HCHS’ Paul Meehl recommends this gear for the budget-conscious garden photographer:
– Camera: Canon or Nikon DSLR for ease of adding accessories and lenses. Try to find a model with Depth of Field Preview button. You don’t need to get the highest-end models, but this is the one piece I wouldn’t recommend skimping on. Note, if the camera you have or are going to buy does not come with a remote trigger (you push a fob and it releases the shutter), order one for your camera. You need this for any tripod work so that taking the picture doesn’t vibrate your camera. Also for selfies.
– Lenses: “Kit” zoom lens (e.g. 18-200, 18-100, 18-270) for all-purpose use. Tamron is a lower end brand that makes decent lenses (not pro level, but they work fine and last). “Prime” (fixed length) lens for portraits, higher quality shots, and shooting close-ups backwards through it. 50mm is great for this. The largest aperture you can afford (1.4 will be pricey, but fun. 1.8 works fine and will cost less). I’d try to find a Nikon or Canon, depending on your camera.
– Budget Telephoto: Opteka makes low-cost mirror lenses. I believe the F-8 (fixed aperture) has been better for picture quality. 500mm telephoto lens should be around $90. Optional, but fun.
– Circular Polarizer: Make sure you get one that matches the size of your lens(es). E.g. 52mm, 58mm – this is the physical size (diameter) of the lens, not the focal length. Brand isn’t too important. Shouldn’t cost more than $30 each, tops.
– Macro Tubes: The plastic ones are fine. You don’t need the ones with the metal rings for autofocus (in my opinion), though they are not much more expensive. Just make sure they are made to fit your brand of camera. They usually come in sets of three for mixing and matching lengths. Should be under $20 for the set.
– Reversal Rings: Allows you to shoot macro backwards through your prime lens. Make sure it fits your LENS (e.g. 52mm diameter) and is compatible with your camera brand. Should be around $9-$10.
– Flashes: Neewer speedlite flashes (make sure compatible with your brand camera) are great deals. $30-$35. Recommend getting two for fun and back-up purposes.
– Flash Triggers and Remotes: They come in sets, usually one trigger (mounts on camera) and two or three remotes (attaches to flash(es). Cowboy Studio and Neewer make cheap ones that work fine. Get a couple for back-up if you can. $15-$20 for a set.
– Tripod: For sunsets, evening shots, portraits, and long-exposures. Optional. Manfrotto makes some good ones. Get a nice sturdy one (read reviews). Don’t skimp, but you should be able to get a decent one under $100. Try to get one with the “thumb ball” for instant locking and unlocking. You can get a monopod that has little extra legs for a very portable tripod that fits in a small camera bag.
– Camera Bag: Amazon makes a great camera backpack with tons of space for only $20. I’ve had mine for years and love it. Optional, but good to protect your stuff.
– Spray Bottle for making it look like it just rained on your flowers.
– Graduated Neutral Density Filters: Optional, but very cheap and great for dealing with bright skies, glare, etc. Neewer sells a kit of 9-10 of them for under $10 on Amazon. At least get ONE for dimming (blue-ing) the sky behind your beautiful but less bright plants and flowers. You just hold it up to your lens.
– Phone Camera Apps: ProHDRX ($5?). For great HDR shots. Hipstamatic for cool vintage camera filters. Manual for allowing you to control (sort of) exposure, aperture, ISO, flash and other things on your phone camera. Good practice for DSLR work.
– Editing Software: PhotoShop Elements (cheap but very powerful version of PhotoShop). CameraRAW (comes with Elements or Photoshop). Adobe Creative Cloud can get you full Photoshop and other apps for $10 per month (subscription).