Best photography kit for a beginners as recommended by Patrick Nicholas

Patrick Richmond Nicholas, our knowledgeable photography tutor and host in Orvieto, Italy, graciously wrote us a piece for the budding beginning photographer.

Should you be just starting out in the field or contemplating a new hobby, please read on to learn how to prepare, or join him on one of his photography holidays to delve into Italy with a photographer’s eye.


How to choose the best photographic equipment

Things are always changing fast in the digital field and though a photographer can take reasonable, even artistic, pictures with quite primitive equipment, the photographer needs to have an idea of how to choose the equipment that will serve them best. Therefore, I don’t recommend buying kit before a workshop, better afterwards, when you have more of an idea.

For example, if you join me on a photography holiday, we have Canon lenses and bodies that we are happy to lend if you are new to the hobby, or for now, use only a smartphone.

Due to the extraordinary choice available to the amateur today, how would anyone know where to invest until they have talked to others and seen the different kinds of lenses and cameras in action? Choosing what to buy is part of the workshop experience, and we are more than happy to offer sound advice in this regard.

Most beginners will be able to take creative and high-quality pictures even with today’s phone, but as you improve and seek to grow in your newfound hobby, here are my recommendations:

Equipment

  • A camera that has manual settings so you can get to know how your camera works, manipulate, and improve.
  • A good point and shoot with manual settings and zoom lens that has RAW settings rather than just Jpeg is a wonderful item to have. Whatever the camera system, a photographer should always have a pocket-sized camera that can accompany them anywhere, anytime.
  • A reasonably up to date computer and Adobe Lightroom. The darkroom is almost a thing of the past, as is the laboratory that is used to process and print often with great care. Now photographers have to think beyond just taking the picture, and involve themselves in the post-production as well.
photography holiday guests snapping the scenery in Italy

Patrick’s guests practise landscape photography

Software

Adobe Lightroom is more than just an image manipulation programme, it is also a cataloguing system for the thousands upon thousands of pictures that will be taken over a lifetime.

In addition to giving you some order, it also contains a bookmaking programme, which allows you to put your memories into books either for yourselves or for amazing gifts for your loved ones.

Lenses

As a general rule when it comes to lenses, any photographer is likely to need a zoom lens that goes from a reasonably wide-angle lens to a short telephoto lens: in 35mm terms that would be from 28mm to 75mm*.

A portrait photographer will need a camera body with a couple of good prime telephoto lenses. Prime means not a zoom but fixed focal length typically an 85mm and a 135mm (in 35mm camera terms*). They have greater wide open apertures more suitable for portraiture, especially in low light.

*The term 35mm equivalent stems from the fact that for 75 years the most common film cameras used 35mm film and everyone was familiar with the lens focal lengths that were common to all makes. Nowadays the sensor size is not necessarily 35mm (known nowadays as ‘full frame’) but smaller; this means that a 50mm lens designed for a full frame camera could be like an 85mm short telephoto lens on a camera with smaller sensor. Again, advice on what equipment to buy is one of the things we do especially as few people go to shops anymore preferring to buy online – which is full of traps.

Other things to consider

Any photographer that thinks of taking up landscape photography will need a reasonably sturdy tripod (NOT made of plastic) with a ball head.

A street photographer will probably be thinking of a good small compact camera that is not too intrusive rather than a big cumbersome camera with a long zoom.

A point and shoot, like the Lumix LX100, just needs a belt pouch big enough to contain its little flash and a couple of spare batteries. A camera backpack is the best option when there are several lenses. A big rucksack (half-empty) weighs the same as a small bag, so our advice is to get a big backpack – you can always put your picnic in it as well.

An alternative is a photographer’s waistcoat which has lots of pockets.

My tips

Photograph your passion, whether it be insects, classic cars, or whatever.

Landscape photographers – get a small radio and headphones or a phone with a radio – you spend a lot of time waiting for the sun!

To the new photographer, this can all seem a bit overwhelming, but a photography holiday is an amazing place to start.

Bring what you have, and borrow to try out new equipment. In addition to learning the basics and equipment, you will learn heaps through workshops, post-processing, and experimenting with manual settings, natural light, subjects, and new gear.

We would love to have you! You don’t have to be alone and blindly shopping for your new passion.


Read more about Patrick and his photography holidays in Italy here.

Or feel free to browse our full range of photography holidays.