The Perfect Camera You Should Start Photography With

The Perfect Camera You Should Start Photography With

As a working photographer, I often receive messages from beginners who need camera-buying advice. While I do write for a photography outlet, I am not as updated with the latest camera tech as you might first assume.

While my technological ignorance is nothing to be proud of, I just don’t consider this knowledge crucially important to being a successful photographer. And I am still very much on my way to being able to call myself a successful photographer. This is why I don’t really know much about other cameras; I am focused on other things, such as the ones I am capturing with my camera.

All images in the article were shot on the iPhone 14 Pro

Beginners often already have a subject choice, but they are looking for the right piece of equipment to capture that subject with. Should they buy a Sony, a Canon, or, God forbid, a Nikon? Which lens should you pick, which camera body? Is full frame worth it in 2023? Should you buy an entry-level camera or go pro immediately? So many questions, all of them have a simple answer: use what you have.

I am a big advocate for smartphone photography. While I haven’t started shooting on my phone, I would’ve if I had no cameras and only an interest in photography now. While "shot on iPhone" is more of a meme than a real statement, you can still get incredible images on your smartphone. I am almost certain that if you are interested in photography, you already own a fairly powerful smartphone such as one of the Pro iPhones. Having got the 14 Pro last year, my eyes were opened to the max (pun intended). Before that, I had a 12 mini, which was already strong, but nothing compared to how good the 14 Pro was.

A beginner photographer needs a camera that is simple to use and practice the skill of photography on. Smartphones offer just that. You don’t need to mess with a plethora of unnecessary settings such as metering modes, AF locks, exposure compensation, etc. Frankly, having shot since I was 16, I never changed or bothered about my metering mode. Not to diminish the importance and the validity of all the camera settings we are given, but some are less important than the others. Most beginners can get by without advanced features that a traditional camera offers.

What is more important for someone who is starting out in photography is to have a camera that they can use every day and that they can take with themselves in order to practice photography. I see far too many beginner photographers have a single shoot a month and slow down their progress because of it. Practice makes perfect, and I am a big believer in the 10,000-hour rule. For the exact same reason, I prefer not to count experience in years but rather in client lists and assessment of the work. Just owning a camera does not make you a better photographer. Internet photography forums are full of people who claim to have been a photographer for decades; however, their work doesn’t show it. Just because you bought a camera and had it stashed away, shooting once or twice a month, doesn’t make you a professional photographer. By that logic, my father has been a photographer ever since I can remember, as he technically owns a camera.

I am a strong believer in the fact that there has not been a bad camera since the release of the Canon 5D Mark II. The requirements for stills have not changed since then as well. What is important when starting out in photography is not so much the image quality of your work, but rather the content of the image itself. Practicing capturing that content is what’s important, not the new lens or camera body.

You might go back at me and say that suppose someone wants to capture bird or wildlife. Surely, they need a camera that can do this; they can't just use their phone to hunt down a bear. You’d be absolutely right. I am not telling anyone to go hunt bears with an iPhone 14, even the 15 Pro Max with the superzoom feature. Having given it lots of thought, I think we can condense the practice of photography to capturing fleeting moments in time with a sense of aesthetic and artistic vision. Every genre of photography falls into that. The core idea is unchanged regardless of the direction you want to take with your work. Practicing the ability to capture fleeting moments in time with a sense of aesthetic and artistic vision can be done with any tool that fulfills the core functionality. While I wouldn't pick a toy camera for this purpose, you could stretch it this far as well.

So, what can you do to practice the ability to have a style and the ability to see and capture moments? There are a lot of different things you can do. Let’s start with an example that’s closest to me: people photography. You can use your phone to take street images, capture street styles, and even do some basic portrait shoots with it. You can take this a step further and do entire shoots on a phone. Capture One offers tethering with an iPhone camera now, so there is really nothing stopping you if you have a phone and a laptop. The limitations that your phone sets will make you more creative when it comes to composition, angles, etc. You can also practice the ability to capture street and landscapes with your phone. Remember every time you walked through the place you live and thought to yourself: "that’s beautiful." The more you shoot, the more beauty you will see, and the more ideas you will have. Just by having a phone camera with you, you can become more observant and end up a much better and experienced photographer. Someone who has bought all the kit but rarely uses it will only envy and ask you how was it that you progressed so fast in a year or so. You can take my word for it, as I am only in my early twenties, and I’ve already managed to shoot magazine covers, work with the biggest agencies, and get listed on Before you go ahead and call me a nepo-baby, I will go out and say that I lived on baked beans on an inflatable mattress in a studio with no hot water for a few months. I still live in my studio, albeit in much better conditions. There is really no nepotism going on.

Closing Thoughts

So, as we can see, the best camera for a beginner photographer is the one they have already and ideally a good smartphone. Given that the core of photography is capturing fleeting moments with a sense of aesthetic and artistic vision, you need a camera. This camera is built right into your smartphone. So, instead of getting into a camera system just now, spend a few months shooting and practicing on your phone.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

Log in or register to post comments

I completely agree with the sentiment of this post. I'm a long time Android user, and use the Open Camera app, which allows for manuel shutter speed and ISO settings, enabling beginners to experiment with them. In addition, on many phones, images can be saved in raw format, enabling experimentation with post processing tools. I don't know if there is a similar camera app for ios.

Android was my first mirrorless camera and I like the ability to choose RAW and JPEG as well.

Yep. Because I pick up and drop hobbies often, for once I'm not buying specific equipment. I've decided to revisit buying a camera at least a year after actually taking pictures with my (fairly advanced) Galaxy and assessing those. Might even barge in on a local iphone photography class!

And yet another smartphone is the way forward article... have fstoppers nothing better to offer?

btw. the first image in this article of one of the best known tourist attractions in budapest should have been more to the left... removing the crowd barriers... showing more of the main building and also showing the far bank across the river.

Should photography always be about best known tourist attractions?

I have a Samsung Galaxy S20 5G. Photos taken with it are adequate for documentary purposes - recording a few images to document my adventures, helping me keep track of (for example) laptop diaassembly and reassembly, capturing images of important documents for later easy retrieval, etc. It is adequate for many tasks in my daily life. And the colors seem to be fairly accurate, and it has a nice HDR capability. However, if i zoom in just a little bit, i can see that the image quality falls short; it's really not very good compared to images recorded with my full frame camera. So, i have to say that I would be terribly disappointed if the cell phone camera was all I had.

My family photos are 90% smartphone now. And the phone fits the purpose perfectly.

Only birthdays deserve real camera. And the real camera fits the purpose perfectly.

Horses for courses.

That first photo.:)
We now need headphones during photography too?

Using a phone to take photos feels like a punishment for the fifth circle of Hell.