I remembered when the shutter bug bit me. I was set on finding the best camera I could buy. I put all my resources into analyzing camera features and telephoto zooms. I really wanted a telephoto to capture my son’s baseball games. I thought big telephoto lenses looked cool, too. If you had a big lens hanging off your camera, you must be a serious photographer, right? The only other obvious gear that I thought I needed was a camera bag. So there I was with a camera, kit lens, a telephoto lens and a bag. I was ready for anything. At least I thought I was.
The kit described above was a DSLR, a 14-42mm kit lens and a 40-150mm medium telephoto. Truth be told, in the right hands, that camera kit would produce a lifetime of great images. However, I would go a bit further and say that there are a few more items that the serious photographer would considered essential. These essentials are a tripod, mount, cable release and a calibrated monitor.
Rock Solid Support
The most obvious piece of gear after getting a camera is a tripod and mount. A lot of photographers don’t want to carry a tripod with them everywhere they go. I don’t either, but there are certain situations where I wished I had my tripod. Thus, my tripod is with me the majority of the time. If it is not on my person, it is close by. I’m sure most have seen pictures of waterfalls where the water flows like silk. You may have seen gorgeous landscape pictures near sunrise or sunset and pictures of our own Milky Way galaxy. Chances are a tripod was used to make these photographs. If you are going to shoot at night or any place where you don’t have much light, you will need a tripod. You will also need a tripod if you want to hold that big telephoto lens steady.
When you get your tripod and mount, you should also get a remote cable release. This little device is very handy. Its main purpose is to be able to trip the shutter without touching the camera. This reduces the chance of introducing vibration to the camera which can give you blurry images. One might asked why not use your camera’s self-timer to take the picture several seconds after you push the shutter. This is correct. I have done this countless times, but what if you need to wait for your scene to develop (pun intended)? I have 2 second and 12 second self-timer settings on my DSLR. If I am anticipating something to happen within my frame, how do I know it is going to happen in exactly 2 or 12 seconds? With the remote cable release, I can set back, observe and click the shutter right at the perfect moment. I have waited several minutes to capture a scene. Holding the camera in my hand for that long is not an option. With the tripod and remote cable release, I can find and maintain the desired composition and wait for that decisive moment. If you are a budding photographer and don’t have one. Go get one today!
One of my weakest areas of photography is honing in on the correct white balance. I’ve gotten better over the years and in doing so, I realized that I have been trusting the colors displayed by my monitor blindly. Have you ever made a print from one of your photographs after post processing and noticed that it was too dark or the colors looked different than what you saw on your screen? Your monitor is most likely the culprit. I would bet that this is one area where a lot of photographers take for granted. I sure did.
It was not until I sent some images to a fellow photographer for review. He was a Getty Image Artist who was looking for pictures to be sold on Getty Images. Getty Images is probably the most popular stock photography site in the world. The next time you pick up a newspaper, magazine or read an online article, look at the picture credits. There’s a good chance it will say Getty Images. I was shocked that he picked several of my images to be contracted by Getty. He gave me a huge compliment when he said that I was starting strong, but he said that if I am going to continue in photography, I needed to get a handle on my white balance. That was probably the best piece of advice that I have ever gotten in this hobby.
There are different ways to calibrate your monitor. You can use the existing software that came with your laptop or desktop. You can use online programs from the net. The best and most accurate way to calibrate your monitor is to use an external calibration device that is placed on your screen. Depending how serious you are, you will choose one or the other. I recently bought a monitor that was designed for photographers. The colors are accurate and it has a huge color pallet. It has a 24” screen and has better resolution than the standard HD television. If your colors are accurate and the brightness on your screen is set properly, what you see on your screen should be what you see on your print.
You might ask why I did not include post processing software as part of my essential gear. Well it is essential for digital processing, but most cameras come with their own editing software which usually has the basic functions for manipulating your pictures. Thus, I did not include this on the list. Most of us move on to more sophisticated software as we progress. Depending on what type of photography you want to do, there is essential gear for that type of photography. The items I listed in this post are what I consider to be key equipment for the budding photographer. I am sure I am preaching to the choir to some of you, but if I was giving advice to someone starting out, I would tell them that the above items would be on my shortlist.