How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget + List Of Equipment You Need.

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget + List Of Equipment You Need.

If you’ve ever wanted to become a professional photographer but felt limited by the lack of affordable equipment to create high quality art, here are a few tips and recommended products to help you do a great job, and not have to sell your soul (or completely empty your bank account) in the process. I hope you find this information useful, and don’t forget to check the bottom of this article for a full list of my products and resources you can use right away to become a professional photographer on a budget. 

Being a professional photographer is one of the best jobs in the world. You get to be creative, have an excuse to interact with interesting people, and be your own boss.

As long as you take pictures in nice lighting and don’t give any brides-to-be a double chin, you’ll be on your way to finding your groove in the photography world.

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Most professional photographers started with basic cameras and took pictures of their friends as a hobby. Then someone was getting married and you got the phone call,”Hey, John and Amanda are looking for a photographer for their wedding, do you want to do it?” And of course you said yes. And you even felt guilty about charging them $150.

Most of being a great photographer comes from being good with people and having a good “eye.” In the beginning, you’re often worried about people not believing that you’re legitimate so you rush through shoots, and don’t give many instructions. But as you progress, you realize that even at the highest level, there are no big secrets other than taking your time and instructing your subjects in order to get the shots that your talented eye wants to see.

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Being a photographer is great for mobility, because your skills are useful anywhere in the world. Next time you have a freak out and decide you need to leave the country, you won’t be completely without a money maker. If you have a camera, you are useful.

The only setback is the initial start-up costs.

Let’s break them down:

Professional, full-frame cameras start around $2500 (Nikon D810) and can quickly scale to 5 or 10 grand (Nikon D5). And the lenses usually range from $500 – $3000 a pop (Nikon 85mm f 1.4 lens for $1600).

I couldn’t afford that kind of equipment when I started, and I didn’t really know who could.

My mom gave me my first camera when I was 14, a silver Pentax 35mm film camera, it probably retailed around $100 at the time. And I slowly progressed up the ranks from there.

When I converted to digital, I chose Nikon over Canon because I liked the design and it felt better in my hands. I bought a Nikon D40 over 10 years ago and I’ve never shot with anything other than Nikon since.

Two years ago, I wanted to buy a new camera. I was using the D5100, which retailed around $600 at the time, and shooting mostly HD videos. I loved that camera because it had the flip screen that let me see what I was filming from awkward angles. I also shot some photography with it and it did the job just fine.

If I’m being completely honest, one of the main reasons I wanted a new camera was because I wanted something with a bigger body so people looking at me would know I wasn’t some tourist with a Nikon around my neck, but a real, professional photographer. I’ve always been pretty vain, but that’s not a bad thing when you’re the person behind the camera.

Then I remembered the work of Casey Neistat (Nike, Mercedes, NYC bike lane), one of the most talented and engaging filmmakers in the world, who just so happens to shoot all of his videos on a $100 handheld, point-and-shoot camera. And I realized, it really is more about the eye and the story you tell with the camera than the equipment you’re using.

I decided to be a professional photographer on a budget in an attempt to prove that my skills were good enough to work on less expensive equipment.

I bought a Nikon D7100 for $1200 (body only) (it’s now under $700!). It was the highest ranking camera on the market before they jumped up to full-frame dslr cameras. I preferred this camera over the Nikon D5200 ($650 body only) because the body was a little bigger (ha!) and even the top photography pros said it was a high-performing camera for the price.

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget

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NOTE: They’ve just release a newer version of the intermediate camera:

NIKON D7200 ($1100)

The D7200 is a little faster and a little stronger with autofocus. I don’t notice a huge difference in quality for the price difference between the older D7100.

I didn’t want the stock lens it came with because it’s not very quality. It has an f stop of 3.5 which provides almost no ‘bokeh‘ effect unless shooting with a zoom lens. I was looking for something with an f stop of 2.8 or lower.

Many great portraits shots, where the subject looks crisp and the background is blurry, are taken with “prime lenses” – meaning, they have a fixed mm zoom. The most common lenses are 35mm prime and 50mm prime. Because of the fixed focal length, and more opened aperture ring (f/1.8 – f/1.4), prime lenses create a more shallow depth of field (sharp subject with drastic blurring in foreground and background).

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget
photo by Kathy Davies

Some of the best prime lenses are at an f stop of 1.4, even 1.2 on occasion, but again, they are $500 or more ($1600 for this Nikon 35mm f 1.4!). I did some research and found out that Nikon makes prime lenses at an f stop of 1.8. While you will lose a slight amount of bokeh effect, the 35mm retails for under $200 and the 50mm can be found around $100! All you have to do is decide if you want a wider angled lens or a tighter zoom. The 50mm will give you a little bit more bokeh, while the 35mm will allow for more space within the frame. You can compensate and create more bokeh with the 35mm by simply getting closer to your subjects (move your body, not the lens!).

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget

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How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget

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Quick tip: Putting a prime lens on almost any camera will give your photos a mega boost. It’s much more affordable and effective than buying a new camera.

Professional photographers will often also carry more of a ‘utility’ lens that has a focal range between 15 – 70mm. The stock lens Nikon ships with its cameras is an 18-55mm and again, it’s crap (no offense Nikon). But Tamron makes a really nice 17-50mm lens at a 2.8 f stop for around $500. This is the lens that can be found on my camera the most because I get tired of changing back and forth between prime lenses when out in the field. Tamron makes this same lens with image stabilization for around $650. I didn’t notice a difference. Maybe film makers would want the stabilization but with all the editing software available I’m not sure it’s very necessary.

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget

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Between the 35mm, 50mm, and 17-50mm, you’ll be able to take professional grade portraits and landscapes no problem.

If you want to explore fisheye lenses for unique effects, or even films, there are some affordable options as well.

Rokinon (a Korean company founded in the early 70s) has an older lens still being used in the film world quite seriously. It’s an 8mm manual focus fisheye lens that allows for full 180 degree views around $300.

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And a lens that I just picked up, that might be my favorite lens I’ve ever owned, is made by Tokina.

How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget


It’s an 11-16mm f/2.8 lens that has near 180 degree views without any of the line bowing or peripheral distortion that come from most fisheye lenses. It lets me take photos with incredibly unique compositions because there is more space within the frame. I love it. The view is like that out of our own eyes, it’s beautifully voyeuristic. And that set me back $475.

Every time I show someone a picture I’ve taken with this lens they are completely speechless. If you want a true difference maker, a lens that makes the most ordinary scene look completely original, then make the decision and throw down on this lens. It’s one of those items that I think about every day and never regret the money spent.

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How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget
shot on Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 while out late one night looking for ghosts


I started with the basics and have accumulated more pieces as I’ve needed them. I’m fortunate enough to get gigs with individuals and larger companies. My work has opened a lot of doors, and not once, has someone asked if I was shooting on a full-frame camera. An important thing I’ve learned along the way is that the lenses have a greater impact on image quality than the cameras. Get yourself a 35mm or 50mm prime lens and you’ll take great pictures on just about any camera.

You don’t have to spend a shitload of money on gear to get started as a photographer, you just have to know what you’re looking for.

I’ve attached links to the best prices for what I consider to be the most valuable products for anyone looking to become a professional photographer on a budget. These online prices for lenses tend to be significantly cheaper than in stores. The cameras themselves are usually set at fixed prices, so there won’t be too much discrepancy there.

Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have. I hope you have an incredible photography career and don’t get taken to school by some nerdy photography salesman trying to talk you into spending your fortune on equipment.

Starter kit:

Nikon D5500 24.2 MP dSLR camera  (body only) ($600)

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens ($197)

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II ($499)

TOTAL COST: $1,296 (prices will lower every year)

The Nikon D5500 along with these two lenses will give you what you need to book gigs.

My current kit:

Nikon D7100 24.1 MP dSLR camera (body only) ($700 – price just reduced!)

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Lens ($197)

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens ($114)

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II ($499)

Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide F/3.5 Fisheye Lens ($329)

Tokina AT-X116PRDXN AT-X PRO DX 11-16mm ($475)

TOTAL COST: $2,314

I’ve accumulated more lenses as I’ve needed them. Often, when out doing a shoot, I’ve found myself wishing I was able to capture different angles. I’d then go home and research until I found something that was pro quality, but affordable.

Other items in my bag:

Benro A3580F Classic Tripod ($168)

Black Rapid Camera Strap ($61)

Altura Photo Flash Kit for Nikon ($79) – and worth every cent

You can hit the piggy bank hard over the next few months and find a way to come up with enough dough to get started. All it takes is a couple gigs to cover your start-up costs and this equipment will last you 5-10 years.

Be smart shoppers and don’t get suckered into buying the hype around camera equipment. Start with what you need and add on from there.

Happy shooting photographers!

For a list of professional DSLR cameras and photography equipment check out my other article HERE.

Kirk Hensler is a professional photographer and film maker as well as the creator of ‘Organizing Inspiration – How to bring your brilliant ideas to the world,’ a course for entrepreneurs and creatives to identify their brand, create a work process, and implement an intuitive working schedule.

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69 Replies to “How To Become A Professional Photographer On A Budget + List Of Equipment You Need.”

  1. I’ve been looking for a camera to take decent pictures of vintage clothing I’m selling on etsy. My sister shot me with her iPhone but it wasn’t the best quality. I’m definately going to purchase a used Nikon D40. Thank you for posting, this is such a wealth of information.

    1. Michelle! very cool. i will HIGHLY recommend for you to pick up a 50mm lens for $100 to take your pics with. will give your photos a huge edge over other pics on etsy. best of luck 🙂

    1. yes – just make sure you order the one compatible with Nikon – as there is a separate one for Canon. the link should be accurate so you can just order through there to make it easier.

  2. This article is great. Id love to earn some money from photography but always felt intimidated by people with full frame bodies. I have a D5100, the 35mm 1.8 and a 55-300mm 1:4. I also have the rubbish 18-55mm which is only used for holiday snaps now. I have taken some great bokeh photos with the prime and zoom, as long as i am in good light when i use the zoom.

    1. that’s awesome Annette! at the end of the day if you believe in your work then other people will too. you have more than enough camera to take professional photos. i would highly recommend the tokina lens that i’ve featured in this article when the timing is right 🙂

  3. Thanks for all the helpful information. I purchased the Nikon D3100 3 years ago with the two kit lenses as a hobbyist. My cousin has asked me photograph her wedding this summer and I said yes. They are having a low key event. I have the D3100, 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses, 40mm macro lens, and Tamron 90mm macro lens (yes I like macro, LOL. I purchased the Tamron 17-50mm that you mentioned in your article a couple of weeks ago and I love it. I also have the SB700 flash. Do you think these lenses and this camera would be suitable for a wedding? It will probably be the only wedding I shoot. I am thinking of getting into portrait photography from my home. I don’t want to go to a full frame camera as I don’t think the cost is really worth it to me. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

    1. sorry i’m just now responding to this. i didn’t get the ping for some reason.

      you have enough in your bag to shoot the wedding without spending anymore money.

      the best advice i can give you is to have a book of shot ideas going into the gig so you know what images you want to capture.

      it’s going to fly by and you’ll want to be moving back and forth between lenses. have the zoom handy if you can’t get close to the bride and groom during the ceremony itself because you’ll want those moments.

      maybe invest in a hot shoe flash that sits on top of your camera if it’s going to be at night or indoors.

      best of luck 🙂

  4. Hi thanks for sharing this info. Can you please answer some doubts? I really want to start seriously on photography so I can get started shooting events and portraits. I am on a budget I want to move from Canon to Nikon as I see Nikon lenses can be used on both full frame and crop sensor.

    Buying a Full frame is not in my budget yet, as I wanna buy lenses and once I start making more money hopefully be able to move to the D810. MY CONCERN IS about the lenses, If I buy a Crop Sensor Camera and buy Tamron, Rokinon or Sigma can I use those lenses on a full frame later on???

    Other thing about crop sensors cameras is that 35mm won’t be a 35mm in it so I will always have to be searching for the equivalent lens?

    Stating all that, What camera and lenses you would recommend me? Thank you for your help 🙂

  5. hey Veve!

    when you make the jump up to a full-frame camera you will notice a difference with your crop sensor lenses. sometimes the camera will automatically crop the image to match the crop sensor lens but it can also distort the photo and cause burning and vignetting. it will come down to the manufacturer and the focal range, mostly. it is advisable, although expensive as hell, to upgrade your lenses when you upgrade your camera.

    that being said, i love the kit i shoot 99% of my work on. nikon d7100 with the tokina 11-16 2.8 lens. for landscapes it in incredible. you can add a less expensive 35 or 50mm nikor lens since the d7100 has a focusing motor on the body and will therefore make those lenses auto focus.

    but mostly my shoots look like this – nikon d7100 with tokina on one strap and nikon d7100 with tamron 17 – 50mm 2.8 on the other.

    this has worked for me for everything from street photography to studio portraits.

    hope this helps.

    i cannot emphasize enough the tokina lens for landscapes. one of a kind pics.

    1. Hi thanks for your reply. I ended up sticking to the Canon I already had and bought some lenses for it, if I can make some money out of it I will invest it in upgrading to a 6d FF. I bought the Sigma 17-50mm this will always be used on the crop-sensor, I got 50mm lens and 85mm so I can also use them when I get the FF for now the 50 mm will work as an 80mm and the 85mm as a 132 mm almost. I can’t wait to have the fullframe to enjoy the prime lenses as they are. I decided to stick to interior photography, food photography and portraits. I bought also a yongnuo flash with rt trigger and a softbox and some reflectors just to get me started, if I am missing something I am sure I am but I will try to work with what I have for now.

  6. Hello! Great article. I have no idea where to start. I love taking pictures of kids and want to do it professionally! I have an old Nikon D40 camera. What lenses should I get first? Where do I start? Do you use lots of photo editing resources in your work? Thank you! Anna

    1. hi Anna! i would recommend starting with the 35mm 1.8 lens from the article as well as the tamron lens i’ve recommended above. when you’ve got the dough, you’ll want to upgrade your camera body but if good lighting and a new lens or two you should be just fine.

        1. if you have it use it, i suppose. it’s not the best lens but it certainly works. if you do decide to keep and use that lens i would recommend using it on maximum zoom for portraits and moving your body to adjust to the subject instead of zooming out.

          1. 1.8 refers to aperture (or f stop) and just means that the lens will take in more natural light because the aperture ring can open wider. for portraits it means that you can take pictures with more crisp subjects and blurry backgrounds (bokeh). this effect is often correlated with professional level photographs. not everyone’s style but it is for many. best of luck.

  7. First of all, I wanted to thank you, not only for writing this amazing article, but for taking the time to answer all these questions. You’re the real MVP haha..

    Now; I see that some prices (the Tamron lense’s, for example) has gone up in the last few days and was wandering if you would recommend waiting until the Christmas fuss it’s over to make this purchase — (I’m assuming you have better knowledge than me about how these prices usually behave during the holidays, but no pressure).

    Best Regards!

    1. haha! sorry for the delayed response (holidays excuses, etc.) thanks for the note. as for pricing, camera equipment prices are regulated by the manufacturers and jump up and down from time to time based on god knows what. i’m guessing prices are going to come down now. best of luck shooting!

  8. Great article. Thanks. I am not pro. I shoot a lot of photos of students at my elementary school and put the school yearbook together each year. I shoot all sorts of activities indoors and outdoors, daylight and night.

    I use a Nikon D7100 and have the 50mm f1.8 prime and the 35mm f1.8 prime. I also have a great 80-200mm f2.8 zoom that I love. I was trying to get my nerve up to buy the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 zoom for everyday shooting. The problem is that it’s really expensive ($1,750 retail/$1,250 refurb). Then I read your post about the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. Perhaps I should buy those two lenses and save myself a bunch of $$. What do you think?


    1. hey Bob. thanks for the comment. i do think the combination of the tokina and the tamron would give you more options for shots as well as save you some coin. then your kit will be pretty complete. the 24-70 is certainly a nice lens but if you ever shoot any landscapes or buildings or interiors and want totally unique compositions, the tokina is best around. good luck!

  9. Hello! I decided to buy a new camera and saw ok deal ($1500) for Nikon D7200, which comes with 2 lenses : AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm VR II and AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm VR Lens. Would you suggest getting the whole set and get the 35mm and zoom 300 lens separately?

    1. if it’s about price then the kit is great. however the tamron lens i have in the article is a lot nicer than the 18-55 lens that comes in the kit. the 55-300 is nice if you plan on needing a zoom lens. i personally don’t use my very often.

      tamron, tokina, and 35mm are the 3 lenses that i bring everywhere.

      1. Do you like Nikon D7200? Maybe I should get the bse and lenses separately. I was also thinking about full frame 750, but lens set would be totally different.

    1. honestly, i order all my prints from costco. i print on a lustre finish and they are SUPER cheap. please you can have them put a thin white edge on all four sides and also put them on poster board.

  10. Any suggestions for a dual camera strap. Carry a 5D Mark111 w/70-200L is 2.8 & 70D w 24-105L is
    too heavy, any my diy, stink. Im a big fella @ 6’2″ 260.

    1. for style – i shoot with this one – holdfast money maker – it’s trendy and makes everyone at photoshoots think you’re a pro. can’t share link in the comment but search it on amazon.


      the black rapid DR2 double strap camera is higher quality and i would trust your full frame cameras better in its hands

  11. Hi, thanks for that! I started with a Nikon D40 too! I’m now using the D3300 and I’m wondering if it’s worth investing money to upgrade to the D5500. Would it be better to invest in some prime lenses? Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. you will notice a bigger difference in image quality by getting the 35 or 50mm lens than you will a jump between those cameras.

      unless you are shooting a lot of video as well, in which case the 5500 is much better.

      1. Hello again, thank you so much for replying! My husband bought me the Nikkor 35mm for my birthday, which is the best lens I have ever had. I’m thinking of getting a prime lens for my J5 next. Then in June I won a bet with my husband, he was 100% sure he was right, expensive mistake, and I now have the d5500 body as well! The pictures it produces are incredible, so I’m now more in love with photography than ever before. Would it be worth investing in a 50mm or 75mm as well? Thank you for your time, Tabitha x

  12. You have some great information here! Thanks for posting it! My experience as a “photographer” is the occasional shot with a Fujifilm Finepix and of course my Android. I love love love shooting spiders and I try as much as possible to get their little eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul!! So macro lenses is what I need. I have won a few little dinky online awards and some actual money at county fairs (ha ha!!) But that is enough to keep me interested in doing much more with much better equipment. So . . . that said, I think I will start trying to raid my piggy bank and also try to get a good macro lens. Any advice??

    1. that sounds awesome! i like an 85mm lens for macro. also works great for portraits. they are pricey. starting around $500 for a 1.8 and going up to $1500 for a 1.4

      however, if you are crafty and trust your focus hand you can get a rokinon 85mm 1.4 for $299. it’s manual focus but it is really really nice glass. i use one for video and it’s fantastic. but be very very sure you’re ok with manual focus.

      i’m guessing it’s easier for macro bc you are focusing on things that aren’t moving 100 mph but you never know. good luck 🙂

  13. Hi what do you think of the Nikon D5000? It was a gift from my husband and I would like to start by taking professional pictures of kids. I’m a stay at home mom and looking into doing something that I enjoy from home. I use to do studio portraiture but the cameras were already set up by our tech as well as the lights, all I had to do just make kids smile and shoot, so I never learned about the aperture, fstops and how lighting should be set up. This camera has a 50mm lens and I’ve taken pictures of friends and family and always get great compliments, do you think I should get another lens to get started? If so which would you recommend?

    1. it is a perfectly good camera for portraits under good lighting conditions. the 50mm is ideal for portraits. you don’t need another lens at this point unless you are having a hard time fitting more than 3 subjects in the frame depending on your work space.
      now you need to research shooting in manual. you’ll wanna focus on 3 things – 1) shutter speed, 2) aperture, and 3) ISO.

      just switching to manual and using the 50mm will give your photos the right professional touch.

      then you’ll want to experiment with finding light. for me, i prefer to do portraits so that light coming through windows hits the subject from the side and creates ‘split lighting.’

      google shooting in manual and also google split lighting and lighting set ups for studio shoots.

      you’ll learn a ton!

  14. Thank your for your article! I v got D3200 and as a beginner liked the feel, until I started shooting motorbike riding and faster action. I know I will have to move onto either 5200 or 7100 one day, and idealy in my dreams to d500. For now this is what it is and thinking about lenses is my priority. As I shoot from distance what big lenwe would u recommend? also lenses you recommended in this article, wold they be good for close up skate or bmx shoots as well? lastly one more question, is the Mac book must for photography or is there cheaper laptops that can do the job too?
    many thanks for your time .Regards Lana

  15. Hey Kirk,

    This is a great article, keep the good work going.

    I have been a point and shoot camera guys for a long time. I now want to switch over to professional photography to make some money out of the hobby. I want to take up wedding photography seriously. And your article has been of great help. I have a dilemma with the kit i picked, was hoping you can help me out. Again this kit is intended for wedding photography:

    I have the following to start my kit.
    -d7200 ~ $1000
    -50mm f1.8 ~ $160
    -35mm f1.8 ~ $239
    -85mm f1.8 ~ $550
    -70-300 f4.5-5.6 ~ $570 (for those long off shots, this was the only good zoom I could afford)

    Reading your article has put me in a tussle over the tamron 17-50 ~ $380 and the tokina 11-16 ~ $620. Would you recommend I keep the kit I picked or switch it to accommodate the tamron or the tokina. I cant afford all of it obviously. So if you were to build yourself a wedding kit what would you do, given the financial constraints (I would love to the investment around $2500, which is still very significant for me. Given that I am just starting out)

    Please advice me if need to remove a lens or replace it with one of your recommendations or make a new kit list altogether whichever it may be, your advice will greatly be appreciated.


    1. Great kit !

      The only thing I would suggest is switching out the 70-300 for the Tamron lens. You won’t really ever use 300mm unless you’re shooting things at LONG distance. The 85 will be long enough for weddings as it will actually come out around 127mm on the D7200 sensor.

      As soon as you can, save up and buy a second camera. Switching lenses is a pain. The Tamron will help with that because it is very versatile but my preferred setup is having one camera with a Tamron lens on it and another camera with a prime lens (usually 50mm or 100mm).

      Hope this helps. Happy shooting.

      1. Hey thanks so much for getting back. Had a couple follow up questions:

        – the tamron comes with the VC version and the standard version. The price difference here in canada is about 130 dollars. you think the extra money is worth the stabilization of the VC.? Would standard version on mono or tripod be sufficient for most shoots..?

        -when i get there a year or two down the line…should the backup camera be the same as ur primary or can it be a lower model..?

        -how significant is the tokina in a wedding shoot. Would the tokina be more important than the second camera if and when i have the money and had to choose only one.

        -in ur experience with the tokina in a u think its important enough that i would be compelled to rent it if i cant afford it.

        Ps great advice on the 70-300. i overlooked the crop factor for the 85. i went ahead and took it off my list.


        1. Don’t need VC.

          I like when the camera models are similar quality. However, I have one kit that has a high quality portrait camera and also a high speed sports camera as a second. Either get same quality or get different cameras that have different strengths for different types of shoots.

          You would rarely use a Tokina at a wedding as it is a wide angle lens that will distort limbs and make faces wider. It is nice for venue shots and shots of the full bridal party but the Tamron at 17mm will get the job done and also give you the ability to zoom into 50 for portraits.

          1. Hey Kirk,

            Your advise has been great. I followed it to the dot. Having planned and gone around shopping I ran into a serious wall. I dint take taxes into consideration. Where i live I pay a 13%, I know I should have thought about it. I was too caught up researching and planning I missed it. Ends up being about 400 bucks on the whole of my order. That means I have to cut something out to fit my budget and I dont know what to..The lenses seem too important and necessary. I picked the bare minimums as is.

            Here was the final list
            -d7200 ~ $1079
            -50mm f1.8 ~ $160
            -35mm f1.8 ~ $239
            -85mm f1.8 ~ $550
            -17-50 f2.8 ~ $450
            -battery(spare) – $40
            -flash – $100
            -memory card – $45
            -tripod – $78

            It looks like I may have to cut one of the lenses out as i need to squeeze a few hundred dollars off that order and buy it sometime later when I have funds for it. It appears, my wedding photography passion is turning out to be expensive. Your advice as always will greatly be appreciated.


        2. Ok, great kit. You’re going to be pleased with your new gear.

          I would suggest dumping the 50mm for now. The Tamron looks great at 50mm and still gives blurry background when wide open at f2.8.

          35 is useful, in my opinion, for lifestyle shots and sometimes portraits with more than 2-3 people.

          Also, you might consider holding off on the tripod unless you have an immediate use for it – filming or long exposure photography. I honestly only use my tripod for a few things (I do video) and maybe 2 or 3 times a year for photos.

          Hope this helps.

  16. Great kit !

    The only thing I would suggest is switching out the 70-300 for the Tamron lens. You won’t really ever use 300mm unless you’re shooting things at LONG distance. The 85 will be long enough for weddings as it will actually come out around 127mm on the D7200 sensor.

    As soon as you can, save up and buy a second camera. Switching lenses is a pain. The Tamron will help with that because it is very versatile but my preferred setup is having one camera with a Tamron lens on it and another camera with a prime lens (usually 50mm or 100mm).

    Hope this helps. Happy shooting.

  17. Hi! I have 35 50 1.8and Tamron 17-50 on my 7100. Now i got a gift 80-200 2.8 without VR and pictures come with lots of blur unless on a tripod..and yes i tried shooting with higher shutter and f 6+. Any suggestion for a life photography in ny (i would guess tamron).studio shot…vs lense use and where would yiu normally use 80 -200

    1. Hi – it’s hard to shoot telephoto without a tripod. You might consider setting it to shutter priority and having the shutter speed set at at least 250 – 320.

      Tamron for street photos yes.

      85mm for studio portraits.

      Hope this helps.

  18. What a great article! I have been into photography since the mid 70’s at an enthusiast level beginning with a pair of OM-1’s (winder on one, motor drive on the other). When I finally threw though towel in on film, I purchased a Canon 50D. My Canon with a “nifty fifty” and believe it or not the 28-135 kit lens has served me very well. The kit lens over the years has thrown out some pictures that I must say “Did I really do that”. To say I have gotten the goodie out of my 50D is an understatement. By reading your article, and keeping an eye on Nikon and some of their recent releases, I think you have made me a convert. Once again great article and I’m elated to have found your web page here.

    1. What a cool story Steve ! I LOVE the winders. Canon is always going to have the upper hand on lenses but Nikon is building intermediate cameras like no one else right now in my opinion. The D7200 is a brilliant camera for the price. Really glad you took the time to comment. Thanks a lot!

  19. Hello,
    Thank you for this beautiful article.
    I’m getting into photography for past 2 months. I saved up all my money to buy a decent camera. I have D7200 this is my first DSLR camera. I bought it in bundle deal comes with 18-55 AF-P DX VR and 70-300mm AF-P VR lense and a bunch of junk stuff that i will not list them.
    so i;m using this Kit that i have for past 2 months. took some great shots during the day time. but at night time i could not get a perfect shot,. even i bumped the ISO.
    i was wondering what other lense or lenses should i buy to get crisp pictures during daytime and also night time. Recently I’m researching about 50mm f/1.8 G and 50mm f/1.4G Prime lense.
    After reading your article now i’m also interested in 35mm f/1.8G. I don’t have a budget for both lenses my budget is around 200-250. ( maybe up to 300 if necessary )
    which one of these 3 lenses do you think i should buy. to take photos at low light and also crisp pictures at daytime. or if you have any other suggestions.

    Thank you very much


  20. I have honestly been searching and searching for good information and every question I had about the lenses you have answered! I currently shoot with a Nikon d3200 and use a prime lens that costs more than my camera! Haha! I only started making myself available for hire a few months ago. I’m booked now until the end of this year and I’d like to be more comfortable with my long range shots! I’m definitely getting a new camera, possibly the Nikon d7100 and looking for another lens for long range shots, what would your recommendation be?? I never imagined being a photographer for hire but I recently became a stay at home mom and needed something to do for myself! Photography has been a great way to get myself out there, the response I’ve had has been amazing and so uplifting, especially since I shoot with a low grade DSLR and can still create beautiful pictures. I’m definitely a firm believer in the power of a lens! I would love to take amazing long range shots (comfortably) and create the vision in my head without worrying about image quality with each step I take back. Please help me with the perfect low cost lens! Thank you so much!

    1. wow that’s amazing !!!

      for long range the Sigma 85 mm 1.4 art lens is amazing as well as the Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens. it is going to be a bit more expensive than you’d probably like but eventually you will upgrade your camera body to full frame and these lenses will transfer right on over with you.

      note that an 85mm lens will have an actual focal length of about 127mm on the 3200. so it would work well for a lot of long range scenarios.

  21. Thank you so much for this article. I just purchased the Nikon d3400 kit with the 18-55 and 70-300 lenses. I have wanted to be a professional photographer for a long time and this was the first step. So far I have taken pictures I’m very happy with but I know I need better lenses to get the quality I want. I saved birthday money for three years to buy this camera. I’m so encouraged after reading your article, because I thought I’d never have a chance to work professionally due to financial limitations. Thank you for the recommendations. Now I’m going to start saving for the Tokina 11-16 f/28 and the Tamron 17-50 f/28.

  22. Such great and helpful info. I am that mom who loves taking pictures of my kids and have branched out to offering to take pictures of my friends’ kids.. and I dream of a photo hobby expanding to a little extra money thing! This info is just want I needed!!! Thank you!!!

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