Student Supply List For Digital Media, Graphic Design And Professional Photography

Quick Look

Minimum REQUIRED equipment

  • Camera Body
  • Camera Lens
  • Tripod
  • Extra Camera Batteries
  • Extra Memory Cards and Card Reader
  • Audio Recorder
  • Headphones
  • Camera / Gear Bag
  • Insurance

Optional but highly suggested additional equipment

  • Filters: UV, ND, Polarizing
  • Flash
  • Color Checker
  • Remote Trigger / Intervalometer
  • Sensor Cleaning Supplies
  • Personal Computer

DETAILS: Required Equipment

Camera Bodies

All students entering the Graphic Design, Digital Media and Professional Photography programs are required to have their own digital camera. There are many different cameras that can be acquired, with a number of factors to consider.

At minimum, your camera must:

  • Support manual controls (specifically manual exposure)
  • Use interchangeable lenses
  • Capture high definition video (1920x1080 minimum)
  • Preferably have custom white balance capabilities

Other capabilities to consider are:

  • Audio input and monitoring
  • Sensor size (APS vs full frame)
  • The dominance of mirrorless cameras

Most of the additional gear we have for check out including lenses and small system strobe are compatible with Nikon, Canon and Sony. Using these brands allows for more opportunity to work with additional gear from our checkout system, but they are not the only professional quality cameras on the market. Alternatives include Olympus, Pentax, Fujifilm, Leica, and Panasonic.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras generally offer lighter weight, and often superior low-light performance. But those features come at a price. It’s worth noting that Nikon, Canon, and Sony are discontinuing their DSLR cameras, and will be making only mirrorless going forward.

Suggested Cameras

Regardless of brand, suitable cameras come in two basic categories:


The following are good and economical examples for APS sensor cameras. Because these cameras are more for amateurs than professionals, they can lack certain functionality like custom white balance and audio connectivity or monitoring. Canon, Sony and Nikon offer many options in this range:


Full-Frame Sensor cameras are generally more expensive than APS Sensor cameras, but offer additional features. These are good examples of full-frame sensor cameras:

Camera research resources

DP Review is one of the most informative websites for digital photography and camera reviews.Here's an excellent side-by-side comparison of camera features at

Something to consider

A camera is a very “personal’ item. It can also represent a major investment. You will likely discover you have very specific preferences. Students might consider purchasing a used camera and becoming more familiar with photography and videography before making a major investment in their camera.

It is also more than acceptable to use a DSLR camera for our program. Some of these can be purchased for very affordable prices.

Camera Lenses

Digital SLR cameras can be used with a variety of interchangeable lenses. There are several factors that need to be considered when purchasing a lens, including: maximum aperture; glass quality; focusing technology; image stabilization and vibration reduction; what size sensor it is manufactured for; focal length; zoom vs. prime lenses.

As a result, it can be an overwhelming task to choose an appropriate lens when first engaging with photography. We recommend first year students buy one lens to begin and wait until they better understand lens technology before buying any additional lenses.

We will thoroughly cover lenses as part of the first semester, after which point a more educated purchase will be possible. We simply cannot adequately cover all of the factors that need to be considered in this document.

The preferred lens to start the program is one that provides close to a normal angle of view — and this will depend on the size of the sensor in your camera.

For a full-frame sensor it is approximately 50mm. For a smaller cropped APS sensor it is approximately 28mm. The lens MUST be an f/2.8 or faster lens (smaller f#), so that students can complete assignments that teach shallow depth of field.

We recommend that you avoid buying a camera with a “kit” lens as these lenses are typically not very fast (have a large maximum aperture) and inferior glass quality. This recommendation is particularly important for students in the Professional Photography program.

The following are direct links to some lenses that would work well. These links are to B&H Photo in New York City, which is not the only source of these lenses.

Example Nikon Lenses

Example Canon Lenses

Example Sony Lenses

Camera Lens research resources

Please remember that it is our recommendation to wait before purchasing any additional lenses.

Here is a basic introduction to factors to consider when buying a lens.


Camera tripodTripod

A tripod rated for approximately 15 pounds is recommended in order to ensure that it is a quality and sturdy tripod. Inexpensive, lightweight tripods do more harm than good. One major thing to think about in this category is weight. There are very good quality aluminum tripods, but they can be heavy.

There are also more expensive tripods made of carbon fiber that are great for those who need to be concerned about weight — a backcountry, landscape photographer, for example. Induro and Bogen are two companies that make very good tripods in both the aluminum and carbon fiber categories.

Be aware that the head and legs of a tripod are TWO SEPARATE ITEMS unless they are specifically packaged together.

Camera BatteryExtra Camera Battery

Your camera will come with a battery, but it is necessary to have at least two camera batteries. Different cameras take different batteries, so be sure to have the correct battery for your camera when purchasing additional batteries. We recommend batteries from the camera’s manufacturer. You will get what you pay for.

SD CardDigital Media/Storage Cards

Digital cameras save images to storage cards. The type of card needed depends on the camera (the two most common storage card types are CF Express and SD). The links provided in the camera section will provide this information.

Two factors to consider when purchasing a storage card are storage capacity and read/write speed. Cards with more storage capacity and faster read/write speeds will be more expensive. Be sure any card you purchase meets the minimum specifications of read/write speed for your camera. We recommend either Lexar or SanDisk cards. You will get what you pay for.

Digital Storage Card ReaderStorage Card Reader

A card reader is needed to download your images to your hard drive. We don’t use camera software to download images to the computer. Make sure the reader is compatible with the type storage card your camera uses.

Connectivity refers to how an external device connects to a computer. The storage card reader and the portable hard drives you will receive as part of the program fee are all external devices in which connectivity needs to be considered when purchasing.

The most common connections currently in use are: USB III, USB C, and Thunderbolt 3. The computer(s) to which you will be connecting offer specific connectivity options. Adapters may be required.

Audio Recorder

Few things can ruin a video or digital film easier than bad audio, and the recording capabilities of many cameras are not ideal, or non-existent. While a variety of audio recording gear is available through our check-out system, it is no replacement for the certainty and convenience of having your own audio recorder.

Many of our students use Zoom brand recorders, as they offer a range of proven, rugged products at a variety of price/capability points. ANY of these models meet our requirements:

Audio Recorder Zoom H1nZoom H1n (approx. $100) is a lightweight recorder small enough to fit in your pocket, but powerful enough to record up to 24-bit broadcast-quality .WAV files with the built in XY Stereo microphone. Or pair the H1 through its 1/8-inch input to a range of non-condenser microphones. You can even connect it to record audio straight into your computer.

Audio Recorder Zoom H4nZoom H4n Pro (approx. $150) is used by video producers and journalists worldwide. The H4n adds two XLR inputs with phantom power to support condenser microphones. This means it will support nearly every microphone available. We recommend this audio recorder because its versatility and capability make it a strong value for the price.

Over-the-ear Stereo Headphones Over-the-Ear Stereo Headphones

Headphones are needed for video and audio editing work. Look for a wide tonal range and comfort — you’ll be wearing these headphones for long periods. Do not purchase in-the-ear or earbud type headphones. These are not good for editing in a group lab environment or for making critical audio decisions.

Camera and Gear Bag Camera/Gear Bag

There are many, many options here and this is a very personal choice. We recommend you purchase a bag that works well with how you work. For example, if you have a laptop computer, consider a bag that will accommodate it. If you’re interested in outdoor and adventure photography, you might want to purchase a backpack style of bag.


All Professional Photography students, and Digital Media/Graphic Design students must show evidence that they have at least $10,000 worth of insurance that specifically states it covers equipment that is checked out from the school.

This insurance enables students to take advantage of our extensive checkout equipment and access specialized studio areas. Our recommended insurance will also cover personal equipment including computers and mobile devices.

If students wish to purchase the insurance through riders on homeowner’s insurance or other means, the key is they demonstrate:

  • The insurance is for at least $10,000 coverage for photography and photography related equipment rented or borrowed
  • The insurance states a date range of coverage for the time-frame during which equipment will be used

For the convenience of students, we have identified a vendor that meets these requirements. Their policies include $25,000 coverage for checkout (rental) equipment, plus your choice of $5,000 or $10,000 coverage for your “personal equipment” like laptops or camera equipment. Please note: while we do provide a link to this vendor, they are the only option available.

See Isaacson School Insurance Information (below) for more information.

Optional (but Highly Recommended) Additional Equipment


UV (Ultra Violet) — Ultra-violet filters should be put on all camera lenses to provide protection against dust and scratches to the lens. Note that the quality of a filter can affect image quality. More expensive filters use higher quality glass and are less likely to compromise the image quality of the lens. Filter sizes are measured in millimeters, but are not the same as the focal length of the lens. Refer to the specifications of your lens to determine the correct filter size.

Assorted camera Lens Filters Neutral Density – A neutral density filter is a critical tool for managing exposure and depth of field while shooting video in bright lighting conditions. You will need to purchase the filter based on your lens thread size.

Polarizing – A polarizing filter reduces glare and reflections. It also produces more saturated colors in a capture.


Camer Flash Small system flash is a critical professional skill for location and event photography. Instruction in this technology begins in the first year of the program. Although there are flashes that can be checked out, it is highly recommended that students consider purchasing a flash so that they can really learn how to use it. Integrated small system flash technology has improved greatly in the past several years. In order to take full advantage of instruction on this integrated technology, it is recommended that you buy the flash on the list that matches your camera system:

GoDox makes affordable flashes for all the major brands.  Our recommended professional model would be the V1.

Color checker kit Color Checker Passport

Color checkers are used to create custom camera profiles and for color management in a variety of capture situations. This gear is required for second year Professional Photography students in Color Management class. See the ColorChecker Passport Photo 2.

Remote Trigger

Prevents camera shake when releasing the shutter on long exposures. More expensive ones have additional features, such as the ability to program time-lapse exposures. Classes include a variety of motion and time-based capture assignments and a trigger capable of doing time-based capture such as time-lapse is highly recommended.

Camera Sensor Cleaning Supplies Sensor Cleaning Supplies

Digital cameras can accumulate dust on the sensor where the capture occurs which can cause blemishes in the image. This topic is covered in the first semester.

Incorrect cleaning of a sensor can cause permanent damage to the sensor and void a camera’s warranty. Here is a link to an excellent source of sensor cleaning supplies.

Computer Hardware

Apple Mac laptop computor Mac is the platform used by many courses in the Isaacson School at CMC’s Roaring Fork Campuses, but it is possible to use a Windows-based computer provided you have the appropriate software.

Many students make use of the on-campus computer labs rather than investing in a personal computer.

Isaacson School computer labs are very easy to access.  Historically they are open until 10pm on the weekdays and have additional weekend hours on Sunday.

If you are going to purchase a computer we recommend buying a Mac for your convenience. A laptop would also be a good choice because of its portability. Avoid tablets and “air” devices, as they are not powerful enough to use without significant challenges. You should consider the computer’s storage capacity (hard drive or SSD drive) expressed in GB, the amount of RAM (random access memory — the more the better) and GHz, which refers to processing speed.

A good computer salesperson should be able to help you choose a computer based on your needs. Be sure to discuss the fact that you will be using it for: digital imaging; video editing; running Adobe Creative Cloud applications. You will often be running multiple software applications at once.

The monitor is another important consideration. Laptop screens are not acceptable for much digital imaging work. Many creative professionals do a lot of work on laptops, but connect the laptop to an external monitor for critical digital imaging work. If purchasing a laptop, make sure it can to connect an external monitor. This is another item that would be better to purchase after getting further into the program and better understanding color management and the calibration of monitors.

Computer Software

Whatever computer you choose, the computer doesn’t help if you don’t have the software. An Adobe Creative Cloud subscription is provided free to every Isaacson School student. This subscription will work on a personal home or laptop computer. Students will also be using Microsoft Office products like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All CMC students have a free Office365 account, accessible through Basecamp.

Students should use this rather than relying upon solutions like Google Docs.

All student can also register for the free education account provided by AutoDesk, the publisher of powerful 3D applications, including Maya and Fusion360. Your student account will also give you access to many other AutoDesk professional products.

Web Hosting Account

A web address (.com, .biz, or .net) is the ongoing home of your professional portfolio. It provides a robust email account that presents a professional tone. It enables .ftp file transfers of the large files very common in the professional arena.

When shopping for web hosting it is tempting to prioritize price, but there are several factors that affect the value proposition, including: number of email accounts; total storage limit; transfer limit; domain registration fees; control panel ease of use. Plan on spending at least $100/year to maintain a suitable web hosting account.

Additional Information

Software Tutorials

Classes that include learning software applications will often use online tutorials by LinkedIn Learning instead of software manuals. An unlimited LinkedIn Learning subscription is provided free to CMC students. Your LinkedIn Learning account provides unlimited access to the resource, not just the lessons used in a particular class. You can use LinkedIn Learning for other courses or simply for personal and/or professional development.

Books for Classes

All PHO, MGD, and IMD-prefix classes are exempt from the CMC Learning Materials Program. Most of these courses use open-source resources or LinkedIn Learning.

For the small number of courses that require a textbook, purchases of textbooks are eligible for financial aid reimbursement. However, reimbursement can take time (sometimes several months), so book costs need to be considered when budgeting.

All general education (math, English, communication, humanities, etc.) courses will require a textbook.

The cost for books can add up. There are not specifics to list, but definitely a category to consider when budgeting for expenses. You can easily spend $50-100 on books for a class.

You might consider utilizing the CMC Learning Materials Program for general education classes. In particular, mathematics and “hard” science* courses in particular often require expensive books, so the CMC Textbook Program can often provide savings in those instances.

Even if the Learning Materials Program isn’t going to provide a costs savings, many students find the certainty and convenience of the Program worth the cost, and the cost is applied directly to your account, making financial aid coverage immediate rather than your waiting for reimbursement.

* Courses like Biology, Chemistry, and Geology as opposed to social sciences (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.).

Program Fee

All students in the Digital Media, Graphic Design, and Professional Photography programs are charged a $260 per semester Program Fee.

two portable hard drives This fee was approved by the College’s Board of Trustees and covers expenses for equipment, facilities and supplies that only students in those programs have access to. This includes:

  • Two portable hard drives to meet the asset management protocols of student image libraries
  • Access to multiple Epson inkjet photo printers
  • Access to the digital photography studio
  • Access to multimedia studio with recording booth and control room
  • Conditional access to Prototype Lab
  • Conditional access to the Extended Reality Lab
  • Access to the gear checkout library

If you have any questions regarding this program fee, please ask.

Sources for Equipment

There are numerous sources for computers, video, audio, and photo equipment around the country and on the web. Where you purchase your supplies is up to you, but here are some vendors we trust:


B & H Photo Video


In addition to online sales, you can use the site to locate an Apple Store near you and find expertise in choosing the right Mac for you. Apple does offer a small educational discount.

Think Tank / Mind Shift Gear

Outdoor backpacks for camera gear including: camera cases, bags and modular belt systems.


Substantial student discounts on photo accessories through The MAC Group (Mamiya America Corporation). Proof of enrollment in a photography program is required. The class registration document you receive after registering for classes will serve as proof of enrollment and qualify you for these discounts. This is a great place to buy your tripod, filters, camera bag and color checker chart at a substantial discount.

Unfortunately, none of the recommended camera manufacturers offer any special pricing, but some dealers (like B&H and Adorama) will often offer a discount to students, but you’ll need to speak with a salesperson rather than purchase online.

Special Note

We make a great effort to provide students with a thorough and complete supply list, but perfection is difficult to achieve. Information contained herein is subject to change without notice and additional items are likely.

This list does not include miscellaneous items such as matting supplies and course-specific fees.

Prices, where included, are approximate. Prices vary considerably from location to location, dealer to dealer, and whether the items are new or used.

These supplies, though expensive, are professional quality items that a successful student will be able to employ in a career in the fields of photography, digital media, and graphic design.

Isaacson School Insurance Information

Students using checkout equipment from the school must show evidence that they have at least $10,000 worth of insurance that specifically states it covers equipment that is checked out from the school. If students wish to purchase the insurance through riders on home owners insurance or other means, the key is that they must demonstrate:

  • The insurance is for at least $10,000 coverage for photography and photography related equipment rented or borrowed.
  • The insurance states a date range of coverage for the timeframe during which equipment will be used. In other words the insurance policy must not expire before the end of the current semester.

We have found a vendor that meets these requirements. Their policies include $25,000 coverage for checkout (rental) equipment, plus your choice of $5,000 or $10,000 coverage for your “personal equipment” like bicycles, laptops, or your camera. Please note: while we do provide a link to this vendor, that doesn’t mean they are the only option available.


  • Select Colorado in the School State drop down box:
    • Select Colorado Mountain College (Photo) from the next drop down box.
    • Choose Colorado Mountain College (Photo) not Colorado Mountain College.
  • Select the amount of deductible and amount of equipment coverage you would like for your personal equipment — $5,000 or $10,000. Choose a deductible amount. The lower the coverage, and the higher the deductible, the lower the premium cost. There is also a $5 processing fee. Based on your choices the amount you are charged will change. The $25,000 of coverage for checkout equipment is included in all choices. You may also choose to include liability coverage. This can offer protection if you damage someone else's person or property while working. There is a separate deductible for the checkout equipment coverage and personal equipment coverage. For example: someone breaks into your car and steals both a piece of checkout equipment and a piece of personal equipment and you file a claim on both policies. If you have a $100 deductible, a total of $200 would be deducted from your claim reimbursement.