Getting Started With Your First DSLR Camera

There’s loads of options for your first DSLR. It’s also tough to gauge what you’ll really use to get the results you want. Here’s some help.

A lot of people obsess over camera gear, and it’s easy to spend lots of money very quickly. But, it’s very important to remember:

You can take a powerful picture with anything.

Just go look at photos from World War 1. The phone you carry in your pocket is light years ahead of the gear they used at the time. 

That said, if you want to get a DSLR camera, it does give you a few advantages:

  • More control over the types of shots you can get
  • More options for editing your photo after you take it
  • The ability to do things your phone can’t, like zoom, shoot in darkness, long exposures, etc.)

How much should you plan on spending?

If you stick with a kit lens, you’re probably looking at about $700-800. Or you can buy used gear and get it down a few hundred dollars. If you want to upgrade the lens that comes with the camera, you’re looking at the 2-3K neighborhood.

Here’s the basic, must have gear to get, in my opinion:

Camera Body:

This is the base you’ll build everything else on. You attach lenses and accessories to it, mount it on a tripod, and change most of your settings here. However, it’s not as important as the lens you attach to it.

Reco: Canon t8i or Nikon d3500 

Both are great all around cameras, have very good battery life, and aren’t too much of a pain to deal with and carry around. 

Camera Lens:

Usually when you buy a camera body, it comes with a kit lens. If you’re on a budget, that’s totally fine for learning and getting started. Especially if you’ve never shot with a DSLR, you’ll notice a big bump in quality. 

However, if you’re thinking about buying another lens or want to start with something a little bit nicer, upgrading from the kit lens should be your first move. 

If the price makes you balk, consider renting from a site like You can get professional quality gear at a fraction of the cost. This is a good way to go if you have a vacation or a specific time you want to shoot. Get the lens for when you need it, send it back when you don’t.


Stick with your kit lens

Upgrade: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens

Upgrade: Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR


  • Your camera will come with a battery. Get an extra one. At least. If you forget to charge it or it runs out, you’ll be glad you had it.
  • Photo storage: Get at least two SD cards. Same logic as the battery, if one is full or fails, you’ll want a backup. You should also be transferring photos from your cards to a computer or hard drive as soon as you can once you’re done shooting. SanDisk 64GB Extreme SDXC
  • Camera Bag – As you start to accumulate things, get a bag you can carry around your gear in, ideally one that’s designed for your camera and is only as big as you need. Unless you want to carry more than one, consider making it your main backpack and leave room for your water and snacks.
  • Lens cleaner – Every camera accessory and body and lens you buy, ever, will come with a microfiber cloth for cleaning. You’ll have tons of them. But, you should get lens cleaner to keep things smudge free.
  • Extra lens caps – make sure you get the right size. But have extras, because you will lose them.

Not necessary, but good to have:

  • Tripod – This will help you keep all your photos sharp, get photos of people and yourself, and open up long exposure possibilities like astrophotography and waterfalls.
  • Remote shutter – This also helps make your photos sharper, but will also enable you to shoot more pictures with yourself in them

Editing Software

  • Adobe Lightroom – This is the industry standard, I believe it costs about 10 bucks per month for the full desktop version. It’s well worth it to have while you are actively editing photos. You can rescue a bad photo and take your good photos to great.
  • Photoshop Express – It’s free but you’ll be more limited in the editing you can do
  • Adobe Lightroom Mobile (Android, Apple) – Also free, but you’ll only be able to edit on your phone. It offers quite a few robust tools

52 Week Photo Challenge – Week 2

I’m attempting a 52-week photo challenge this year to try and consistently practice at photography a bit more. This week’s challenge was to take a shot straight out of the camera, without any editing. This one was taken out our front window on a gloomy, rainy day.

52-Week Photo Challenge: Week 1

I’m attempting a 52-week photo challenge this year to try and consistently practice at photography a bit more. The 1st week’s challenge was to tell a story using the rule of thirds.

Join the challenge here!