- IMac 21.5″ or 15″ MacBook Pro – the bigger the processor and the more RAM the better for photo processing but any Macbook or IMac is way better than using a PC – trust me on this. Not cheap but essential
- A one or two terabyte external hard drive – this is called backup and it’s also essential to the safe storage of your precious images. Don’t leave the images on your memory cards
- Any full-size or DX-size digital single lens reflex camera with preferences for Canon or Nikon line – buy something like a Canon 7D or 60D or Nikon D-90 or D-7000*. All will produce professional-quality images
- Buy the biggest external flash your manufacturer provides – You can never have too much light especially as you’re going to buy an umbrella (see below) or at least be bouncing your flash
- In addition to the kit lens (17-55 or whatever) get a fast lens for shooting available light – Nikon and Canon have 50mm f/1.8 lenses that sell for around $15o (cheap but good)
- Get a RAW editor software and stop shooting JPGs – Capture NX 2 (Nikon only) or Aperture (Mac only)and Lightroom 3 for all
- Check out NIK’s software plug-ins and consider buying the complete package – you too can look like you’ve spent days in the digital darkroom – same for Seim filters – get both
- Since both Canon and Nikon popup flashes can control an external flash buy an umbrella and stand for remote pro lighting on portrait shots
- Buy a large-format colour printer (11X17 or larger) = Epson 2880 or 3880 or Canon Pro 9000 or 9500 Mark II printers and buy paper made by the same manufacturer**
- If you’re using a PC or non-Mac monitor buy a monitor calibrator*** – Printing got consistent once I calibrated my monitor so what I saw was what I got
* Yes it’s the photographer and not the camera that makes the difference but any DX or full-size DSLR sensor will out produce and out shoot all the compact camera sensors. Smaller cameras mean smaller sensors with more noise, less ability to shoot at high ISO values and are more difficult to hold steady (as they aren’t as heavy). Full size cameras are a pain to lug around all day but you did buy yourself a decent camera bag right?
** Colour printing your artwork at home is cheaper (I don’t consider Wall-Mart or drug store prints as art) and more creative than sending images to commercial printers. There’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo out there about matching printers to print papers. Until you know the difference, it makes sense to buy paper from the printer manufacturer. Both Epson and Canon sell professional inkjet papers in a wide variety of formats specifically for their printers that yield professional results.
*** I thought I’d wasted $250 when I bought my calibrator but I was wrong. Even the least expensive will help you get your PC colour monitor (I’m using a ViewSonic VP2250wb that is a true RGB photographic monitor that’s being driven by a MacBook Pro) to reproduce more accurate colors that match what come out of your printer. At $500 you can buy a calibrator that will also balance your printer colours but this is a pretty big investment for most of us who aren’t selling prints (think high-end wedding photographers)