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Professional Photography Advice About Equipment

written by: Annette Pope•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/19/2011

Today, information is literally at your fingertips. This can be a blessing and a curse, as the threat of information overload is very real. When looking for professional photography advice about equipment, however, these details matter, as what may work for one photographer may not work for another.

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    With the advent of camera phones, practically everyone with a cell phone could be considered a photographer, in the most literal sense of the word. They carry a “camera” (of sorts), take photos and share those photos with others. Easy! This whole “being a photographer” thing isn't so hard, right? Who needs those fancy DSLR things anyway?

    Hold on there, Sunny Jim. There is a big difference between “taking pictures” and “being a photographer”. Photographic knowledge, creative eye and photographic equipment all play roles in the quality and composition of your images. While the first two options are things that can be studied, practiced and learned, you can get a good idea of what type of photographic setup you need by following professional photography advice about equipment.

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    What Kind of Photographer Are You?

    Before deciding what type of equipment you need, it's a good idea to figure out what type of photography you like to do. Different styles of photography have different equipment requirements. A studio portrait photographer, for example, would need free standing studio lights, while these would be useless to a landscape photographer. A wedding photographer requires fast lenses and the ability to shoot in low light conditions, while a still life photographer can get by with slower, less sensitive equipment.

    Zero in on the type of shooting you enjoy, and that will help narrow down the type of equipment you need in your arsenal.

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    Make Your List

    Once you figure out your photography interests, it's time to make a list of the equipment you already have, and that you still need to purchase. An example photographer equipment list should include:

    • Camera body
    • Lenses
    • Flash
    • Tripod
    • Light Meter
    • External Studio Lights
    • Batteries – for the camera and flash
    • Memory Cards
    • Photo Bag

    This is the most basic list of equipment used by most photographers, professional and hobbyist alike. Depending upon your chosen niche, your list may differ slightly and include some items while removing others. The main point of drawing up a list is to determine what you have, what you need and what you don't.

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    Don't Believe The Hype – The Megapixel Myth

    More megapixels isn't necessarily better. If you're not planning on printing your images any larger than an 8 by 10, you don't need a 25 megapixel camera. This is something the commercials, full-page magazine ads and salespeople don't tell you. Sure the higher megapixel numbers are impressive, but the higher the megapixel count, the larger the image files. Do you have room on your computer to store all those huge files? Are you planning on doing a lot of cropping in on these images? Are you planning on printing these large enough to wallpaper your living room? No? Then save yourself the hard drive space and money and go for a more manageable megapixel count.

    A camera with eight to 12 megapixels offers good picture quality with smaller file sizes, and can easily print up to an 8 by 10 or even larger image.

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    Don't Believe the Hype – Brand Confusion

    When offering professional photography advice about equipment, some professional photographers and photography salespeople will try to convince you that one brand is “better” than another. The big names in photography are Canon, Nikon and Olympus, and while a camera in one brand may do certain things better than another, fundamentally, they all operate pretty much the same. Each system offers a camera in varying skill levels, so play with the different cameras to see which one best matches up with your photographic abilities and what you need out of your equipment.

    Give yourself room to grow, but don't make the mistake of buying a camera with all the bells and whistles in the hopes of “learning how to use it later.” Odds are you'll just overwhelm yourself and never master the more complex functions. Buy what you need now, and you can always upgrade later once you become more proficient.

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    Your Photography Setup

    If you're serious about photography, you have to get serious about your setup. Tailoring your setup to include only the equipment you need will help compliment your style of shooting by allowing you versatility and quality without compromising weight or bulk.

    Contemplate the type of shooting you'll be doing. If you're heading out for a walk in the park, you'll need something versatile, but portable, so bringing each and every lens you own probably wouldn't be very practical. If you're shooting a wedding, you'll need fast lenses in a range of focal lengths, and backup equipment in case of a malfunction.

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    In The Bag

    When looking at photography equipment, don't forget the transportation for that camera and lenses—a camera bag. Bags come in all shapes and sizes, from shoulder straps to sling bags to backpack varieties, so it's a good idea to take your time looking through the different styles and find one you like. You may need more than one to shuttle around your setup in different iterations. A good camera bag should be well padded and offer plenty of space for your equipment, without having to cram things in. Remember to leave space for extra batteries and memory cards for quick and easy changes while you're out.

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    Keep It Safe

    Once you invest in photography equipment, you'll need to take a little extra care in storing your various pieces. Select a shelf or cabinet safe from little hands—or paws for pet owners—to prevent accidents or damage. Take care when handling the equipment and clean it regularly to keep dust and lint from damaging the camera's sensor or lens glass. Even the tiniest dust spec can ruin photos.

    Photo equipment can be added to your homeowner's insurance policy, or placed under a separate policy depending on your specific needs. (Speak to your insurance agent for details.) Cameras and lenses can be expensive, and in case of thievery or damage, it's nice to have extra protection.

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    Show Your Images Some Love

    Photography equipment doesn't necessarily stop with just the shooting—you'll need somewhere to download and process your images once you're finished. A computer with plenty of hard drive space and RAM is essential in photography processing, as is an editing software program such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP. Even the smallest of alterations can vastly improve an image, such as contract adjustment or selective cropping. Don't dismiss the value of proper post processing to enhance and improve the look and feel of your images.

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    Backing Up

    If you're a prolific photographer, your computer's hard drive will soon start to reach the limits of its memory capacity. Back your photos up regularly to avoid a catastrophic failure—and loss of all your images—by making copies of all your files onto external hard drives, DVDs or online storage options.

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    When seeking professional photography advice about equipment, it's important to take everything with a grain of salt and not treat every opinion as gospel. Professional photographers are human too, and form their own opinions and bias' towards certain brands, lenses or other pieces of equipment. What one photographer may consider a vital piece in their setup may seem unnecessary to another. One photographer may absolutely loathe Nikons and dismiss any and all Nikon equipment without any research or thought behind the opinion, while another praises everything Nikon releases based on the same reasons.

    When in doubt, ask for advice and opinions, but add your own research and preferences to your final decision. This is going to be your equipment, after all, and what works perfectly for someone else may not even come close to meeting your needs.

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    Patrick Pope of Patrick Pope Photography –