dave martinez photography » Official website of Dave Martinez Photography, Photographer based in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines.

Teach me how to build

I have been a victim myself, building my own kit… I had my shares of ups and downs, and the heavy costs involved I don’t want to remember, LOL! It looks like a never-ending maze when one becomes so attached to this hobby. No wonder, popular internet terms have surfaced like “LLD (Lens Lust Disease)”, “GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)” and many more. And when you go over to internet forums on photography, most likely the most visited sub-forums are about equipment, particularly on lens.

It’s fun and gratifying when you are able to do it right, it’s what also make this hobby more exciting!


I’m here to share some tips on how to plan for your equipment, your roadmap to complete your kit. Whether you are just starting out, or you’re caught in the middle of this chaotic world of photography:

1. Think ahead. There is no better way than to think of what we want to achieve, say, a year from now, then 3 years from now, then 5 years from now. Plan ahead, step by step on what lenses and accessories to buy. Jot it down on a notepad, throw away some to the trash bin, then restart all over. And when you have come up with your final list, you will have a guide on how to acquire them, when to acquire them.

2. Learn what you want and love the most. If you are into travel photography, you must build your kit based on that. Some of us like to buy a certain lens, then we then adjust to that lens. I think of it as rather the other way around, we look for what we like to shoot the most, then start from there. Exploring other lenses or equipment should be later when your basic and most important tools are already established.

3. Specialize. Try to look for a specialty. If you are into portraiture, look at what do you like to specialize on… studio, glamor, boudoir, candid, environmental, etc… there you can close in to your target equipment. You can also concentrate on how to light your subjects in portraiture like, will it be – available light? studio light? strobist?

4. Don’t meet halfway. If you are really dead serious on your hobby, don’t settle for mediocrity, don’t settle for less, go for the best. When it hurts, it hurts only once LOL. What I’m trying to point out is, for example, you are into wedding photography, and would be looking to invest on a mid-range pro-grade lens, try aiming for the best, or what you deem is best for you. Try saving up for a Nikkor AFS 24-70 2.8, be patient, when it comes, it’s satisfying, worthwhile and no regrets. Don’t buy an “interim” lens, that way, you’ll end up spending more. I’m talking here on first-hand experience.

5. Try and test. Borrow a lens from your peers for a couple of minutes – try it out, hold the actual product, feel it, check it if it’s comfortable, try on how the lens performs. This way, you can be sure that your next dream lens is definite. And you can hear stories and feedback from actual users. Don’t base your decisions merely on what you read on the internet. Here is why joining a photo club is beneficial.

6. Skip the kit lens. Nothing wrong with having a kit lens. If you have one, don’t fret. Use it to the max, learn what focal length you are most using. Some of the image editing softwares can filter you with a statistical report on the different focal lengths, check on what you are using most. Another trick is, stick to a one focal length for for a couple of days… like put it at 50mm. Check if you like it. Next focal length, try it at a wider angle, say 35mm or 24mm. This way you will know what you are comfortable with and what you need next, and can help you decide on which lens to get. If you haven’t got a kit lens or if this is your first purchase of a DSLR kit, then I will advise you to skip the kit lens. Try getting a prime lens (single focal length) – say the nifty-fifty 50mm 1.8. They don’t cost a lot, around a $100. Other suggested first lens: 35mm 1.8, 60mm 2.8 macro, 85mm 1.8. Of course if you have the budget, go for the fixed max aperture zoom lenses like 24-70 2.8 or the 24-120 4, or one of the 1.4 prime lenses out there. It’s up to you…

7. Avoid all-in-one. Try to avoid the temptation of getting an all-in-one jack of all trades lens, like the super zooms out there like the 18-200 or 28-300. While there’s totally nothing wrong in getting one of course. If you need it in the first place, go ahead, don’t hesitate. But if you are serious hobbyist, you might like to skip this. Most of the super zooms compromise lens performance inorder to cram all the features inside a small 10x zoom. And with that price, you’ll be happier getting one of those large max apertures 1.8 primes and with the spare change you have, you can still go buy a flash and tripod.

8. Hone your skills. The equipment we have are just merely tools, they are here to help us to get the job done. But it’s always important not to forget to hone one’s skills, practice and keep shooting until you grow and master your equipment, and then take it from there to your next step!


Now, that “teach me how to build” is done… what’s next? teach me how to _______ ?? Enjoy the ride, and keep clickin’…

Feel free to interact with my blog articles, either by adding a comment below this article, or drop me an email. Thanks for reading! Keep clickin’ -Kindest, Dave


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