Lens Series | Our Recommendations in Purchasing Your First Lenses and Camera

Photography gear can weigh in on the expensive side if you aren't already familiar with that concept. The following series is meant to partially educate while sharing a bit of our journey and how we invested in the gear we have without going into debt. Keep in mind this isn't the right way by any means. It's just our story and what we've taken away from it to encourage you with.

Our Photography Journey

We began our photography journey a little over two years ago right after we got married. That summer Jordan was working at Chick-fil-a before he started nursing school, and I was preparing for graduate school while reading as many photography blogs and watching as many YouTube videos as I could about photography. Can I just say that I had a blast? My favorite pastime was watching photography YouTube videos on the treadmill or on walks in my favorite neighborhood. And I still find myself doing that at times!

We started out with little money and little experience. We had taken the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class while we were engaged and had some of Dave’s financial advice influencing our gear purchases while we were planning for the future. But to be honest, when we planned on buying our first lens, I’m not sure if I truly believed it would take me anywhere to even need a second lens! A few months down the road led me to thinking otherwise. So hopefully, our recommendations will lead you in that same direction. ;-)

We understand this gear series can lead to some pretty expensive purchases in the future. With that being said, we want to stress two things: 1) work hard and pay with cash 2) a nice lens and expensive camera will not equate to professional photography without the time and effort.

You can totally do this with inspiration and desire! I found so many resources and photographers who inspired me along the way that lead me to endless hours of article-reading that I loved so much.

Paying With Cash

This is something we have chosen to do, and it has been such a blessing to us. Our gear-purchasing process may not have been instant gratification, and I may not have considered doing it this way had I not been married to Jordan. This is definitely one of the many strong roles he plays in our business: financial guru. That translates to decision-maker, because quite honestly, I could be impulsive with these purchases. He made a believer out of me that it doesn’t have to be done that way--that strategically purchasing the right lens, one at a time, can be excellent and wise. This is why we are writing this series for you and recommending what we think is your best bang for your buck to get you started and keep on going.

One thing that worked well for us and was a fun way for us to save was creating an envelope labeled “lens fund”. Each time we were able to add money into this envelope from a session, whether it was $10 or $100, it was exciting. Every time we reached our goal, the feeling was great and the damage to our bank account was minimal to none.

Plan Creatively

Use your creativity to plan for ways to make income for your envelopes quicker. As I mention later in the series, renting a dream portrait lens (like an 85mm) and offering inexpensive mini sessions can be an excellent way to make extra money. Offer $25 mini sessions on Facebook or Instagram and run with them. Utilize that creamy, dreamy lens and add to your experience while adding to your envelope. Ask friends to take their pictures. Aside from photography, what other ways can you get creative offering your time and talents to add to your envelope? Taking clothes to a consignment store? Mowing lawns? Walking a neighbor’s dogs? Using your degree toward something? The sky is the limit. Use your creativity.

Your Glass and Camera Won’t Fix Inexperience

While I wish I could say, “yes, purchase $X,XXX worth of gear, and then you’ll be a successful professional”, that is so far from the truth. As you’ll see in my list below, we waited a few lenses (and 10 months) before we invested in a full frame professional camera. In the meantime, I practiced for 10 months on an inexpensive, crop-sensor camera where I gained experience and confidence. Quality lenses and full frame cameras may be incredible valuable, but the photographer behind the camera is key. The more times you have a client in front of your camera, the more you’re going to grow in experience and gain confidence. This translates to the quality of your images, if you're catching my drift. 

The more times you ask a family friend to model for you, the more refined it will make your eye with composition. The more articles and videos you learn from, the more knowledge you will gain. And the more photographers you connect with, the more fulfilling and beneficial it will be to your career. With all of your experience and knowledge paired with quality glass and full frame camera, you are sure to be as successful as you dream.

So keep dreaming, keep learning, keep loving every second of your own photography journey.

We’re going to begin to share the gear we use and love and the order we feel like would be great for you to invest in it. To start, next week’s post will be on the “nifty fifty” and all its glory!

Below you’ll see the lenses and cameras we invested in and the order we purchased them. Keep in mind this was all in about a 20 month time period. Patience is key in this game!

Our Gear and the Order We Invested

 50mm 1.8

24-70mm 2.8

70-200mm 2.8

Full Frame D610 x 2

85mm 1.8

*upgraded 50mm 1.4

35mm 1.4

105mm 2.8 macro

The Order We Recommend in This Series

 50mm 1.8

Full Frame Camera

24-70mm 2.8

Either 35mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8

70-200mm 2.8

105mm 2.8 macro