Starter Camera + Beginner Tips | Photography

One of the questions I get emailed the most about by those who are looking to take better pictures of their kids and family is “what’s a good but cheap/affordable camera to take better pictures?”

It’s weird to say this, but…I don’t know! Haha! Unless you’re looking into professional equipment, I don’t know of any point and shoot cameras that do the job my cameras have been able to I’m totally no good for that question and I’m SO sorry!! Honestly, I think iPhones nowadays are incredible and the quality of those beats the point and shoot cameras I had in the past! But..if you’re looking to invest a little more and shoot manually (not point and shoot/Auto mode..but manual where you are making the decisions for the camera!) … I can help you there! 🙂


My starter camera was $700 (Canon Rebel T1i) and my three current camera bodies were $3500 each when I purchased them (look how much the price has gone down and what it costs now…gosh that’s depressing for me knowing how much I spent hahaha!)…and that is in no way at ALL meant to sound pompous but everyone has a different idea of investment and budget so it’s hard to pinpoint what they mean by affordable. I personally think a $700 camera is a LOT! Was it EVER easy for me to afford the cameras and lenses we have now? NO way! It took years to build up the equipment stash we own and it took a lot of investing back into our business! BUT…we had to start with something right?

Here’s what I started shooting with and used for a FULL year of weddings to make it’s a lot less than you would think!

Canon Rebel T1i — Before the business started, I learned on this! It served as my backup camera during weddings that first year. It’s a GREAT starter camera because all you need is a DSLR that you can learn manual mode on. There have been other versions of this that have come out since with little fancy additions here and there with swivel screens and better video capability but if you’re looking to take better pictures, all of that is just added fluff you don’t need. It came with a horrible kit lens (oh the kit lens…you slay me, some people can rock it, I did sometimes…but to me it was limiting!) and I thought it was awesome UNTIL I invested a little more into a fixed focal length lens (which means it does NOT zoom) — the 50 1.4 — and this lens changed it ALL for me. I learned about soft bokeh and a new kind of sharpness and the beauty of shooting with a lens that doesn’t zoom and how that would work for me as a portrait photographer. I loved shooting wide open (aperture 2.0 and below), it became a whole new world for me!

The other lens I had was a 24-105mm 4.0 which was fine EXCEPT 4.0 isn’t wide enough for my style, it was limiting for me, too…but it was all I had as far as a zoom! Yes..I HAD to stand halfway up the aisle during ceremonies at all times! (This is why I love and ADORE my 70-200 2.8 II now so much, I can be way more hidden most of the time!!!)


My main camera body at this time was a Canon 5D Mark II — and I LOVED it. I still think that camera is amazing, even though I have the upgraded version– Mark II would be a great camera to have and use still for weddings and portraits!

The flash I used was a 430ex and it was great! It actually fired more consistently for me than the 580ex for me!

So that first year, it was a Mark II, Rebel for a backup, 430ex flash, 50 1.4 and 24-105 4.0 — and from there I built up as much as I could! We didn’t go out to eat or shopping for a LONG time the next year to be able to build up to what we have today! (List below)

There is SO much you can dive into when it comes to learning how to shoot manually, but for was easiest to focus on four main components only and then study the rest later as I got deeper into shooting.

Aperture (f/stop)
White Balance
Shutter Speed

The relationship between how these four components work together is all I needed to figure out in order to handle different natural lighting situations and that was the key to being in CONTROL of my images. Eventually I added a flash (all of this I’m sharing is what I used to have, below is a link to what I CURRENTLY have!) and had to figure out how to control flash which is a whole different story!


I always tell people, there is NO shame in picking up “Canon Rebel for Dummies” to break down technical terms into easier terminology for those who haven’t taken a photography course before. Another wonderful way to get hands on help is to sign up for a mentoring with another photographer, too! The fact that others are willing to share secrets and educate actually helps us all grow faster and join together in this industry as community and not competition…and it shortcuts and fast tracks you on the technical side so you can focus on the personal branding and business building side more. Although we don’t offer them in person anymore, we LOVE doing these via Skype…email anytime for more info!

Our current list of equipment, all Canon:

Mark III x 3
100 2.8
70-200 2.8 II
85 1.2 II
50 1.2
35 1.4
680ex (x 4)




Want to keep up with an Outer Banks mama of three sweet (and oh so wild!) little girls shooting weddings & small business photography while making time for the things that matter most? Click on the links below and let’s connect!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kashera Lane says:

    Thank you, thank you for being willing and open to share with us that are trying to get where you currently are. I believe this is what makes you so successful…the fact you are so willing to share! I can’t wait until I can book a mentoring session with you!

  2. Hello Amanda! I love your blog. I am a working momma of two beautiful little girls, but I would love to be able to stay home with them one day. I am new to photography, and I had a question for you. Why do you prefer Canon over Nikon?

    1. Hi there!! Thank you for the comment!! I adore you for working so hard for your family, you should be SO proud of yourself!! I actually never had shot Nikon, I just chose Canon based on the photographers who I loved and mentored me, it was easier that way and now I am just IN LOVE with how easy it is! I think it’s a little more expensive but it’s so user friendly to me and the color is on POINT!! 🙂 Hope that helps!! OXOXO

      1. Thank you! That helps me tremendously. I also had a question about your blog and website. Did you get two separate “blogs” and use the same then for both or are they somehow connected? I’m new to blogging so I’m trying to figure out how it works 😊

Leave a Reply