How to take stunning photos without expensive equipment

49 thoughts on “How to take stunning photos without expensive equipment”

  1. That was quite an informative post. I used to have a Canon Elf, but these days I just use my iPhone. It does a great job outdoors. I have always loved snapping spur-of-the-moment pics of family and friends and could probably benefit from having an actual camera. You just never know when your kid or cat is going to do something photo-worthy 🙂 I think I’ll delve a little deeper into this article when I have more time today to see your recommendations. Thanks for this!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    1. Thanks for the comment. The iPhone does a pretty darn good job, especially for a camera phone. I have a 5s and generally like the picture quality for quick shots when I don’t have my equipment with me.

  2. Interesting article Steve. I’ll point out again 2 very important thingsyou stated. First the more pictures you take the more likely a good one falls out. Honestly the realm of digital photography makes taking an additional shot free. Use the edit room floor to cut down to a manageable amount. I’m personally not a great photographer, but I’d like to think I have some good looking pictures I took on my site. Those are ones of hundreds.

    The second key one you highlighted was focus. I have 2 friends with photography side hustles with different focuses, one does people and one does cars. For our wedding we brought in both as a cheap photography solution. It had a dual purpose of also funding one of their cross country trips. The results should be obvious. The people focused photographer did light years better pictures for the wedding. And yet the car photographer has pictures published in car and driver while the picture photographer does weddings.

  3. Love this post Steve! Thanks for sharing so much of what you’ve learned over the years. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive to make great shots! I am terrible at photography and I don’t have any equipment at this point. I am bookmarking this to add to the “post-retirement” reads since we are going to be traveling a lot. We’re a scenario #5 kind of family 🙂

    1. Thanks Vicki, and perfect! Traveling is ripe for some photography. With so many different things to see and places to go, having a camera nearby is always a nice thing. Gives us something to remember those moments by!

  4. Awesome post Steve. I have to admit that we just use our phones to take pictures now. We bought a Nikon J1 for our trip to Europe about 4 years ago and I don’t think we’ve pulled it out since. I honestly don’t know much about photography, but after seeing some of your photos, we may have to reconsider. Those are some awesome shots!

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Go F Yourself. Honestly, phones these days produce perfectly capable shots for MOST of our applications. And, they are always with us, so our ability to shoot quietly and conveniently is definitely aided by our camera phones. 🙂

  5. Timely post Steve, we have been talking about buying a decent camera (I have a feeling we will be taking a ton of pictures coming up) bookmarking this one for later!

    Appreciate you taking the time to put this together – since I know we can trust ya!

    1. Thanks Apathy! This was one of my favorite articles to write, in fact. It’s kinda like a challenge for me to capture the best of what our country has to offer without spending an arm and a leg on the equipment to do it! 🙂

  6. Wow, awesome post!

    My photo skills are almost non-existent, so reading much of this is like reading a foreign language to me.

    How about you just follow me around and I’ll tell you when to take a shot? 🙂 There was a beautiful opportunity this morning in Colorado as the moon was setting over the mountains with a few clouds mixed in.

    1. Ha! Colorado has some amazing scenery, and I can only imagine the sunrises and sunsets that you get to witness. Here in southern Arizona, we’ve been treated to quite a number of them over the past few days because we’ve actually had clouds. Imagine that…clouds!

  7. This is awesome! I’m kicking myself because Mr. Picky Pincher sold his old badass camera on Craigslist last year. And now that I blog, the dang thing would have actually come in handy!

    In the meantime, though, I’m stuck using my cell phone. Do you recommend lenses that can attach to phones for better pictures? I’m trying to focus more on light and angles since I’m working with what I have.

    1. Nothing wrong with using your cell phone for a lot of applications, especially blogging work. There are some interesting camera phone accessories out there, but honestly, I haven’t used very many of them. I’ve heard good things about fish eye and macro lens attachments, though. Cell phones already have pretty decent macro capabilities…

  8. Gonna share this with Mrs. Root of Good since she’s picked up photography as a post-FIRE hobby. Though it might cost me a thousand bucks if she suddenly develops a “need” for all those lenses you mention 🙂 Pretty pictures make my blog better, right?

  9. Your pictures are stunning Steve.

    I’m an iPhone photographer myself because I believe that the best camera for me is one I will actually have on me and use regularly. Have you seen the results of the IPPAWARDS (iPhone photography awards)? Very impressive, and gives me hope for my own photos.

    There is a fun and very possibly untrue story about Hemingway and Ansel Adams that budding photographers should think about:
    Hemingway is supposed to have praised Adams’ photographs, saying, “You take the most amazing pictures. What kind of camera do you use?”

    Adams frowned and then replied, “You write the most amazing stories. What kind of typewriter do you use?”

    1. Thanks BITA. Yup, those iPhones are pretty amazing devices with very respectable cameras. And funny story – but very, very accurate. Honestly, I hope it’s true. 🙂

  10. We have a Canon T3i with a 50mm f1.8 lens and a kit lens. Not expensive equipment, but more than what we need. This is one of those hobbies where you can really get caught up trying to upgrade your skills with expensive equipment. But if you really want to be good, it’s still more about your skill than it is about the equipment.

    Nice shots, and great rundown 🙂

    1. That sounds like a perfectly fine setup to me. The f/1.8 aperture will give you the ability to shoot in almost any light. The 50 or 35 at f/1.8 or below is always a great option. 🙂

  11. Great article, Steve!

    I recently purchased a Sony a6000 myself to learn more about the ropes after upgrading from my cell phone camera. It might not be the best camera out there, but it was highly rated and relatively cheap.

    1. Thanks for your comment! The A6000 is a very nice little camera. Records 1080p video and its 24MPs provides every bit the quality necessary for huge enlargements. I had a 40×60 canvas made of one of my shots with the A6000 and it turned out great.

  12. Steve, love the shift toward your post-retirement passion! I’ve got a decent, older, Canon Rebel, but it’s just too inconvenient to lug it around. Love your Sony A6000, and will seriously consider it when we hit FIRE in 18 months. Great, and helpful post. Added it to my Evernote, so it must be good!

    1. Thanks Fritz – you noticed the shift! I”ll probably get back to talking more about financial stuff, but I’m always looking for an opportunity to write about something else, too. 🙂

      Sony has the A6300 and A6500 out now, so you’ll probably be in the market for the replacement to my A6000. Mirror-less makes them smaller and lighter, which is always a good thing…especially when you travel! 🙂

  13. I have an older Canon Rebel DSLR. I love it, but I hate lugging it around so it’s mostly at home these days. I use it to take pictures at home and just around the neighborhood. I’ll definitely get a smaller camera next time.
    We got the Sony RX100 for general use, but it is making a lot of motor noise now. I need to figure out how to fix it.
    Your photos are really awesome. I haven’t been able to capture images like this. Probably need to learn more about composition and post processing.

    1. Thanks Joe – the RX100 is a great camera – strange that it’s making a motor noise. Definitely shouldn’t be doing that! But yeah, post processing is an important element of photography. Naturally, you want to get the best shot you can *before* post processing, but editing afterwards is definitely an element in this equation of maximizing your results.

  14. Argh, I’m awful at taking pictures. I keep trying to take better pictures for the room we list up on Airbnb, but everytime I take it, it still doesn’t look very good! I gotta remember – you need to make the picture!

    1. Thanks for the comment, FP. Lighting is your friend with indoor photography. Make sure every window is open and light is on, and always shoot AWAY from the light, not into it. A post-processing photo application like Photoshop will help shore up your shots, and if your camera supports shooting in “raw”, do that. Compression will limit your post-processing capabilities.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mr. Tako. Honestly, I lust over the nicer cameras too. I know they won’t improve my photography, but yeah, there is some amazing photographic technology out there.

  15. This is a really helpful post! I’ve never actually owned a DSLR camera and just rely on my phone. Buying a decent camera is on my list of things I want to buy this year though. My phone is ok bit when it comes to action shots or lowlight it just doesn’t cut it.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sarah – you’re exactly right…the phone is good for most shots, but any kind of specialty photography, you’ll probably want some kind of an SLR with fast focusing. Most DSLRs out there have very respectable focusing systems.

  16. Dude, stoked your part of the Sony Alpha family !
    I have been running the a6000 for over two years. My go to is the 10-18mm f4 and then the 55-210mm f4 telephoto … of course the kit lens is in there too.
    I chose the Sony because of its size and weight. As you know I do extensive hikes and climbs where pack weight is precious but I still want a powerful camera.
    Well put together little article that should help a lot of people.

    1. Great minds think alike! I’ve heard nothing but good things about the 10-18mm, and honestly, I’d have one too if it wasn’t so darn expensive. The 8mm Rokinon does a more than adequate job at providing my wide angle capability, at least for the time being. Manual focus only, though. 🙂

      But I agree, the A6000 is a nice little camera. I don’t like the battery life, and I also don’t like the delay before the camera is ready to shoot a picture after initially turning it on, but all in all, it was a good purchase.

  17. I use Sony as well! I have the Sony a5100. I regret not getting the a6000. I literally just want it for the sole reason that it has a viewfinder and the a5100 does not, haha. But at the time of buying my camera, I didn’t have a lot of money and the the 5100 was $150 cheaper, so…

    A few months back I finally upgraded from the kit lense and have been using a f/1.8 50mm and it’s been rocking my world! I love it so much. I love having a mirrorless since it weighs a lot less. Now if only the lenses would be smaller!

    1. Yeah, the viewfinder was one of the reasons why I opted for the A6000. The 50 f/1.8 is a nice lens from pretty much every manufacturer. The lens that you can’t really go wrong with – on a crop sensor camera like ours, it’s more like a 75mm f/1.8, though! 🙂

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