Cameras I’ve known and Loved: a Holiday Gift Guide for the Aspiring Photographer

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  All opinions are my own and always will be! I’ll never suggest something I don’t use myself. Thanks for supporting the content that keeps Canoe Place Creative going

First things first. While I recognize this is a “what to buy” blog post, I’m here to tell you that equipment doesn’t matter. You can be a good photographer with a cell phone. You can be a bad photographer with an expensive camera. It’s about how you use your equipment! That being said, here’s a list of what to look for in a new camera. (I could have written three books on this, so please feel free to check back to my blog for more updates and recommendations!)

A few tips:

  1. Megapixels don’t matter. That’s right. It’s a made up number. There is no standard size for a pixel, so the amount of pixels manufacturers can cram onto the censor is completely arbitrary. What DOES matter is the size of the sensor. The larger the camera’s sensor, the higher the image quality. It’s that simple!
  2. As a general rule, the lenses that come in camera “kits” are garbage, even on expensive cameras. They tend to be slow and made of plastic. In this article I’ll suggest a great alternative starter lens.
  3. Brands are all becoming the same. In this global economy, camera parts are being manufactured in the shared facilities so the brand of camera you use doesn’t make all that much of a difference. (Ex. The glass in Nikon lenses is manufactured by Sony.)
  4. Last but certainly not least, whatever camera you choose, make sure it has Manual mode. Anyone learning photography needs to be in full control of their camera!

Okay! Now that I’ve thrown a few tips out, I’ve got some suggestions! These are all cameras I’ve used on a professional level. Although I don’t currently use any of these cameras, I have had hands on experience with each of them. You’ll notice that the prices are all pretty doable, proving that you don’t have to have the most expensive camera on the block to be a great photographer.

My first suggestion is a classic. The Canon Rebel. I’m a wedding photographer ( and spent the first 4 or 5 years of my career shooting with one of these bad boys. They’re workhorses and they have full manual features. If I were buying a camera for a budding photographer, it would be this Canon Rebel with this Yongnuo Lens. I KNOW people are pretentious about lenses and like to link Canon Lenses with Canon bodies, but I adore this off-brand lens. 50mm is a classic focal length for a reason. This lens is light, fast, and consistently nails the focus. I ordered this thinking I would return it and buy the Canon 50mm, but I loved it so much I just couldn’t return it. It’s that good!

This image was shot with my little Yongnou 50mm lens mentioned above. Look at that quality!

The second camera I’ve known and loved is a Nikon Coolpix. You’ll notice that this one is a kit! I don’t always love kits, but all the stuff in this particular one makes sense. If you poke around looking at Nikon cameras, you’ll see that there are several versions of the Coolpix. The reason I chose this one is because it has manual mode! The lens is not detachable, so no need to worry about getting a separate lens with this one. It’s a nice little camera for someone who just wants to document their lives with nice photos! It has all the manual features, so you’ll have full control over how you want your photos to look.

Camera three! Say hello to the little mirrorless Sony Alpha A6000. I bought this as a little “walk around” camera. It’s light, it’s cute, and it takes GREAT photos. The only downside is that the battery life is not great compared to a DSLR. (Not a problem if you’re not used to a long battery life.) Honestly, I love this camera despite the short battery life. The cool thing about mirrorless cameras is that you can see exactly what the photo will look like before you ever click the shutter. This is because you’re looking at the sensor instead of through the lens! This camera would be excellent for someone who wants to step up their instagram game!

Okay so those are my top three picks for cameras, but we know that cameras need accessories! Here are some universal accessories that every new photographer needs:

SD Cards – All of these cameras take little SD cards. When it comes to these, brand names really do matter. I personally use Sandisk pro cards because they record information quickly and are reliable!

Camera straps – There are a million cute ones floating around the internet, but I personally can’t stand a strap around my neck. When I’m shooting with one camera, I like this Black Rapid cross body strap. It holds it at my waist and is comfortable enough to carry around all day.

External Hard Drive – This is important! Priceless photos are too important to keep on your desktop and they take up way too much space. I use these hard drives. (I back everything up twice, but that might be a little excessive for a budding photographer.) There are lots of great options for these. My favorites are these Seagate hard drives.

There you have it! My three picks for holiday gifts for new and aspiring photographers.

If you’re wondering who I am to be recommending products, I’m Lacey! I’ve worked as a professional photographer for over a decade. Currently I shoot weddings ( but I’ve worked extensively as a product photographer for brands all over the country. Please feel free to check out my work and shoot me a message if you have any questions!

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