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Photography Class guidelines to Digital SLR Cameras

Updated on March 20, 2017

SLR Photography Class

A few students with SLR cameras.
A few students with SLR cameras.

What Camera do I need for Photography Class?

Back to school and many students face the fact they need to buy a Digital SLR type camera for photography class. Photography class is mandatory in many degrees from Photojournalism to Digital Graphic Design they all need photography class. Photography class is also good for many other majors that allow an "elective" class within the 2 or 4 year degree. Different people like marketers, multimedia, and animal sciences all normally take this elective as its useful in there fields. The problem with photography class is you need an SLR camera which normally means you need to dish out a good amount of money for one. Hopefully this will be a guide for a student to buy an SLR camera as I have recently been though photography class and these are the requirements of most classes. You will want to do things as cheap as you can but really thats not the best path for most and ill explain why.

What Brand of SLR Do I Need???

This is confusing. I never knew so many different camera types existed! I just wanted to take pictures of my family and pets. Anyway, the brand of camera for most classes will not matter. You can get any brand or model you like - BUT - if the instructor recommends a camera it is best to buy that one. This is due to every camera is different from each other, if the teacher says to do something and you dont know how they many not be able to figure out how to do it on your model (requiring you seek third party advice on your camera from the company or a camera shop.) What I do know is over 90% of people in most photography classes use a Nikon SLR or a Cannon SLR. So with that being said you now have the brand of camera, now to something more advanced...Models!

WTF is the Difference Between a Nikon D3000 and D3100???

OK. Camera models will be the most stupid thing you come across in this world. There are many camera models that each have a few extra features for more or less money. As the years pass the company decides to change the software or something in the camera and call it a totally different number. Basically, any modern day SLR (from the last 5 years to now) will have what you need to complete the course and take wonderful pictures. Here are some of the actually cameras the class I was in had (and some benefits of them.)

Nikon D3000

The Nikon D3000 is the camera I own personally and used to complete my photography class. At the time of purchase this system (Camera,Lens, Battery) cost about $650+tax. This camera did everything that was required by the class. It is a professional camera with everything needed. Compared to its more expensive counterparts this camera does what is needed. It comes with Nikons VR lens which makes taking pictures easier on the move and has a ton of features. Most photographers have a Nikon D60, D3000, or D3100 they use as a back up camera (ever see a photographer at a wedding with 2-3 cameras?) From my personal experience with this camera I highly recommend it. The teacher easily showed me what I didnt know how to do within the camera panels and could help me really frame some great shots with this camera.

Picture Examples Taken with a Nikon D3000

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Nikon D3100

The Nikon D3100 is the new version of the D3000. This camera has some features the D3000 didnt, with the most noticeable being the ability to record HD 1080p Video! Thats right, an SLR camera that takes stunning pictures and video! This is cool and I would love to trade mine in for this one but of course thats not a possibility due to the fact a new one will always be hundreds more then a used one. Other then the video recording its pretty much the same with a higher MP then the D3000. An excellent camera for people who will love using the video feature as well as the standard still photography.

Photo Examples of Nikon D3100

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Canon EOS Rebel T3

The Cannon EOS Rebel T3 is similar to the Nikon D3100. It has the HD Movie Mode many like and the same mm lens comes with it. The Cannon in this instence is a little more expensive but most photography teachers will be able to help you with any Cannon EOS camera. Its recommended just as often as the D3100 so its really up to preference of company. Cannon often has more options for add ons such as lenses, filters, and other devices. While its still 2nd in the photography field the Cannon is still a great choice for your class.

Picture Examples of Cannon EOS Rebel T3

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Photography Class Tips

  • Don't wait till the last minute to do your assignments! I did this and you can tell by the picture data and quality if you rushed them or not. If you have 3 days to take 50 pictures try some every day. It normally takes hours to do quality work.
  • Rain isn't an excuse to not do an assignment. My teacher said dont be afraid and get out there in the rain. The tip of your lens with the UV filter is water resistant, just make sure to keep the body dry!
  • Remember to charge your batteries as soon as you get home so you dont forget!
  • Night photography is long and tedious. I did it during October and it got quite cold outside. Be sure to bring a jacket and if you drive to your location bring a folding chair!
  • Buy a USB flash drive around 8-24 GB to store the pictures you need to bring into to class to edit on the school computers. This cuts down on transfer times by doing it before hand at home.
  • Create an account at Walgreens, Kinkos, and CVS to print out your pictures. During photography you will be required to print out most of your assignments! Walgreens by far was the best for me, they got pictures done right and quickly. For some pictures you edit on a computer first and if you leave white space be sure to put type on the white space "Leave white - Leave White" or some kind of note. This way they do not autocrop the image and distort it on you!

Things to Consider OTHER Than PRICE!

Remember while buying a Digital SLR for class you get to keep this camera after! The camera doesnt disappear and you rarely will get a fair amount for reselling the camera if you dont want it. Many people want to become a Freelance Photographer or use the camera as there own tool to practice with. These cameras can take great photos that can be sold as stock or be used to even start your own businesses such as an eBay business, Photo center for children, and of course specialty imaging such as getting pictures of businesses or products for there websites, advertisements, and other uses. I strongly suggest you pick a camera you will be happy with owning for the next few years. As a photography student you will probably not even take 2,500 pictures in the years time. You might take more but I doubt it. Most of these cameras are designed to take 100-350,000 pictures in there lifetime! Also, you need to consider what kinds of lenses you want to buy. Nikon SLR lenses if you want long range or wide angle cost a ton of money but are the highest quality VR lenses on the market. Cannon has some cheap lenses and a wider range of them are available. The ones with video are nice for people who wish to make guides and videos on youtube for example. Make sure you will be happy with your pick!

Suggested Add-Ons

Though having the camera is most of the battle you still need a few other things to go with your camera. Accessories are required for most classes and if not are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. These things help protect your investment, help you use your investment to the highest level it can, and of course give you more possibilities at that million-dollar shot! All of these accessories I needed and used for my photography class:

Camera Case

A camera case is essential! It holds you camera in a protective water resistant case to keep it from getting ruined. This also keeps all of the other listed accessories together in the little front pocket. This way you will not lose anything, have a place to bring all you need with you, and of course never lose it in the confines of your house, car, or environment.

Spare Camera Battery

A SLR battery can only survive for so many flashes and recordings. While they are extremely efficient (I left my D3000 on for a month strait and it didnt drain 1/3rd the battery in idle) the battery will die every X amount of shots taken. This way you can have a battery in the camera and have a spare battery ready in your case for when that one dies. Real freelance photographers and professional photographers have many batteries (5-20) ready depending on how many cameras they have etc. At first I didnt think it was necessary to have a spare turned out to be one of the BEST add on purchases I ever got.

Kingston 4 GB Class 4 SDHC Flash Memory Card SD4/4GB
Kingston 4 GB Class 4 SDHC Flash Memory Card SD4/4GB

Kingston 4GB SD Card. I have a Kingston thats 512MB that I been using for 13+Years and still works with my D3000. This will be the most reliable of all choices but might not do HD video well.


Another great brand, I have a Sandisk 2 GB I use all the time. This 8 GB will give you PLENTY of room for your photos so keep shooting!

Transcend 16GB SDHC Class 10 Flash Memory Card Up to 30MB/s (TS16GSDHC10E)
Transcend 16GB SDHC Class 10 Flash Memory Card Up to 30MB/s (TS16GSDHC10E)

Transcend 16 GB flash card is class 10 for HD video. This is the one to get if you plan on taking long HD videos and need a card you know will be up to speed for it. It is trusted by thousands daily although all products do have there occasional flaws.


Memory Cards

Memory cards come in all types and classes. It is best to have 2-4 memory cards ready for your photography class. Your camera will fill these cards very quickly (and trust me you will fill them). Most photographers like shooting in RAW or high grade JPEGS to be able to edit the image on a computer. It is said normally only 1 out of around 20-30 pictures are actually professional enough worth keeping. You will end up deleting or saving under "personal" many pictures once you see them on your computer screen. While Cannon and Nikon normally use these memory cards better ones may be available (these most likely work though.) **It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TO HAVE 2GB OR LARGER MEMORY CARDS**


During my class I had to take several shots of landscapes, moving objects, and of course the dreaded night photography! For these shots shaking the camera or for night photography moving the camera at all will ruin the picture do to the long open exposure time. During night photography I had to keep the exposure open for more then 15 minutes for one of my darkest shots! It is impossible to do this without a good tripod. The best tripods are lightweight and durable. The tripod is also useful for self portraits and family/event photography.**Shorter girls will like the 60" tripod while tall guys will like the 70" better. My main issue with the tripod I have is im really tall and have to bend over to look though the eyepiece quite a bit!!**


No, I am not talking about television. A remote control is used to activate the shutter on the camera with no vibration of pushing down. It is also used if you yourself want to be in the picture. This makes night photography 100% easier. Actually, I used the remote more then I ever thought I would. Any picture you would want to stabilize the shot with a tripod would have a greater chance of success with a remote. While its true the D3000 and I assume the other two have a 2 second shutter delay (cheap way to not move the camera) it isnt long enough to get in the picture yourself and if your object is moving it will be timed wrong.

Example of what a UV Filter looks like. It is suggested to look up what size you need for the lens you have!
Example of what a UV Filter looks like. It is suggested to look up what size you need for the lens you have!

UV Filter

A UV filter helps save your camera from intense sunrays. A camera should never be aimed directly at the sun and it can actually ruin your camera if you do. This way if your aiming near the sun or if the camera accidentally aims high to the sky it has some protection. The UV filter also is on front of your lens saving your lens any scratches or scraps it might have gotten if it wasnt there. Its cheaper to replace a UV filter then the lens itself.

Zeikos USB 2.0 SD/SDHC/MMC Flash Memory Card Reader & Writer
Zeikos USB 2.0 SD/SDHC/MMC Flash Memory Card Reader & Writer

This USB card reader will be fine for all memory cards that would be used in a Nikon or Cannon SLR camera.


Memory Card USB Converter

Many schools where photography class takes place are on Apple computers that dont have Memory card readers. This happened at my school...if you wanted to see your pictures you had to wait for a turn at the only computer with a usb memory card reader. This little gadget I got works great for this purpose and I even helped improve the class by sharing it. They are normally cheap and this way you never need to look for a memory card port again...just plug it in to the USB!

There You Go!

When its all said and done this is everything that should be needed in a basic photography course at college. Everything you get will also be able to be used by you for your own goals and achievements. If your not a student this student setup makes it easy to start your own journey into self learning with a Digital SLR camera. From pictures, to video, to sound the SLR camera is becoming the leading camera that everyone wants. Snap and shoot cameras are just not up to grade with one of these babys!!!

This is a close up I did for photography class. With a Nikon D3000
This is a close up I did for photography class. With a Nikon D3000 | Source

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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, this was amazing detailed stuff, I have no idea about cameras but even I got drawn into this, nice one! you managed to make me understand the difference, I was going to be all technical here and say this one was better than that one etc, but that would mean me having to scroll back up to remember which one was what! lol but seriously, I could see the difference between photos and the quality of the latest camera, it just goes to show the difference between one and another, subtle it may be, but worth the effort getting the better one. I love taking photos, I have an eye for it, spotting things as I walk past and wanting to take a picture, so this does interest me, rated up for amazing facts! and bookmarked for when I have enough money to buy myself one! cheers nell

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 5 years ago

      This is a timely article for me as i am thinking to buy a new camera.

    • travel-O-grapher profile image

      travel-O-grapher 5 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      I myself use a nikon d3100 and i love my camera for its advanced functions yet simple way of operating...

    • infoweekly profile image

      infoweekly 2 years ago from South Africa

      When I studied photography at a university they gave us a list of the equipment you needed. And of course it was the high end one. and then they still want to take more of your money. Photography is such an expensive career move. But worth it in the end if you make it

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