If you’re going to have a baby, take a family vacation or just love photography, but you’re just starting out “What’s in a Camera Bag for Beginners?” and “What’s a Great Starter Camera for a Beginner” are great questions to research! I’m so glad you found my post! My best advice is to keep it simple and determine what type of photos you like. I’ll explain below with sample photos.
If you’re only taking photos of your family, one camera is plenty…just make sure it’s an AWESOME one! I would definitely buy a mirrorless camera! No question. If you’re starting to play with the idea of taking portraits for friends/family, I’d suggest investing in a backup camera too. See below for all the things you want to pack in your camera bag for beginners, especially if you love photos with buttery, blurry backgrounds!
- CAMERA BAG: EPIPHANIE “FLORENCE” BAG
Beginners may not need a beautiful camera bag…but why not! I LOVE this pink camera bag! I mean it’s PINK!!! What else is there to say? Epiphanie makes the most wonderful, stylish, roomy, fine leather camera bags. Straps are a big thing for me because the wrong strap can kill your shoulder, and Epiphanie straps are wonderful. (But no camera straps for me. Just my thing. 🙂 The inside of the bag has padded sections to protect all your gear. When I first started taking pictures, I used to wrap my camera gear in diapers! This is a serious upgrade from those days! If you love the camera bag, I asked Epiphanie to give you a discount! Get $20 off your Epiphanie Bag by clicking here. Not bad, right?!
2. EXTRA BATTERIES: 2-PACK BATTERIES FOR SONY a6000 and a6300
Even if I charge my batteries the night before, I always bring extra batteries with me. I’m kind of Type A that way, and I can’t tell you how many times I was glad I did. A camera bag for beginners or pros needs to always have extra batteries!
3. CAMERA BODY: SONY a6000 MIRRORLESS, DIGITAL
Notice how I only linked to the camera body. This is key. When you buy your first camera, consider what you like to take photos of. If you want to take great portraits of your baby/kids, and you love what I call the “buttery, blurry backgrounds”, you’ll need a specific lens for this. The kits lens (the lens that comes with your camera) will not give you that buttery, blurry background result. The big lens that camera stores often try to sell you, where you can zoom in from far away or go super wide, will not give you the buttery, blurry background. More about lenses as we go.
The a6000 is a GREAT starter camera! I LOVE this camera because it has so much packed into it for such an incredible price. You have the mirrorless system which allows you to see EXACTLY what your photo will look like before you take it. This game changing technology is phenomenal. Forget about learning fractions for shutter speed (praise God!). You look at your Live View on the back of the camera, and as you adjust your camera settings, you see the light change in real time. UNREAL! All the a7 camera bodies have this same technology. It’s a fast camera, capturing 11FPS (frames per second), and it has built in Wi-Fi. I LOVE this feature on the a6000, a6300, and a7 line up. I can send photos from my camera to my smartphone or use my smartphone to trigger my camera taking a photo (check that out here).
You all know how fast babies and toddlers move. This is a fun example of how fast the a6000 shot photos for me to capture a sharp, focused moment of this little guy eating dinner.
Knowing what lens to buy is connected to how you see the world and what types of photos you are drawn too. Do you love photos that have buttery, blurry backgrounds and the subject in sharp focus? Or do you love a lot of things in focus all at once? There isn’t a right or wrong answer but a discovery process as you develop your photographer’s eye.
Start by taking a moment to look through photos you’ve taken. Do you tend to take photos that are more close up, focused on the subject with little background? Or do you tend to like a wider shot that shows more of the setting and not just the subject like the example above? If you like the tighter shots then the 55mm f/1.8 lens below will be better. If you tend to see the world with a wider perspective, you’ll love the 35mm f/2.8 lens. Or if you love buttery, blurry backgrounds, go with the 55mm f/1.8 lens below (or the cheaper version).
5. MINIATURE WOOD FRAME
Okay, I had to share this because I still carry this miniature frame in my camera bag after years and years.
When I first started taking photos, with no real goal of becoming a professional photographer, I was overwhelmed with the idea of trying to see the world through a frame. I wondered if I could condition my mind to develop a photographer’s eye. So I went to IKEA and bought this miniature wood frame. I took out the backing so I could see through it and always had it in my car. Whenever I came to a red light, I’d hold up that wood frame and try to frame a scene of the old woman at the bus stop or the kids walking home from school. I thought about where they should go in the frame, should I off-center them and why, and would a landscape or vertical image be better? And through all these little mental exercises, I started to see the world in frames.
I still carry the same frame with me wherever I go, as a reminder that the simplest creative exercise can lead to dreams we never imagined possible.
6. LIP GLOSS: C.O. BIGELOW MENTHA LIP TINT
I don’t wear a ton of makeup unless I’m doing TV or speaking. But I always have this brand of lip gloss with me. It’s the BEST! Enough said. 🙂
7. HEADBAND: ME RA KOH SIGNATURE HEADBANDS
Why the headbands? It all started in Thailand. It was during one of our trips with the kids, and the weather was so dang hot that I needed to get my hair off my face. I loved how their headbands sparkled (I tend to like things that are pink and sparkle.) But I also LOVED how it kept my hair out of my eyes when shooting. When we got home, I wore one to a portrait shoot…and something magical happened. By having my hair off my face, kids could see my facial expressions, my eyes, and feel my energy that much more. I LOVED it! One little girl loved my sparkly headband so much, she was convinced I was Ms. America. Somehow sparkly headbands and big smiles meant Ms. America. I didn’t have the heart to tell her otherwise. Years later, she still calls me Ms. America.
When I started doing TV segments for The Nate Berkus Show, I decided to wear my signature headbands to help people remember me that much more. And the best part, it doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad hair day…no one can tell! It’s the BEST! In November, we do a special holiday campaign and sell my signature Thailand headbands. Keep an eye out through our newsletter to get your own in November!
8. CAMERA BODY: SONY a6300 MIRRORLESS, DIGITAL
The a6300 is the next model up from the a6000. The main differences are that the a6300 camera has 4K video, and the sensor is more robust. We own both of these camera bodies, and you can’t go wrong with either one. The mirrorless technology alone will change your world of shooting! I had to share this shot below. Brian took it with the a6300 during our Portrait of Italy Photography Workshop and Culinary Tour. He was teaching the group how to capture magical light and sunbursts outside this beautiful abbey in Tuscany. To see what’s in our camera bag for travel, click here!
People often ask me what my favorite lens is. That’s a different question than what is your portrait “workhorse” lens. (See my post on What’s in My Camera Bag for Portraits to learn about my workhorse lens.) A workhorse lens needs to be as versatile as possible. But my favorite lens, the one I LOVE to shoot with the most when photographing babies and children, is the 55mm f/1.8. Therefore, I’ll always choose a fixed prime lens over a zoom lens. The fixed prime lenses allow me to go down to f/1.8 in aperture which makes all the difference with capturing buttery, blurry backgrounds! Being able to open my aperture up to a f/1.8 also gives me more light which means less blurry photos. I also love how small and lightweight this lens is! Here’s an example of what this awesome lens can do.
*If you know you like the buttery, blurry backgrounds, but you aren’t ready to spend $1000 on a lens, check out the Nifty Fifty lens. This is a great starter lens to put in your camera bag for beginners. Regardless of what camera brand you shoot with, everybody has their own version of the Nifty Fifty. It’s a 50mm f/1.8 Fixed Lens. The lens is often around $200 (give or take), and it will allow you to go down to a f/1.8 for those buttery, blurry backgrounds. But it’s a fixed lens, meaning you can’t zoom in or out. You’ll have to move your feet to get closer or farther away from your subject.
Pros often go with the fixed lenses because we can shoot with lower f-stops. SO WORTH IT! To learn more about all of this, come take our 2-Day Confidence Photography Workshop for Women! We’ve been teaching (and selling it out) this course since 2007! In two days, you’ll walk out with a full understanding of all of this and be shooting in manual mode. Shooting in manual mode is WAY EASIER than you think. We’ve been empowering women of all levels to do this for years! Come join us for the next one!
10. MEMORY CARDS: SONY 128GB CLASS 10 UHS-1/U3 SDXC (94MB/s)
Extra memory cards are important, but FAST memory cards are even more vital. Have you ever sat down to move your images from the card to the computer and felt like it took forever? Or even worse, have you ever been shooting and had the camera stall on you? You thought you bought a fast camera, but it can’t keep up?! Sometimes this is because your memory card is to slow. A lot of people don’t even know about the speed factor when buying memory cards. They’re often price shopping instead. Next time you purchase a memory card, make sure the speed is 94MB/s. It will often say on the front of the card and packaging.
11. CHARGER: LIPSTICK EXTERNAL BATTERY CHARGER
Battery chargers are a girl’s best friend! There must be some mystical dynamic of energy being depleted when you take photos. Anyone ever notice this? Whenever I finish a portrait shoot it always seems like my smartphone is almost dead! I LOVE this little lipstick battery charger. It’s compact, gives my smartphone a quick charge, and it’s PINK! DONE!
Feel free to post any questions on my Facebook page, Me Ra Koh – The Photo Mom regarding What’s in a Camera Bag for Beginners! Brian and I want to help set you up for success for capturing all those wonderful, fleeting moments of your family and travels!
Thinking of starting your own portrait side business? If so, I LOVE IT! Check out my post What’s in My Camera Bag for Portraits to go one step deeper on camera bodies, lenses and more!
For those of you who love travel photography and wonder what type of camera gear you need, check out my next post on What’s in My Camera Bag for Travel!
Be sure to also check out my bestselling series of instructional photography books for parents; Your Baby in Pictures, Your Child in Pictures and Your Family in Pictures!