photography style and your family’s lifestyle.


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