There is a ton of advice on what gear to buy and what gear not to buy as a photographer. It is written from a billion different standpoints, each one with a slightly different take. I didn’t feel any of those articles resonated with me, so here is one that I hope will resonate with you regardless of the genre or niche you’re going for.
It is unlikely that a landscape photographer will own a softbox, just as it is unlikely that a fashion photographer will own a rig for tracking star movement. It is fair to say that each photographer has their own niche, which requires specific equipment. If you’re here to get advice on which tripod to get for landscape work, you’re in the wrong place. I will give the most general advice that applies to all genres of photography, regardless of what it is. I can’t name the exact piece of gear you should go buy, but I can tell you the category and what to look out for.
Good Computer With Proper Editing Software
We live in the digital age, alright? Having a good computer is an absolute must if you want to work on images or even do something as simple as import and export them. I started out with a pretty old computer that barely ran Lightroom. The amount of time it took me to simply import and do a quick edit can only be compared to waiting on a flight that kept on being delayed due to bad weather. I was left frustrated because I was working in a very inefficient matter.
Things changed once I upgraded my computer and started to work fast. The hardware I was using was able to keep up with my high expectations and provide me with the level of speed and efficiency that I demanded. For example, when selecting images, I was to be able to fly through a whole shoot in under an hour. Due to strict as well as tight deadlines, my machine had to be able to process things on the fly. In an age where speed is one of the key factors, you really can't be a professional without a decent computer to edit on. Taking it slowly simply doesn’t cut it.
Proper editing software is another must for you. My recommendation is Capture One. It is way better than Lightroom in terms of color processing and abilities to create an accurate color grade. In particular, there is something that Lightroom does to photos that make the skin tone look off. Sure, you can get a pretty good tone in both Capture One and Lightroom, but Capture One's is better from the get-go. I won’t go into the specifics, but Capture One is better as of the time of writing.
A decent lens will go a long way in helping you create good images. No matter how good of an image sensor you take, a bad lens is a bad lens. If anything, a good sensor will capture all the imperfections. Lens technology doesn’t develop nearly as fast as cameras. Sure, a lens from the 90s won’t be as good as a recent lens, but it will still be ok. For example, my EF 70-200mm IS is more than 20 years old, and so far, no one has complained about bad image quality due to optical imperfections. So, I strongly encourage you to spend the money on a decent lens that you will use to capture images.
Decent Used Body
As I pointed out earlier, camera technology has never developed so fast. There is always a new camera being released or announced. To this end, it has never been easier to get good but used cameras. There are always people who want to buy the latest and the greatest, even if all they need is a few hours on how to compose and light images. No, especially if they need a few hours of practice.
A used body can be found on websites such as Facebook Marketplace, B&H Used, or your local website where people put up used things for sale. The reason I am saying you should buy a used body is that it will be much cheaper than a new one and do most of the same things. After all, if you’re trying to become a photographer, all you really need is a camera that takes pictures. It is unlikely that you’d care about video specs and codecs. So, save the money and rather spend it on any of the other four items on this list.
Decent Storage and Archiving System
I lost data. Perhaps one of my biggest regrets is not having a proper filing and backup system. Not only is my early work not organized, it is also partially lost. While there is little commercial value in this work, there is a lot of sentimental value for me personally. Some images, I only have in web resolution, while others are only available as an archived post on Instagram.
The way I do it is to use a 3-2-1 backup system. There are two drives that mirror one another: drive A and drive B. These two drives are backed up as soon as something is added to drive A. Lastly, all this goes up to Backblaze. I am not paid to say this, but Backblaze is really a lifesaver when it comes to cloud storage. I used it not only to back up but also as a sort of cloud storage.
The last thing, but the most important thing I value a lot is good education. Good education or mentorship is important as it is the biggest help in progress. I offer mentorship to photographers because I know the difference a good mentor can make in your career. I also have a mentor myself. No matter how good of a gear-hoarder you are, if you don’t have the skills to use this gear, you can’t be a professional photographer. Education is not only about technicalities but also about business and marketing. Artists often overlook the importance of knowing how to compose and sign a contract, send out an invoice, register a business, and so on. I am not even mentioning networking, social skills, and marketing.
So, all you need to start taking pictures is a camera, lens, decent archiving system, and a good computer. The +1, and an important one indeed, is education. Perhaps a good place to look for such education is Fstoppers Tutorials. No matter your skill level, you will find some great advice on a topic of your choice. Even though I work as a photographer, I still found the information useful and new, so I can only imagine how much of a breakthrough such a tutorial would be for many beginners.