So the first question I’m usually asked is what do I shoot with. I hate the way people have these intense brand loyalties to either Canon or Nikon. I think a lot of it is about being (or thinking that you are) the cool kids because you have this particular brand of camera. I wonder how many people use a particular brand because its what they are familiar with. Sometimes people are familiar with a particular brand because other people introduced them to it & its all they know. Other people are nerds and research what they want out of a camera & which cameras can accomplish those wants. This is the type of person I am. When I first started photography I wanted to be able to control as much of the variables as possible. I knew that a simple point and shoot camera wouldn’t suffice. I chose a DSLR camera (Digital Single Reflex Lens) because I liked how they give control over all aspects of the camera, also when you look through the viewfinder you are literally looking down the lens, not up and to the side a little from where the lens will shoot. As far as brand is concerned, I believe they are all the same. You are buying a name. I learned on a friends Nikon, so I stuck with it. I have played with numerous Canon and Sony cameras and believe they all produce fantastic images. I think it comes down to brand loyalty and how the camera feels in your hand. For my stubby fingers I have a difficult time reaching the dials on a Canon. Nikon just fits my hands better.
I didn’t have a whole lot of money, and still don’t, but I had about a thousand to spend on the body. After doing some research the Nikon D90 seemed to have the features I was looking for, as well as being under $1000.
That was almost five years ago. In that time I learned as much as I could about photography until I was ready to upgrade to a more professional body. After a few portrait sessions and photo projects I was able to upgrade to the Nikon D800. It has been worth every penny.
Early on in my research, a good friend recommended spending under $1000 on the camera body & then over time committing to spending more money on the lenses. Luckily B&H has a combo pack where you buy the D90 body & the 18-105mm lens for about $1,299. Over time I started buying more lens for different uses. Currently I have the Nikon 50mm, 105mm Macro, 70-200mm, in addition to the 18-105mm that came with the body. Lenses can be pretty expensive, but they’re worth it in the end.
One of the things a photographer could use with out but is really beneficial is a good flash. Especially if any of your shooting involves low lighting such as indoors or night time shots. Nikon’s top of the line Speedlight flash is the SB-900 AF. Not only does it adjust to every type of photography you need to do, it can also be used as a secondary remote flash.
As far as tripods go, depending on what you want to do there are a lot of really inexpensive ones on the market. Even wal-mart carries some decent ones that get the job done. I picked up a decent one for about $160 at Bestbuy.
Depending on the type of photography you want to do, there are several different types of filters that I would recommend using. 1) Neutral Density ($30-50): A neutral density filter is “used to allow a longer exposure (to create blur) or larger aperture (for selective focus) than required for correct exposure in the prevailing light conditions, without changing the tonal balance of the photograph.” 2) Circular Polarizer ($50-130): the all knowing wikipedia says that a circular polarizer “reduces reflections from some surfaces, it can darken the sky and it saturates the image more by eliminating unwanted reflections.” I would also recommend getting a Diffusion filter ($20-50) to soften, or add a subtle blurring to the image. the glow or haze can be a useful effect for portraits. shots.
If you’re planning to do any type of photography involving long shutter times such as star striping, or waterfalls, I highly recommend getting a good remote. Nikon makes a few different options, wireless ($20) & wired ($30). Wireless gets a little more expensive. Before buying a remote, check to make sure it is compatible to your camera! If you want to do any long term exposures, double check that your remote has a lock feature on it. that way you don’t have to stand there holding down the button for 15 minutes waiting for the image to expose. I tried that… not a big fan.
It might also be useful to buy a small bean bag pillow or you can buy a package of rice from your local grocery store & sew a permanent cover for it. these small cushions are useful if your taking some Macro shots. Sometimes it may not be convenient to just place your camera on the ground directly. your little pillow can serve as a small, comfortable place to rest your hands, elbows, camera, or head if you get tired.