Getting ready for work: a buyer's guide for photography students

What's the best Canon kit for students starting placements and freelance assignments? Two Canon Ambassadors, plus three Canon experts, share their advice.
A woman walks along, passing the white painted side of a building. She is holding her coat closed tight around her with both hands.

Danish documentary photographer Nanna Navntoft specialises in exploring contemporary social issues through her sensitive portraits. She now shoots on an EOS R System camera, often paired with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens, one of Canon's trio of essential RF zooms. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 45mm, 1/320 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Nanna Navntoft

If you're a photography student, getting experience of working in the industry before graduation makes you more employable and is a vital first step to a professional career. Work placements, freelance assignments and developing personal projects are all great ways to get your name and work known by potential employers.

When Canon Ambassador and documentary and editorial photographer Nanna Navntoft was a student, she spent 18 months on placement at Danish newspaper Politiken and was amazed to see how many email pitches the editor received every day. "That taught me how important it is for students to do a strong, eye-catching pitch when trying to sell freelance photo stories," she says. "Working at Politiken was very important and I wouldn't have been the same photographer without it. I learned a lot from my editor, Thomas Borberg, as well as all the different photographers who worked on the newspaper."

As well as internships and professional placements, Nanna says that for editorial work it's good to keep developing your own personal projects and getting them seen by picture editors. "I'd advise going to as many portfolio reviews as possible, applying for any available grants and taking part in competitions."

Yasmin Albatoul, a Canon Ambassador who photographs food for major brands, started her career while studying for a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology. She began by shooting important university events and occasionally weddings on a freelance basis, before working at a studio in her home country of Algeria and specialising in food photography.

"The most important thing for getting a job is to share your work on social media platforms," she says. "I shared photos almost daily and got clients in different regions. My advice for students is to work seriously on your social networking accounts. TikTok and Instagram have become the two most important platforms for guaranteeing you more customers and diverse work."

Some pro photographers point out that there are pros and cons to social networking. However, it's worth noting that both these social platforms focus heavily on video content, and if you're graduating in today's world, being able to shoot high-quality video as well as stills can open up many more possibilities and career prospects.

Two people leaning in to look at the back of a Canon camera.

Studying photography or film?

Canon's Future Focus connects photography and filmmaking students to the professional community.

When starting out in the world of professional imaging, whether you want to focus primarily on stills, video or both, it's also important to have the best kit that your budget will allow for launching your career. Here, Nanna and Yasmin, plus Canon product specialists Mike Burnhill, Suhaib Hussain and Ram Sarup, give their equipment advice for students starting out in the world of work, whatever your budget.

Best cameras for photography students
Best lenses for photography students
Best printers for photography students
Best budget video cameras for photography students

Yasmin Albatoul, in a white blouse and teal headscarf, holding a Canon EOS R camera.

Yasmin uses a Canon EOS R System camera to create her mouthwatering food images for commercial clients. © Yasmin Albatoul

A photo by Yasmin Albatoul of bright baked delicacies in yellow and orange, topped with slices of lemon and mint leaves, sitting on a bright blue wooden table.

When freelancing, Yasmin says it's important to use the most up-to-date equipment you can afford for the technical advantages that brings. "You must focus on providing high-quality photos with detail and accuracy, so your customer is happy with the result." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 1/100 sec, f/8 and ISO200. © Yasmin Albatoul

Best cameras for photography students

"Equipment is one of the most important things to think about before starting work," says Yasmin. "I always strive to own a camera that achieves excellent results and therefore attracts more customers." Nanna adds that it's good to buy equipment that's as futureproof as possible. "It's nice to buy something that's looking a bit more ahead, and you know is going to be around for a while."

If you're looking for a futureproof setup, Canon's mirrorless EOS R System is ideal. Not only does the camera technology give you the flexibility to shoot with excellent low-light performance and fast frame rates, but all the cameras in the range have outstanding hybrid capabilities, making it easier than ever before to shoot video as well as stills. "In the modern market, video is an important consideration when investing in equipment," explains Mike.

"The days have gone when you might get hired on the strength of your stills portfolio, and video is now almost as important for some clients, so students that have skillsets in both stills and video will increase their chances of making it as a professional," Mike adds. "If you're looking for placements or freelance work, it's also essential to shoot your own publicity videos and short clips for social media."

Hands holding a Canon EOS R7 camera.

The APS-C Canon EOS R7 – the successor to Canon's EOS 7D series – is ideal for students who want to move to mirrorless and expand their skillset but may not be able to afford to take the step up to full-frame.

Canon EOS R7

"The sensor is perhaps the most expensive component in a digital camera, so if you're on a tight budget, you can get more features for a lower price by choosing an APS-C camera," Mike explains. The smaller APS-C sensor means the EOS R7 is smaller and lighter than full-frame models, but it still brings high specifications and excellent performance for both stills and video.

"For instance," Mike continues, "it offers features such as 15fps continuous shooting capabilities, oversampled 4K video and an advanced autofocus system similar to that of the Canon EOS R3, all at a lower cost and in a smaller package."

There's also the benefit of getting greater reach from your lenses, because subjects fill more of the frame on an APS-C sensor than on a full-frame sensor at the same focal distance. "This gives you the opportunity to use shorter and less expensive lenses," Mike points out – "instead of buying a 400mm lens you can use a 300mm or 200mm lens and you have that extra reach thanks to the APS-C sensor's crop factor."

Pairing the EOS R7 with the Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens, for example, will give a view equivalent to a 112-320mm lens on a full-frame camera.

 A hand holding out a Canon EOS R8 camera, showing the top of the camera with lens extended, and the vari-angle touchscreen folded out.

Whether you're shooting stills or video, the full-frame Canon EOS R8 strikes a balance between price, performance and speed – and the full-frame sensor promises a more cinematic quality to your video.

Canon EOS R8

The full-frame EOS R8 offers a step up from an APS-C camera and can be a sound career investment. A full-frame sensor can generally offer greater dynamic range and shallower depth of field than APS-C. "This means the EOS R8 is well suited for those considering a future in portrait, landscape or even architectural photography, thanks to the wide frame coverage and its ability to produce images with shallow depth of field," Mike says.

The EOS R8 has a high-resolution 24.2MP CMOS sensor, Dual Pixel CMOS AF II and a continuous shooting speed of up to 40fps, making it a good choice for events or reportage. It's also versatile, with a powerful DIGIC X image processor and native ISO range of up to ISO 102,400, combined with Canon's intelligent autofocus technology, which can track subjects even in low-light conditions down to -6.5 EV. The EOS R8 utilises the optical image stabilisation in IS-equipped lenses when shooting stills or video, with the addition of Movie Digital IS for video.

The EOS R8 also has outstanding video capabilities, producing 4K video footage at frame rates up to 60p, oversampled from its 6K sensor for higher quality. It can also shoot at up to 180p in Full HD for great slow-motion footage. For aspiring filmmakers, there are pro video features including Canon Log 3, zebras and manual focus peaking. In fact, Mike points out, "the EOS R8 offers video abilities comparable to the EOS R6 Mark II, making this a great hybrid camera ready for whichever direction your career develops in."

A person holds a Canon EOS R6 Mark II camera pointed at himself, with the rear screen showing himself being recorded. The camera has an external microphone attached on top.

The Canon EOS R6 Mark II can shoot at up to 40fps, and also has a 30fps RAW Burst mode with optional pre-capture, which saves half a second's worth of shots before you fully press the shutter button. This clever feature means aspiring photojournalists have a much better chance of capturing critical moments as they happen.

Canon EOS R6 Mark II

If you want a camera with best-in-category performance which could accompany you through your career, then the EOS R6 Mark II is a great choice. "The EOS R6 Mark II is a powerhouse and will suit a wide range of students' needs and beyond, from film and documentary makers to photojournalists and anyone specialising in wildlife or sports," says Mike.

The core specs of the EOS R6 Mark II and the EOS R8 seem very similar, however the EOS R8 is more compact and affordable, while the EOS R6 Mark II includes a number of pro-level features for more advanced photography and video requirements, including longer battery life, dual card slots and pro connectivity options such as 5GHz Wi-Fi.

The EOS R6 Mark II also has In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), which delivers up to 8-stops of stabilisation with compatible lenses. This makes it possible to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds and record steady video without a tripod or gimbal.

For improved flexibility and the best image quality, advanced video features include oversampled full-width 4K 60p video without recording limits, 6K ProRes RAW recording via HDMI to an external recorder, and simultaneous proxy recording to a second card.

For aspiring professionals, the comparison is with the pro model EOS R3: the EOS R6 Mark II matches it in many areas, yet is around half the price.

An overhead shot by Yasmin Albatoul showing an array of ingredients and food laid out on a table and chopping board, including chopped olives, pickles and peppercorns.

Using a fast 50mm prime lens for much of her food photography gives Yasmin fine control over background bokeh and depth of field. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 1/100 sec, f/4 and ISO400. © Yasmin Albatoul

A tall glass filled with liquid, ice, fruit and a glass straw stands on a wooden coaster, surrounded by pieces of fruit and wooden bowls.

Choosing a lens with optical image stabilisation comes in useful when you don't have a tripod. "I avoid carrying too much gear and the lens IS ensures no one will notice that the images were shot handheld," Yasmin says. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/4.5 and ISO400. © Yasmin Albatoul

Best lenses for photography students

"When you're choosing equipment for going on a work placement or freelancing, lenses are just as important as the camera," says Yasmin. "I always recommend having one good-quality lens that can be used in a range of situations and another that is suited to your specialist area."

Nanna agrees: "If you're doing a placement on a newspaper or magazine, it's useful to have a really good all-round zoom lens," she says. "For this kind of work, I also like using fixed lenses, such as a 50mm or 85mm lens, because having to move around makes me shoot better pictures."

A photo taken by Nanna Navntoft showing two boys and a woman standing around the edge of a water table. The boy in the middle is dipping both hands into the water and looking at the camera, laughing.

Fast and sharp, with a 5-stop Image Stabilizer, the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens that Nanna used for this shot is an ideal standard zoom for capturing a variety of situations. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 41mm, 1/200 sec, f/2.8 and ISO2500. © Nanna Navntoft

Shoot like a pro: Canon's RF 'Trinity' lenses

Canon's L-series RF lenses are worth the investment as they offer optical excellence, speed and ease of operation and will last many years, even if you update your camera body. Canon's 'trinity' of essential RF lenses, the RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM, RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM and RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM, offer fast apertures and cover a huge range of subjects. Additionally, some lenses are particularly suitable for shooting video.

However, Canon also offers f/4 aperture lenses that cover almost an identical focal length range and may be more suitable for a student budget: the Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM, RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM and RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM. "These lenses all provide the same advanced specifications as the trio of professional zooms, but with a slightly slower aperture and a lower price," says Mike. For video work, the Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM is a great all-rounder, and ideal for filming situations where you need one lens to do it all.

"Alternatively, some of the fast primes are great lenses for placements and freelancing," Mike continues. "The Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM, RF 50mm F1.8 STM and RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM are all classics."

A hand holding an EOS R System camera with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens attached.

The Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM zoom covers wide-angle, standard and telephoto focal lengths, so it's a useful lens for a range of scenarios.

The go-to lens: Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM

If you can afford only one lens, Mike recommends the Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM. "It's a great multi-purpose lens, compact and lightweight," he says. "It offers a 5-stop optical Image Stabilizer and it's optimised with motors that are designed to give you smooth focusing, whether you're shooting stills or video."

Printed images on a desk next to a computer, Canon PIXMA PRO-200 printer and a Canon camera.

Nanna advises students to have both a digital and a printed portfolio. "It's nice to have your work on your phone so you can easily show it, but it's also good to have it printed," she says. "It's all about making a good impression." © Magali Tarouca

Best printers for photography students

As well as having a digital portfolio of your work that you can show on your phone, tablet or laptop screen, quality prints will show your work at its best. "It's definitely good to have a printed portfolio, for instance if you have a portfolio talk or a meeting with a picture editor," says Nanna.

Canon printing expert Suhaib says there are several benefits to printing your images. "Print will set you apart in a market that's saturated with digital imagery," he says. "It can open up things you couldn't do otherwise, such as exhibitions, competitions and applying for particular jobs.

A photography student in a mustard jacket studies an A3 image printed on a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 printer, which is on the table next to her.

Give your printed portfolio a professional edge

Even on a student budget, you can stand out from the crowd with a printed portfolio that does full justice to your photographic skills.

"More importantly, it will help you hone your photography skills. For instance, you might be submitting prints for a dissertation where parts are overexposed and look relatively fine on screen, but you can clearly see the overexposed areas when printed." Printing your work will help you see these flaws and encourage you to correct them in future images.

Canon offers a range of high-quality printers to choose from, depending on the budget available. Here are four of Suhaib's recommendations.

A woman wearing a lilac jumper perches on the edge of a desk holding an A2 print emerging from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer.

For printing expert Suhaib, one of the great advantages for students of having a printed portfolio is that it instantly sets you apart from those who only have their images on screen. "It completely changes the game compared to just having a digital image that you're posting on your social," he says.

Canon PIXMA iP8750

The Canon PIXMA iP8750 is an A3 printer with a six-colour dye-based system that uses individually replaceable single ink tanks. "This model delivers high-quality prints for a reasonable price in the home environment," says Suhaib. "It's pretty much plug-and-play; you can print using any software and it will give you a good result."

Canon PIXMA PRO-200

"If you're looking for a printer that will allow you more control over your final images, including features such as colour management, paper profiling and soft proofing, the next step up would be the Canon PIXMA PRO-200," says Suhaib. This is also a compact dye-based A3 printer, but uses eight colours for a wider colour gamut. It has a three-inch LCD display and you can fine-tune your prints for optimum quality using Canon's Professional Print & Layout (PPL) plug-in.

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

"For an even wider colour gamut, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 has 10 LUCIA PRO pigment inks, which makes it ideal for fine art prints," explains Suhaib. "It's also great for black and white printing, as it uses a high-density Matte Black ink."

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

If your budget is more generous, another option is the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. It prints up to A2 size and offers an advanced high-longevity, pigment-based 12-ink system, as well as the benefits of using PPL.

"The PRO-1000 is very easy to use, and the quality is really good," says Nanna. "If it's beyond your individual budget, I'd advise, say, three or four students getting together to buy one and sharing it. That way, you'd all have a really good printer to make nice prints for portfolios as well as printing and selling your own work."

The kit you choose for starting work placements or freelancing depends on the kind of work you're doing and the budget you've got available. However, the above advice will help you make an informed choice on the equipment you need to produce work that displays your talents and gets your career off to a strong start.

A figure is seen in focus in the LCD screen of a Canon EOS C70, and out of focus in front of the camera.

"For users coming to video from a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS C70 offers a familiar design while also delivering some of Canon's latest innovations," says Canon Europe's Ram Sarup. "Even with the smaller design, the 4K 120p-capable camera packs in a lot of advanced features."

Best budget video cameras for photography students

Being able to adapt and switch between stills and video gives you an edge. Canon's EOS R System hybrid cameras continue to gain more advanced video-focused features, such as Canon Log profiles, focus breathing compensation, manual focus peaking and zebras. However, as Canon Europe's Ram Sarup explains, the Cinema EOS lineup can offer even more for those dedicated to a future in filmmaking.

"The Cinema EOS range is designed to offer greater control over a variety of parameters – video assist functions, manual focus assist tools, recording versatility, extensive connectivity and customisation, whether via user-assignable buttons or rigging options," he says.

They also feature Cinema RAW Light, which captures the maximum dynamic range in significantly smaller files, giving you greater latitude in post-production. "This versatile yet smaller footprint allows you to make huge savings on storage and media costs, which is an important consideration for many film students," Ram adds.

If you're a video-first shooter but want the flexibility to shoot stills as well, consider the smallest Cinema EOS model, the EOS R5 C, which captures 8K RAW video up to 60fps and also stunning 45MP stills with incredible clarity, wide dynamic range and low noise. Otherwise, here are our choices of the best budget Cinema EOS video cameras for students.

Canon EOS C70

With 12-bit RAW recording, high dynamic range and fast Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the EOS C70 takes filmmaking into a new era, but its familiar size and DSLR-like handling will suit those looking for portability. Its compact design means it can be comfortably rigged to drones, helmets and vehicles.

"The EOS C70 was the first Cinema EOS camera to take advantage of the RF mount," says Ram. "It opened doors to the innovative designs and performance of RF lenses for video. Even with the smaller design, the 4K 120p-capable EOS C70 packs in a lot of advanced features." It also has a dedicated vertical shooting mode and design, making it perfect for those creating video for social platforms.

A person holds a Canon EOS C200 camera in one hand at their side as they walk through a forest.

"Allied with a host of flexible features for the professional videographer, the EOS C200 is a great budget choice for students for a wide variety of production needs," says Ram. "Among its star features is the Cinema RAW Light format, which offers an impressive dynamic range for the ultimate in creative possibilities."

Canon EOS C200

If you're ready to invest in industry-standard kit that can be adapted to suit a variety of shooting scenarios, the EOS C200 is a compelling choice in the Cinema EOS line, offering Cinema RAW Light along with great value for money.

It's designed to be an all-in-one camera, with a monitor, handle and hand grip and looks more like a dedicated video camera. "For some, the traditional, larger design may not be ideal for run-and-gun situations, which is where the EOS C70 could be the best solution," says Ram. The EOS C200 is highly flexible and configurable, though, and can be used with a variety of accessories or stripped right back for use on cranes, gimbals and drones.

For complete flexibility in post-production, the EOS C200 combines high frame rate recording capabilities with 4K capture up to 50fps, and 1080p up to 120fps, all recorded internally to CFast 2.0™ cards or affordable SD cards. "The built-in neutral density (ND) filters offer up to 10-stops of control, for controlling the light in a shot, as well as depth of field," adds Ram.

The best kit for students starting work placements or freelancing depends on the kind of work you're doing and the budget you've got available. However, the above advice will help you make an informed choice on the equipment you need to produce work that displays your talents and gets your career off to a strong start.

David Clark and Lauren Scott

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