My Favorite Photo Gear, Tools, and Resources

My Favorite Photo Gear, Tools, and Resources

Hello and Happy Tuesday! I know it’s been a little while since I posted a blog post, and I wanted to dive back in. Blogging really does make me happy and so does photography – I’ve missed doing both the past couple of months! I thought it would be a wonderful chance for me to talk about photography gear, tools, and resources. I’ve been serious about photography for about 4 years now. I still have a lot to learn, but I have learned so much already.

Within those 4 years of learning photography, I’ve collected some photography gear that I love and can’t live without. I’ve also come across and learned what my favorite tools are and resources. There’s so many blog posts and sites out there to help you with photography, it sometimes can be very overwhelming. With this post, I’m hoping I can help you get an idea of where to start.

I was also a beginner at one point and had no idea what I was doing. I googled and searched the internet so much in my first year or so of starting photography (heck, I still do this). But I’m hoping I can help some of you beginners by pointing you in the right direction.

Let’s get started, shall we?!?

Aly Dawn Photography Resources

My Favorite Photography Gear

Nikon D610 -I love this camera. When I made the jump from full frame to crop frame in 2016 it was a game changer. I really love the capabilities that come with full frame. I am, however, saving for a new camera, the Nikon D750 and I will keep my D610 as a back up. But the D610 is the perfect first full frame camera you can get.

*If you are a beginner photographer looking for a beginner camera, I recommend the Nikon D5300! You will be able to learn manual on it and get your foot in the ground of photography. It has many great abilities. I used this camera for about 3 years before upgrading to a full frame.

Sigma 24mm 1.4 Lens – I love this wide angle lens! I also really love prime lenses. I also love the fact that I can get close to my subjects or back way up and get the full environment! It’s a great versatile lens and I highly recommend it.

Sigma 85mm 1.4 Lens – I also really enjoy this lens. However, unlike the lens above, this lens is zoomed up! It creates such beautiful blurry backgrounds. You have to be pretty far away from your subject (which is why I don’t use this lens as much, with an active toddler, I prefer to be close to him). But I do love the images I can produce with this lens. The background compression is gorgeous.

*A word of advice on Sigma lenses – some people say they don’t like their Sigma lenses due to focusing issues. I definitely have experienced this. If you get a Sigma lens, YOU HAVE TO CALIBRATE IT. Here is a good tutorial on lens calibration that I recommend.

I wrote a blog post about the perfect first lens to buy (cheapest lens, too!).

My Favorite Photography Tools

Tripod – I just recently got this tripod. It works pretty well for the price! I love how high it can go – so high! I can get awesome self portrait angles with it. It’s sturdy and does the job.

Lighting Equipment – I literally have the cheapest lighting equipment out there. I wanted to try out artificial lighting, but I didn’t want to invest in case I didn’t like it. So I got this lighting equipment and I love it! I know if I upgrade to better lighting equipment, I’d love it even more. I love having this equipment on those days where it’s dark out (ahem, I’m looking at you winter months) or if I wanted to take pictures but it’s already dark outside. It’s also great for still life photography.

SD cards – I have two SD cards because my camera has two slots (I love that feature!!). You can’t go anywhere without your SD cards! I would recommend getting more than one. I might even go and buy one more here soon, just to have and just in case. I’ve had countless times when I only had one SD card and I went out on a photo shoot and the card malfunctioned – OMG that’s the worst. And so embarrassing! Especially if you are in business, you NEED more than one SD card.

Phone Clips – I don’t use these often, but in cases where I want a little push in creativity, I give them a try!

Camera Bag – I love my camera bag! I really don’t know where I got it from, I think it was an anniversary gift from my hubby. BUT! Shutterbag has some great options! As well as ClickinMoms. It’s essential to have a good camera bag. I love that I can literally carry all of my camera gear and it’s safe and protected. When looking to buy a camera bag, look for one’s that provide ‘pockets’ where you can put you camera and lenses is separate compartments.

Adobe Creative Cloud – You have to have a photo editing tool. Especially if you are shooting in RAW. Even if you just like the bare minimum in editing, it’s important to get a good editor. I really love the Adobe Creative Cloud. I use Lightroom and Photoshop and both are great! Lightroom is my go to editing software and I’ll sometimes bring the photo into Photoshop.

X-Rite ColorMunki Display – Whether you’re an beginner or expert, it’s important to calibrate your monitor. I use the ColorMunki, there are others out there, though! I like how easy ColorMunki is to use.

My Favorite Photography Resources

There are SO many good resources out there! So it can definitely be difficult to tell which ones are good quality resources vs just ok resources. All of the resources below I have tried myself and LOVE. Hope you give them a shot and love them just as much!

ClickinMoms – This is the ultimate photography resource! They have classes, mini classes, and a forum! Just the forum itself is FULL of amazing photography tutorials. From editing, to shooting, to how to run your business ClickinMoms is full of amazing tutorials. I would recommend getting the lifetime membership. If you use it two years in a row, it pretty much pays for itself. And you can swing back in every once in a while and read their tutorials. You can also post any questions you might have. They have pros and mentors to help you with your questions. I’ve learned so much just being a member of the forum and HIGHLY recommend this resource!

CreativeLive – CreativeLive has free classes as well as classes you have to pay for. They are a little different than other photography resources because the big majority of their classes are video classes! If you are more of a visual learner, this site is great for you!

Pixieset – I love Pixieset! If you are in business, delivering galleries can sometimes be a challenge. You could opt for the old ‘deliver a flash drive gig’ which may work for you…but I love that I can deliver the galleries instantly over the internet. And they can share that with their friends if they wish. It’s easy for me. If you use the link above you’ll get 250 MB in storage free! Win-win for us!

Blurb – I cannot stress to you how much I LOVE Blurb! I even wrote a blog post about why I love Blurb. Blurb is a way to create your own books featuring your images! I’ve created three so far and already have plans for two more. They are really easy to use in Lightroom (keep on the lookout for a tutorial on how to create a Blurb book really soon). I do recommend printing out your images! And if you take a lot of images (like me) then a photo book is your best best. Unless you like to have a ton of single photos laying around. ūüėČ

The Best Lens to Buy First

The Best Lens to Buy First

One of the many questions I receive is “What lens should I buy first?” and I think this is an excellent question! In my opinion, the best lens to buy is the Nikon 50mm 1.8 (I also recommend the Canon 50mm 1.8 for those of you who are Canon!). I really love everything about this lens. I think it’s perfect for the first lens you buy.

Many camera’s come as a kit. Meaning you buy the camera and then some ‘kit lenses’. Now this might sound like an excellent deal, a camera and some lenses all for one price?! But, I would¬†highly recommend buying just the camera and then spending it on a more advanced and high quality lens, like the 50mm. I will explain more about it below.

check out my 3 Tips to Get Started in Photography post

The best lens to buy first

This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you in advance for supporting Aly Dawn Photography!

beginner camera

So if you’re curious about what lens would be best to pair with the 50mm 1.8, then you have come to the right place! I really recommend going with a crop frame camera, first. And then upgrading when your skills improve to a full frame camera.

Pro Tip:¬†If you’re interested in learning more about full frame vs crop frame cameras, this is an excellent article from ClickinMoms.

The Nikon D5300 crop frame camera – I had the Nikon D5100 when I first started, and this is just a newer version of that same camera. You won’t break the bank by buying this. I recommend buying the¬†body frame only. DO not get any kit lenses. Instead, save your money for the lens recommended below!

the best lens to buy first

Let’s get into some reasons why the 50mm 1.8 is the best first lens to buy. There are so many lenses out there to choose from and it can be a little daunting looking through all the lenses you could buy. Lenses always come with different numbers and letters on their titles, which can get¬†very confusing.

Just to explain what some of the numbers on the lenses mean, let’s start with the first number. If, for example, you are looking at the Nikon 50mm 1.8G¬†lens, the 50 is the¬†focal length. This refers to how zoomed in your lens is. The higher the number here, the more zoomed in it is. Wide angle lenses start at 35mm and can go all the way down to 15mm, even 10mm! The lower the number, the more of the scene you’ll get in the frame. 50mm is a pretty good focal length. It’s a little tighter than your eyes focal length. On a crop frame camera, the lens will be even tighter due to the crop.

Going on to the second number on the lens:¬†1.8. This refers to the lowest aperture your lens can go. Some lenses can go down to a 1.4 or even a 1.2! Now, the lower the number here, the more you can introduce light into your photographs and with that, the more expensive the lenses will be. 1.8 will be a great first lens because, in reality, you very rarely should shoot wide open at 1.8. I find that 2.0 is a good starting point for most lenses, but you’ll have to find what works for you and your style.

The 50mm 1.8G is a¬†prime lens, meaning it is just one focal length! You can’t zoom in and out unless you move your feet. And what’s better than a lens that makes you exercise? I really don’t know. Prime lenses are usually sharper than zoom lenses.

Now, here are my reasons why the Nikon 50mm 1.8G is the best lens to buy first. Keep in mind, buying other lenses is always a Yes! But this lens is great for beginners as well as intermediate photographers looking to up their game from the kit lenses (and remember, I recommend not getting the kit lenses at all and saving your money to buy the 50!).

The Best Lens to Buy First

1. the cost

The cost of the 50mm can’t be beat! It’s one of the¬†cheapest lenses out there. Now, if price isn’t an option, and you are looking for an amazing lens, I’d recommend the 50mm 1.4G¬†– it’s just like the 1.8 option, but it will be a little sharper and is an all around great lens.

But you really can’t beat the cost of the 50mm 1.8 lens. If you’re looking to get some better glass for less, this is the lens to go to. This lens packs a punch at a low cost. Seriously one of the best purchases I have ever made! I can’t recommend it enough.

2. blurry backgrounds

Because this lens can get down to the 1.8 aperture, it will allow for you to take images with blurry backgrounds. I know when I first started out, I craved to get a blurry background. I couldn’t figure out how some photographers did that because I only had a kit lens. It is extremely hard to get blurry backgrounds with kit lenses. Another reason you’re able to get blurry backgrounds is because of the focal length. This allows you to have a greater depth of field. Especially if you isolate your subject from the background.

3. fixed aperture

Fixed aperture means that you can set your aperture (let’s say we set it to f/2.0) and then if you have to change your focus point or zoom in or out, the aperture could change. This makes it very frustrating when learning manual mode. But since this lens has a fixed aperture, if you change it to f/2.0 it will stay at f/2.0 until you change it to something else. I am never getting another lens that doesn’t have fixed aperture! It’s even frustrating if you know manual, just saying!

4. easy to learn manual

Because of the fixed aperture that makes this lens a great lens to learn manual with. It will let you keep the aperture you keep, which is very essential in learning manual. You don’t want your settings to change at all when trying to learn manual. It will become very frustrated and you will probably give up quickly. But with this lens, it makes it really easy to learn manual!

5. small size

The 50mm 1.8G is a very small size and perfect for taking¬†anywhere. I love how small it is and that it’s really easy to fit in any purse or bag. Along with being small, it is also light weight. Which, again, is perfect to haul around anywhere. This would be perfect for taking into amusement parks, travelling, and even just your everyday errands. It won’t weigh you down!

The 50mm is a little tight when shooting inside, so keep in mind that if you are looking for a wider lens to shoot indoor photography, the 50mm might not be the best choice. My go to lens for indoor photography is my Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens – I actually use this lens 95% of the time. It’s my favorite lens! But it is expensive! I had to save up months to buy it. So, keep that in mind.

The following images were all taken with the 50mm 1.8.

The Best Lens to Buy First

The Best Lens to Buy First

The Best Lens to Buy First

This lens is awesome for beginner photographers learning manual mode or just photographers in general wanting to up their lens game from the kit lens. It’s one of the cheapest lenses, it’s sharp, it’s versatile, and it requires you to exercise a little bit.