The Blogger’s Guide to DSLR Cameras & Lenses

DSLR Camera guide for bloggers

Oh, photography.

It’s one of the coolest, yet one of the most frustrating parts of being a blogger, right?

You see all these beautiful images on your favorite blogs, on Pinterest, Instagram–everywhere you look. But how do you re-create them for yourself?

I don’t have to tell you that photography is one of the most important things to focus on when building your blog. But where do you begin? What equipment do you buy? Is it possible to do on a budget? We’re talking about ALL that and more today, lady!

First thing’s first–let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Do you need an expensive DSLR camera? Can you get away with taking photos on your iPhone?

The answer is… *ripping off band-aid*…

Yes, you need one. And no, there is no substitute. 

This might be a harsh reality for you, because DSLR cameras can be expensive, but let’s talk about that for a second.

Why investing in a camera is investing in yourself

Photography equipment costs the dollars. We know this. But what doesn’t? I want you to get real with yourself for a second. What endeavor have you ever come across hasn’t required some investment upfront? Oh, the excuses we’ve heard.

“I just started out, I don’t want to invest that much in something that’s just a hobby!”

“I don’t want to spend a bunch of money when I’m not making any money yet in return!” 

Really? How much have you spent on ugly bridesmaid dresses in your life that you’ll never wear again? How much do you spend eating out to dinner on a monthly basis? How much have you spent on expensive, cute workout clothes that don’t see the light of day as often as you’d care to admit?

My point is that everything worth doing costs money, even hobbies! A camera is something you’re going to use in so many other areas of your life–not just blogging. Travel, capturing special moments with your family, being able to photograph your best friend’s engagement–whatever.

Hell, your parents probably spent that much on your Little League baseball when you were a kid, and I’m pretty sure they knew your baseball career was going nowhere. But they knew that investing in you and your personal development as a human would always have a high ROI.

You with me?

Cool, now that you’re on board, let’s talk about types of cameras!

Best Cameras for Bloggers

A bit of advice: Before we jump into cameras, there’s a bit of advice that applies whenever you’re buying a new camera. Make sure to purchase the body only. Why? Because the lens that comes with your camera is total garbage and you don’t need to be waisting money on that! Save that money to put toward a better lens, which we’ll get to in a second!

Additionally, Blair and I have experience exclusively with Canons. While I’ve never shot with a Nikon, I do have friends that started out with Nikons, all who have now converted to Canon. We are huge fans of Canon, but if you prefer a Nikon, that’s totally ok too. You can typically google the Nikon equivalent of a Canon model, and find a pretty close comparison.

Now, let’s jump into cameras!

Low Budget: Canon Rebel ($350-$850)

Blair and I both started out shooting with Rebels. They really are fantastic little cameras, and their price point is great for those just starting out who don’t want to invest a ton of money upfront.

The Rebel comes in many different models–so make sure to do your research to figure out which is best for you! The latest model is obviously the best with the latest technology, but you might find that you’re OK with one that’s a bit older in exchange for a price cut. You can also find really good deals on “open box” models on Adorama–which essentially means the box has some wear and tear, but the inside is all original packaging with Canon’s 1 year warranty.

Medium Budget: Canon 60D70D or 80D ($999-$1200)

We both then upgraded to a Canon 60D. (Blair got hers first, and then I was like YEP. NEED THIS.) This model is now discontinued but is still available on Amazon, however, personally, I’d spend the extra few bucks to get the 70D.

The 60D model evolved into the 70D a couple years back, which then evolved into the 80D. (Note, we haven’t shot with the latter two models personally.)

Think of these cameras as a pretty big step up from a Rebel, but certainly not “crazy expensive” cameras by any means. What are the differences between these and the Rebel?

Higher, better ISO (meaning you’ll be able to shoot in darker lighting with less graininess), more focal points (meaning you’ll get better automatic focusing), a faster shutter, and built-in wifi, which is awesome for quickly sending photos to your iPhone if you want to Instagram on the fly!

A note on crop sensor vs full-frame cameras: Canon’s lower-tier, more affordable cameras have crop sensors. This essentially means that you can fit less in your shot than you can with a full-frame, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–as they can give you some great detail, and the prices are WAYYY better.

If you’re a blogger who is shooting outfits, food, or things that generally require more up close shots, you likely don’t need a full frame camera. Where you might outgrow it, however, is if you’re doing interior shots, or any shoots that really require wide angles–as crop sensors really don’t deliver here.

Moving into our new house made me quickly realize I’m ready for an upgrade–shooting interiors is extremely challenging on crop sensor cameras, and several areas of my house are really dark–meaning I need a camera with better ISO capabilities to be able to photograph, say, Neal’s dark office. Not to mention, the image quality of Canon’s full-frame cameras are truly unparalleled.

Highest Budget: Canon 6D ($1500) and Canon 5D Mark III ($2,500)

Update: We’ve both upgraded to the 6D, which has been LIFE. CHANGING. It is essentially the smaller, lighter weight, less expensive version of the Mark III (below). To keep things brief, there’s about a 5% difference in features, but a massive difference in price. As soon as Blair shot with mine, she bought one, and so did our best friend Shaheen, haha! (That’s how great it is, guys!)

The Mark III’s are typically what professional photographers shoot with, but if you’re using it for your blog alone, I think the 6D would be all you need. If you want to know the biggest differences, this article is really useful.

Again though, for beginning purposes, you really don’t need the full-frame just yet! (But, I mean, if you have the money, and are willing to learn how to use it–by all means, go for it!)

Best Camera Lenses for Bloggers

When it comes to lenses, Canon, not surprisingly, has a wide variety at different price points–but one thing is for sure, that you should be investing in a “prime” lens.

Prime lenses are fixed length, meaning they don’t have a zoom. They have a fixed maximum aperture and fixed focal length, which to make a long story short, results in more professional, sharper photos with beautiful blurry backgrounds! (More on how to get a blurry background in your photos here.) They’re also much lighter, so it makes your camera easier to haul around with you.

It’s also important to know that many Canon lenses have an “L series” version and an non-“L series” version. You can think of “L series” lenses as the cream of the crop when it comes to camera lenses–and the reason so many people gravitate toward Canon. That’s not to say that “non L series” lenses aren’t good–Blair and I both shoot with non L-series lenses, so if you’re just starting out, don’t worry about that! (Just making sure you had all your facts straight!)

Here are our favorite lenses:

50mm–”the nifty fifty”

The “50” is a lens that everyone should have in their camera bag. It comes in several different varieties–ranging from very affordable to expensive.

For those first starting out, who don’t want to spend a ton of cash, I would highly recommend the f/1.8. It will only set you back around $150 and is a big difference between that and the lens your camera comes with. This will allow you to get that pretty, blurred background! (AKA “depth of field” or “bokeh.”) There is a newer version that came out recently, so make sure you’re going for the “STM” version, which is the new and improved kind!

One downside of the 50mm lens if you’re shooting on a crop sensor camera, is that it can be very challenging to photograph groups of people, entire rooms, or a wide angle of any kind, really.

For full-frame users, the f/1.2 L series lens cannot be beat, and is Canon’s fastest All of my photographer friends say this is hands-down their favorite lens. However, be warned, it comes at a price–$1,200.

One to avoid, though, is the “shifty fifty.” The f/1.4 version isn’t one I’ve ever shot with personally, but it gets consistently poor reviews across the board.

35mm

The 35mm f/2 lens is my personal favorite right now, and what I shoot with most often. (This is the case for Blair as well.) I found that I was having quite a bit of trouble with the cropped factor of my crop-sensor x 50mm, which was alleviated with the 35mm. It’s allows you to shoot at much wider angles than you would with the 50mm, and churns out consistently pretty photos! If you’re looking for a big step up, the 35mm f/1.4 L series also gets fantastic reviews! Update: A year later, this is still the only lens we ever use. Also, I am convinced it is more flattering for outfit photos because the angle is wider. (Ahem, it just makes you look taller and thinner, just saying.)

BUT. Remember. Just because you have a nice camera doesn’t mean your photos are necessarily going to be better. If you don’t know how to work your settings, you aren’t going to have great photos no matter what! You will not be able to take beautiful photos right out of the box no matter which camera you choose.

Other equipment:

The above is really all you need, but there are some other items that have come in handy as well for us over the years:

Lens hoods: Lens hoods offer protection for your lens and fight against sun glare, and can also result in photos with higher contrast and saturation.

A cute camera bag: The Claremont cross-body camera bag from Lo & Sons is our favorite! It looks like chic leather purse but fits all of your camera essentials.

 

Priority–what do you focus on first?

This is a tough question, because an expensive lens on a crappy camera won’t result in great images, but neither will an expensive camera with a crappy lens!

Here’s what I will say–buy the best camera your budget will allow. I know plenty of bloggers who shoot with nicer cameras and the affordable 50mm 1/8 lens, and they have really good photos! You could also look into purchasing refurbished models, which will save you some money. (Just make sure to read the fine print!)

The biggest issue, we often find, is that many bloggers think they need better equipment, when in reality, they just need better knowledge on how to use their cameras and how to edit their photos properly! Which brings me to my next point…

Great equipment doesn’t equal perfect photos!

You have to know how to use your equipment in order to get the photos that you like! Immerse yourself in learning the art of photography. Learn how to shoot in manual mode–understand how ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture work together, and master editing in Lightroom.

If you have any of the above equipment, but still don’t have the photos you want, focus first on perfecting your photography skills with what you have before you go out and upgrade!

Not sure where to start? We have a big ole photography section of BFK that you can peruse right over here.

Whew! That was a ton of info. Which camera and lens is best for you? Click the graphic below to download our DSLR for Bloggers flow chart to find out! 

Want more photography tips? Check out “How to Create a Unique Image Look,” “Shooting In RAW & Why You Need Lightroom” “Lightroom Editing 101

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I'm Blair Staky—I help women turn their blogs into thriving businesses by sharing my secrets to growing a 6-figure blog. I'm so glad you're here!

Leave a Comment

  1. 1.7.17
    Camilla said:

    This was a great read and very informative! I have just bought a Canon Rebel 1 and it comes with two kit lenses. I was thinking to get body only and after reading this I wish I had! I will definately be getting the 50mm!!

  2. 5.14.17
    Alyssa Loring said:

    I love, love this post! I have a Rebel that I keep thinking I should upgrade, but now I’m wondering if I should just get the 35mm to try first. (I already use the 50mm.) But then I found a Nikon my friend has that is SO easy to use, and the lenses seem a lot cheaper for Nikon (?).

  3. 6.11.17

    I am so glad I found this amazing blog! I bought the Sony a6500 and the 16-70 f4 lens last week and am having to return it today as it’s taking worse photos than my iphone!! It had great reviews but my other half knows a thing or two about photography and said it’s not performing anywhere near what the reviews said. I’m hoping to swap it for the Canon 6D after reading this post! Thanks again!

    http://www.londonerinsydney.com

  4. 6.18.17

    Great post, and super helpful! I have the Canon 50mm f/1.8 with my Canon 70D, but I’ve found it very very difficult to get my photos in focus. Is this something you’ve come across with that camera-lens combo, and is there a good way to combat that? I also have found that my images aren’t as sharp as I’d like them to be and I just don’t pop enough from the background. Any tips on improving that? Is it the background, the lens, the settings, etc?

    • 7.17.17
      My Sprinkle of Prep said:

      To make images pop or for your focal point to be in focus with your background out of focus you need to manually change your f/stop with a smaller f/stop allows for more light into your lens and less of a focus on your background. You want to shoot in F/1.8, if you aren’t shoot in Manual I would suggest shooting in A or Aperture priority. This will allow you to shoot in the F/stop that you want while the camera will set the rest of the settings for you. I would truly recommend learning to shoot in manual to get the best picture quality.

  5. 7.17.17
    My Sprinkle of Prep said:

    I think this blog post was super helpful, I current using a rebel and in need of a major upgrade, I currently am between upgrading from a 80D and a full-frame sensor camera. I want to switch to a full-frame but my budget is a little tight, and it would mean replacing a few lenses that only shoot crop-senor only. I think this was super helpful and for start of photographers I would recommend a Rebel with a nifty fifty lens.
    Meg // MySprinkleofPrep.wordpress.com

  6. 9.25.17
    kishorn said:

    Thank you for a great post. I would add https://blog.qwikgear.com/ here you can get cameras, lenses for rental and can read blogs related to cameras,photography,lenses.

  7. 11.9.17
    Vijay Krishna said:

    Thank you for a great post. I would add http://wildclickz.com/blog/ here you can get cameras for rental and can read blogs related to cameras,lenses,photography

  8. 11.30.17
    Helen Heinig said:

    Love this post! I was looking for some recommendations on a new lens for my Canon. This gives me a couple of ideas on what to get. Happy Holidays!

  9. 12.6.17
    Kenny Gonz said:

    I’m grabbing a camera for instagram food photgraphy. Do you think i should get the Canon T6 or Nikon D3400? I read an article(https://www.sleeqtech.com/nikon-d3400-vs-canon-t6) but it’s not indicating the difference between these two cameras. FYI, both these two cameras are almost the same price.

    What’s your take on this? Anyone?

  10. 2.21.18
    Yashin Zhang Chu said:

    I am so happy to have stumbled upon your post about camera and lenses! It’s really helpful for me as a beginner. Thanks so much

    http://www.stylishmomnextdoor.com

  11. 4.4.18
    FASTER WORLD said:

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