Photography students starter kit

University can be a big leap, there are books to consider, frying pans to clean and new friends to make. On top of that, there’s the curriculum to learn. For many students, it’s a tumultuous time, but photography students have a whole breadth of possibilities and equipment to prepare themselves for (arguably, the best) three years of their life.

The essentials for a photography student

Whether it’s your ambition to join the F/64 group and be the next Ansel Adams, or you consider yourself the postmodern modern-day Cindy Sherman, it’s imperative that you have the right tools. Whilst photography can sometimes be considered an expensive hobby, there are a few hacks to get you started that won’t break the bank.

First and foremost, you need a camera. Whether you shoot analogue or digital, it’s best to get one of each for practice. Photography requires a lot of primary research, which is usually in the form of getting out and taking photos, therefore, you don’t want to be shooting a whole roll of film as research – having a simple point and shoot camera is perfect for this type of work. If you’re worried about the cost, you can usually pick up a standard 35mm camera in a charity shop. Bear in mind that most universities will supply cameras that you can borrow if you can’t afford your own equipment.

Enhance your photography with these essentials

If you want to create sharp imagery, make sure you have a tripod. We can’t all get access to a cherry picker like Andreas Gursky and make timeless shots like 99 Cent II Diptychon, however, a tripod will suffice when shooting larger format images. Tripods come in all shapes and sizes, and you definitely don’t need to go all out to get a decent one.

When shopping for a tripod, try and pick up an aluminium tripod over a plastic one – these tend to be more durable and lighter for travelling. You’ll also want to look out for a ball head, for optimum flexibility when composing your image. Depending on the type of equipment you intend to use, you might want to consider the maximum load weight, some tripods will hold 4kg, others, up to 10kg – be sure to keep this in mind.

Darkroom paper

Another photographer must-have is light-sensitive darkroom paper! This comes in all shapes and sizes, and can sometimes be a minor fortune. Start small with darkroom paper, have enough for experiments until you know what you’ll be using it for. Well-known brands like Ilford are great for starting out at a reasonable price, colour sheets will set you back a fair bit, and considering colour darkroom printing is a bit more technical, if you’re completely new to the art of darkroom, then start with black and white paper.

Film and SD cards

The photographer’s ammo – make sure to stock up on rolls of film and have at least two SD cards when you’re studying photography. You’ll likely see yourself purchasing more SD cards as you progress through your course, but it’s good to start with a couple. Keep an eye out for places selling film at a discount price, Wilko and other home stores sometimes stock film at a discounted price, occasionally places like Poundland and Savers will have it too. Failing that, you can always buy in bulk from Amazon and eBay.

External hard drives

Whether you’re scanning film into digital files or you’re shooting in RAW, photography creates a lot of digital memory – not near enough to store on a standard laptop. Therefore, you should get at least one external hard drive with up the 1TB of memory for all the work you will need to back up. Make sure you keep these well organised, it is very easy for these to become a dumping ground – so treat them with respect.


You’ll be drawing, annotating and cutting and sticking more than you expect in your photography journey. Be prepared with all the necessary pieces of equipment so you can whip out your journal for inspiration whenever you need to.

Protect your photography kit with custom foam

You might find that you will pay a fair amount of money towards your equipment, so it’s best to keep it protected properly. Make sure you have a good, sturdy case for your camera, lenses and accessories.

What’s more, opting for DIY foam inserts, means you can trace, cut and peel your own outlines, making your camera storage fully customisable and offering that extra layer of protection. Or, if you’d prefer, our expert team can cut custom foam inserts to meet your needs and criteria – get in touch to find out more.

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