The Photography Student Essentials List | Rachel


So you’’ve just finished the first term of your photography degree, or maybe you’re planning to start one next year. Being an art student doesn’t come cheap, a lot of equipment is needed and your course will require lots of organisation and budgeting! I’m currently on the second year of my degree, so completing my first year has given me experience and time to learn what things are essential, and what’s just a waste of time. I’ve put together a list of stuff that I’ve found essential for my course, which will hopefully help anyone out who is jumping into the world of photography!

DSLR Camera 
Okay so the most obvious and probably the most important one… a DSLR camera. If you haven’t got one you can get one second-hand for a reasonable price and trust me it will be worth it! As a photography student you will be using your digital camera a lot and it’s important that you’re using one that will give you the best results possible. They’re a lot more professional than your average point and shoot and trust me, (if you haven’t got one already) it will become your baby! It’s also handy if you’re a blogger because you can use it to take your blog pictures, result!

Additional Lenses
Lenses are also important and it’s good to know what they’re for and how to use them. Think about what type of photography you want to do and try to find a lens that is ideal for that type. For example, I like fashion and portraiture so I picked up a 50mm Canon lens for around £100 brand new and now I wouldn’t be able to live without it! Remember you can always save money by finding cheaper equipment online or in second-hand shops! It’s always handy to have some sort of telephoto lens too so you can get any long distance shots, so that may be one to put on your “to buy” list!


Memory Cards
Obviously you need these to store your photos on, so they’re a massive essential. You might find yourself filling them up quickly so I suggest having maybe 4 or 5 at the least! I always go for ones that are about 16GB because I get worried that if I just have 1 huge memory card there’s more chance of it breaking. I’d rather have a few smaller ones than one big memory card for this reason!

A Camera Bag
It doesn’t matter where you’re going or what you’re shooting, carrying heavy camera equipment is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it can be made a lot more bearable if you invest in a nice bag to put all your stuff in. For a while I had a tiny bag which just fit the camera on its own and my lenses were just loose in a bag. I decided to buy a Canon shoulder bag and it fits my DSLR and two lenses in it. What’s great is the bag itself isn’t too big either so I’m not carrying around some massive heavy bag, but I know my equipment is all in one place and less likely to get damaged!

35mm Film Camera & Film
I didn’t own any sort of film camera until a few months into my degree when we were encouraged to start using film. I’ll be honest, I’m still not totally comfortable with it but it’s fun to try and you can find good deals on used film cameras online! I’d say unless you’re really serious about shooting film then you don’t need to worry too much about what camera you buy. I got a cheap Pentax SLR bought for me as a gift and I think it was around £20 which is pretty good! Maybe even ask your grandparents if they have one, who knows what they have lying around?! You’ll also obviously need film and it can get quite pricey. I always buy around 3 or 4 packs together because it usually works out cheaper than just buying one. It’s always good to have a search on Ebay and Amazon and see what deals you can find.


Print Box & Sleeves
If you have a tutor like mine who constantly goes on about presentation, you’re going to want to get yourself a print box and some print sleeves. After constantly being nagged at for putting my work in a portfolio folder/book, I gave in and now I kind of agree that it just looks a whole lot more professional! It can work out quite pricey though. I got my first lot from Silverprint and I think one box and one pack of sleeves came to around £26. I made a huge mistake though and found if you look around on sites like Amazon and Ebay, you can get them a lot cheaper! If you buy a couple they should last you for the whole of the course, so it may be worth investing in if you get marked for your presentation. Plus, you can always use them for your portfolio after you graduate!

Hard Drive 
You’ll need this to store all of your work and your images on and trust me you’ll fill it up quickly if you’re dealing with RAW camera files (oh and there’s a tip, ALWAYS shoot on RAW). At the start of this academic year I bought myself a new 1TB hard drive so hopefully I’ll be sorted for a while! Just don’t always rely on your hard drive and make sure you back up any important work/images to multiple devices.


Sketch Books
My degree course may be different to other people’s but we work in sketchbooks a lot. Every assignment needs a new sketchbook and it can get really pricey. Luckily Hobbycraft have a range of scrapbooks which I’ve found work perfectly. They’re around £5 each and you get student discount too! Always make sure you have a sketchbook ready for the next assignment, before you get the brief. There’s nothing worse than starting an assignment with no book and having to start later than everybody else and have loads of work to catch up on!

Editing Software
Obviously you’re going to need some sort of editing software so you can tweak little things and make sure your images are the best they can be before submitting them! Personally, I use Photoshop but lots of people praise Lightroom too. I guess it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as you know how to use it! I wouldn’t say editing software is the biggest priority if you don’t have the money though. Your uni will most likely have it on their computers, so as long as you don’t mind working on your images there, you should be fine!


I’m not saying you should go out and buy all this stuff straight away. It’s always good to make purchases gradually so you don’t blow all of your student loan in the first week! But I’ve realised that some of this stuff is really important for this subject and I didn’t own them until towards the end of my first year and quite honestly, I found myself struggling a little without them!

I know this post is a little late considering everyone started a few months ago, but I really wanted to write it in hope that any students out there find it even just a little bit helpful! If there’s anybody out there who’s also doing a photography degree or has even graduated that can think of a few things that I may need to invest in, please do let me know!!


7 thoughts on “The Photography Student Essentials List | Rachel

  1. Great advice! I was really lucky that my university gave us each our own hard drive at the beginning of first year, they said it meant no-one had any excuse for losing files or handing in work late! I bought an entry level DSLR just before starting when I was getting into photography but we were allowed to borrow cameras and after first year I pretty much stuck to borrowing as their cameras were a lot better than mine. I lost count of how many sketchbooks I went through, one for each assignment like you said until 3rd year when I’d got ahead and bought all my books before term started only to be told they were switching to online blogs! A good camera bag is essential, especially if you’re studying away from home and constantly have to cart your kit back and forth. I also enjoyed analogue photography a lot more once I had my own SLR to work with as it was so much easier to get to know my own camera and like you said you can get them pretty cheap. And obviously a student copy of Photoshop is an absolute must, there’s no way I could’ve got by without it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m an art student but I take photography classes. I just bought a hard drive the other day and it was crazy expensive. People seem to think that being an art student is cheap when that is so far from the truth. Your photos are incredible by the way!


    • No it definitely is not cheap!!! The amount of sketchbooks we go through and in photography we have to get photos printed, then use film, get it developed and buy paper for the darkroom (which is super expensive) it’s crazy!!! Thank you, hope your course is going well! x

      Liked by 1 person

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