So you bought your camera. Now what?

There are a few more hits to your wallet to come, but they needn’t be major! A few essentials you’ll need include:

  • memory cards
  • lenses
  • computer
  • software
  • accessories

Memory Cards
Most DSLR’s use either compact flash or SD memory cards, which are getting cheaper by the day and very easy to acquire. A simple search at your favourite online computer stores will garner up some good prices. Choose a brand you feel will be reliable and fast. I prefer SanDisk, Lexar or Kingston.

Check your camera manual to see what the maximum capacity or speed of memory card your camera was designed for. Don’t just go out and buy the biggest capacity and fastest card out there just because you can. For example, my Nikon D50 can only take cards up to a maximum of 2GB.

It’s a good idea to shy away from memory cards with capacities larger than 2 or 4GB. Think of it as putting all your eggs in one basket with anything larger than that. Memory cards are known to fail and you risk losing too many of your precious photos.

Lenses
Lenses are one of the most important components of your camera system. If you’ve got the best camera body out there with a slow lens made of cheap glass, then you’re limiting yourself and you will probably get a lot of blurry shots. Most kit lenses that come with entry-level DSLR’s are on the low-end and will end up on your shelf, collecting dust. Invest in a decent lens.

If you’re on a tight budget (like most of us) a great lens to get is the “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 prime lens which runs for around $100. About 99% of my shots were taken with that lens. A good (but very expensive) zoom lens can set you back $2000 and they usually have an aperture of f/2.8. Larger aperture = smaller f-stop value = less blurry pictures. It’s a little confusing so I will elaborate more on the basics of aperture in a future post. The bottom line is, get a decent lens! Photozone and Fred Miranda have some great reviews on lenses.

Computer
I will assume you have a computer as more than half of all households in the US have at least one in their home. To use a digital camera, you will need a computer where you can both store your digital files and manipulate your photos. What kind of computer is required? Let’s just say, if you can surf at least 5 different web sites while watching videos on YouTube, then your computer is fine. All joking aside, most computers this day and age can handle your photos as long as you have the ports that allow you to connect your camera cord from your camera to your computer.

Once you have downloaded your photos, something you should do often is to back them up! I’ve seen cameras with pictures taken a year ago still on the memory card! Empty them and back them up! I empty my cards daily or whenever they get full (whichever comes first) and I back up my files from time to time storing them either on DVD-R or DVD+R’s in addition to having a copy (or two) on my external hard drives.

I’m currently using my 4-year old Apple PowerBook G4 laptop for all my work and it’s still holding it’s own. However, because I am now shooting in RAW, I think I will have to look into upgrading to a computer with a faster CPU and more RAM. Ah… upgrades. Don’t we all love them! (and hate them at the same time!)

Software
Most DSLR’s will come with software in the box and it’s usually sufficient for your photo editing needs. If you are interested in third-party software for your photo editing, you have many choices as well. A few free or inexpensive ones are GraphicConverter and Pixelmator for Macs and Paint.NET or Gimp for PCs. For more advanced, professional level work, you can purchase Adobe Lightroom or Aperture from Apple. And if you really have money to burn, get a copy of Adobe Creative Suite, which includes the ubiquitous Adobe Photoshop — a standard in the design world but crazy expensive! Gimp has features comparable to Photoshop and it’s free, open source, and will work on Macs, PCs and Linux. In addition, if you can’t get Photoshop, consider buying Photoshop Elements, which has all the essential features with extraneous functions stripped away, so you only pay for what you will most likely use. There are even free online photo editors, such as Photoshop Express and Picnik, with editing functions that will meet most of your basic editing needs. I’ll get more into the details for different software in future posts.

Accessories
Most camera accessories are not essential, however, they sure are nice to have! If your wallet doesn’t have a big hole in it yet, you may consider throwing in a camera bag, lens filter, tripod, battery grip or an off-camera flash or two. Just be sure to add that to your budgeting if you plan to get some goodies!

Although I believe it’s worth every penny, photography can get very expensive. On the other hand, if you do your bargain hunting and careful budgeting while exercising self-control, you can still get those stellar shots without having to take out a second mortgage! Good luck and happy shopping!

Laura is a Vancouver wedding and portrait photographer. Visit laurahana.com.