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As someone who has been creating content online for over twelve years, I’ve seen trends come & go, which has led to many, many tech purchases to gain a competitive advantage. Not all were worth the time & money that I invested in them, and in today’s influencer-driven culture, the pressure to purchase the latest & greatest technology is ever-present. I’m excited to share my experiences & recommendations so that you won’t make the same missteps I did in this comprehensive guide to the essential tools for content creators.
For me, my mobile phone has been the most consistently important purchase I’ve made. I’m not encouraging you to keep up with the latest model every release cycle, but if you make any sort of income from social media, upgrading your mobile camera, processor, and features are key. I’m a loyal Android user, particularly the Samsung Note line, most notably of the priority placed on the camera hardware. The Note 9 is my current phone, specifically because of the expandable memory via SD card and the S Pen, which allows me not only to use the pen to draw on images in my Instagram Stories but also because the pen can act as a Bluetooth camera remote. It also has a Pro mode that enables adjustable camera settings like aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, as well as to shoot in RAW.
The best camera is the one in your hand, which is why so many creators still use their phone for both photos and videos. I recommend budgeting for an upgrade every two years especially if you rely on your front-facing camera often.
Several years ago, I purchased a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR camera body with the guidance of a photographer friend. In that same Amazon order, I also bought a fixed 50mm 1.8 lens and an 18-75 zoom lens. This is still the same camera I use for many of my fashion photoshoots where I want dreamy depth of field and lifelike clarity. If you are a fashion blogger or will be primarily taking portraits, a fixed 50mm 1.8 is a wonderful starter lens and in my opinion, should be your only initial lens investment.
Upgraded lenses are on my wish list, including a 50mm 1.4 lens or a 35mm 1.4. NotJessFashion has a wonderful post on the best camera gear for fashion bloggers if you’re interested in learning more and drooling over some seriously expensive gear.
In terms of upgrades, it all depends on your budget. If you’re not planning on using your DSLR for video, a used or refurbished Canon Rebel T3i will serve you extremely well. If you’re interested in shooting video, autofocusing models & lenses are available (but can contribute to noise pollution in the video). If you’re going to be using it for product photography, particularly flat lays or high-end fashion shoots, and you have a healthy budget, I recommend investing in a full-frame DSLR camera.
My most recent camera purchase was the Sony A5100, a compact mirrorless camera. It came highly recommended by nearly every YouTuber and beauty guru who relied on it for makeup selfies, but its lightweight, compact size was what truly made it a valuable purchase for me. DSLR cameras tend to be fragile, so a mirrorless camera makes the perfect travel companion.
A key learning from this purchase, however, was that Sony cameras tend to overheat while shooting video over 10 minutes in length, so definitely read reviews specific to overheating before diving into a camera purchase of any kind.
One of the best investments I’ve made in my content was the purchase of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I’m currently on the Photography plan for $9.99 per month, granting me access to Photoshop and Lightroom. In addition, a Creative Cloud subscription comes with access to Adobe Spark, a great tool for creating graphics, and Adobe Fonts, which allows you to use premium fonts for free that sync across all your Adobe apps.
A good piece of content can be made even better with the addition of a few key accessories. For beauty photos, a photography bounce is a must. Also known as a reflector, they help to redirect light and fill in the shadows for about $20. This is the size & shape that I prefer, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
Ring lights are still one of the best ways to light your content, whether photo or video. If you aren’t ready to invest in a full-size light, this selfie ring light & stand is a great inexpensive alternative. My Samsung Note 9 is nearly too heavy for the phone holder, but I still clamp the light onto a tripod or my desk.
Speaking of ring lights, when gathering links for this post, I found several 18-19” lights under $100 so they may not be as far out of budget as you might think.