What's In My Camera Bag
Some girls invest in fancy designer handbags; others invest in expensive French cosmetics, for this gal, however, my shopping splurge has always leaned towards costly glass-camera glass that is.
Camera equipment is to me what stilettos were for Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. Whenever I purchase a new piece of equipment, I open up the box and just like Carrie I take in all the "newness" smells. Walking into B&H someday would be like a trip to Manolo Blahnik for me. Coincidentally just like the designer pumps, Miss Bradshaw wore throughout the show, camera equipment has an equally expensive price tag. A girl could spend a fortune on camera accessories!
When I first started out in photography, I owned none of my equipment, and quite honestly I knew nothing about technical terms like focal length and aperture. Most of the photographers I knew were men with a knack for talking shop about their latest gear and accessories while I was renting gear as needed from companies like West Photo and slowly teaching myself the "in's and out's" of the technical jargon. The equipment I now own and use were items I slowly saved up for and acquired.
I get asked all the time now what's in my camera bag, so I thought it would be a good time to do a detailed post about all my gear, and introduce you to what I use to shoot what and why, and where I keep it all!
Camera Bodies // I currently shoot on the Canon 5D Mark III for all my work and have a second body as an insurance policy in case anything happens to my primary camera body. This year, I've had to send my Canon 5D Mark III into Canon twice to replace the shutter and the dial knob that kept falling off, so having a second body really comes in handy! I'm excited to turn my Canon 5D Mark III into my backup body when I upgrade to the Mark IV this summer! I spend the majority of my time shooting weddings and lifestyle images, and while I've never had an accident during a shoot (and fingers crossed I never do), I found through experience how essential it is to have two camera bodies available when you start booking important jobs. You wouldn't want to have to cut a shoot short because of some technical difficulty with your equipment, and when you're shooting a wedding, you don't have that luxury.
50mm f/1.4 // I love the 50mm as an excellent all-around lens. If it were a shoe, it would be a classic pump because it goes with just about everything. I find that it's great for portraits, landscapes, and simple everyday photos. I love how lightweight this lens is compared to some of it's clunkier counterparts, and I use it to shoot most of my flat-lay images for brands and Instagram. I recommend this lens all the time to photographers just starting out because it's relatively inexpensive, priced at just over $300 and it has a wide aperture for more natural light, shallower depths of field and tons of "bokeh" which I'm always about!
16-35mm f/2.8L II USM EF Lens // The 16-35mm is another lens I shoot with a lot, especially at a wedding! In women's shoe terminology, this lens is the ballet flat for my wedding photography business because of how versatile it is. I find that this lens is on one of my camera bodies the majority of the time, and it's become my go-to lens when I am traveling because of how wide the focal length goes.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF // The 85mm is my newest lens hot off the photo runway and let me say it was love at first sight. This lens is my little black stiletto of sorts because just like the shoe, this lens is my sexy go-to when I need to dress up a location and shoot with a narrow depth of field. Since I purchased the 85mm, it hasn't really come off my camera for the last few months. I love how crisp and sharp this lens is even when shooting at f/1.4! The 85mm is the perfect portrait lens, and its focal length doesn't distort body features like the 50mm sometimes does. Lenstip and DxO have rated the Sigma art lens the sharpest 85mm lens ever created, beating out even the legendary 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss Otus. Now that Sigma hooked me in with the sharpness of the 85mm, I think my next lens might be Sigma's 35mm f/1.4 or their 18-35mm f/1.8 lens to replace my 16-35mm f/2.8 from canon.
70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM EF// No matter how dreary your clothes may be, Mary Janes are all you need to give an outfit life. My Mary Jane in the world of professional glass is the 70-200mm f/2.8 from Canon. While it weighs in as my heaviest lens, I find the anonymity it gives me as a photographer when shooting candids at a wedding and it's ability to crop out distracting areas or elements in my frame a handy little tool. The results of shooting with this lens with a wide aperture are that much of the background and foreground drop out into mushy out of focus goodness, helping to dress up the central area of focus in an image.
100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM EF// My momma always used to say, "the devils in the details," and if that's the case, then the 100mm f/2.8L Macro is your demon slayer if you're a wedding photographer or shoot a lot of smaller details! I like to think of this little lens a lot like a cross-training shoe. While it's widely known for being a fabulous lens for capturing 1:1 ratios (allowing you to get up close and personal with your subject), it's also a great portrait lens.
Canon Speedlights // I use Canon's 600ex flashes and have 3 of them. These bad boys have a built-in radio trigger system that makes photographing a reception and all it's fast moving parts super easy and intuitive. Personally, I love the combined button and dial controls that make dialing in the perfect flash settings for all your off-camera flashes easy to do right from the one on your camera hot shoe. I use flash modifiers from Magmod with my speedlights a lot and I'm so glad I invested in them!
Batteries // It goes without saying that you need batteries to power your equipment! I have three sets of AA Panasonic Eneloop Pro Rechargeable batteries to power my speedlights and five Canon batteries to power my cameras. I am used to spending full days (sunrise to dark) shooting on location sometimes with nowhere to charge my batteries if I run out, so I keep a lot of spares around for these occasions.
Memory Cards // When I shoot a wedding I typically take 2000-3000 images during the day. That requires a lot of memory cards when you are shooting multiple weddings or events every week in RAW format. My 5D Mark III also has dual slot capability, so to ensure nothing happens to the images I shoot on the day, I have my RAW photos recorded to a CF card in the camera as well as high-resolution JPEGS an SD card as backup. Having two copies of all my work before I even get back to upload them has been a game changer concerning file management and safety.
Most of my CF and SD cards are Lexar Professional with a higher read and writing speed, so I don't waste time letting my camera catch up to me. This gal is a fast shooter, and sometimes when I'm giving direction and moving through a series of poses or prompts with a client, I think I missed my calling as an auctioneer. The absolute worst thing for a photographer is getting a client into what I like to call flow posing where they are moving and taking direction naturally and then having to stop that flow so your camera can catch up recording all the information on the memory card.
Spider Pro Hostler Belt // I am a chiropractors worst nightmare. After hauling around 40-50lbs of equipment every weekend for the last eleven years as a wedding photographer, I finally went strap free two years ago, and it revolutionized my shooting and my shoulder pain! You have to find what works for you as a photographer, but for me, I like being able to set my camera down when needed and not feel tied down to them. Since I shot a lot with prime lenses, I recently invested in a two camera spider pro hostler belt, so I have more versatility at my fingertips regarding focal length while still saving myself a trip to my chiropractor.
Extras + Some things that aren't pictured // Over the last eleven years, I've picked up a few tricks from talking with and working with other professional photographers. Some of the other things I keep in my bag that aren't related to my equipment are liquor shots which come in quite handy when you have a groom who needs a little cheering up during couples photos or a subject who needs a slight loosening up.
In the colder months of shooting outside, I keep hand warmers that I hand out to my couples and the bridal party to keep them nice and toasty. I also always try and keep bobby pins, hair ties, and safety pins in my bag for when my hair gets in my face and prevents me from concentrating or a guest rips her dress! I'll never forget a wedding I co-shot with another photographer where a wedding guest ripped her dress all the way down the side and the two of us safety pinned it back together for her. I try and keep painkillers in my bag at all times, a bottle of water and cliff bars for long days on location!
I also have lens wipes, my phone on me, a flashlight for when we finish shooting after sunset, and a pen in case I need to make any notes on the outline for the shoot.
My Camera Bag // Last but not least, where I carry all this stuff! I have my trusty Domke Camera bag that I use and absolutely love. It might not be super fashion-forward, but it's comfortable, durable, and fits everything I need.
While quality equipment does matter as you build your business, it’s not nearly as important as what you do with and how you use it. Having great gear can mean incredible things for your work, but I'll tell you that for me, just honing in on my craft is what helped me to realize that learned skill, practice and a real understanding of light can take you so much further than having the best gear.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me when someone looks at a photo I created and says “your camera is so amazing!” It takes time and dedication to be able to photograph consistently at a high level, so don’t be discouraged if you’re starting out and not using the camera or equipment of your dreams at the moment! Trust me when I say, that absolutely every photographer that has gone before you has gone through that same feeling. When I look back at my earlier work, I laugh to the point of tears sometimes at the immense growth in my craft...I mean, I used to add selective color to 99% of my photos in Photoshop. YES WAY. My old editing was like a bad snapchat filter!
I'm leaving you with one of my favorite quotes from Ira Glass, "it's only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions."