Here's what's in my bag

As we all know by now, camera equipment doesn’t mean nearly as much as we often want it to when it comes to creating great images. Great photographs are mainly about vision and lighting…and yes, it’s built on a good understanding of the fundamentals of photography.

Nonetheless, it’s always fun to explore new gear.  It’s even more fun to get new gear.  I’m asked a lot about what I shoot with and what my favorite lenses are.  I’ll take it a step further and tell you everything that’s in my bag.  And since I don’t have all of the equipment I want, perhaps I’ll also share my own little wish list.

For those interested, I have a Pinterest board of all this stuff: What’s In My Bag.  It’s prolly a better way to see all my junk.  But you can always read below too for my commentary of each item.

Camera Bodies

canon 5d III

All the following camera bodies are in my bag.  Sure, I’ve shot Canon since the beginning.  BUT, I can’t reiterate enough, Nikon is just as Great!!  Sony is great!  There’s a lot of great cameras!  If I could buy a new camera body right now, it might actually be a Nikon D800.  Again, just trying to leave no doubt whatsoever of the following: your camera and gear are just tools.

Canon 5D mkIII

I’ve owned every 5D since the original.  Each one has, in my opinion, been a big step forward from the last.  Full frame. Great low light capabilities.  Great IQ.

Canon 5D mkII

The first DSLR to include high def video.  It revolutionized an industry.

Canon 5D

The camera that made full frame bodies “affordable.”  I still have mine.  I think I bought it in 2006. That’s pretty much makes it a dinosaur.

That said, I’ve owned a Canon 1D mk III, 1D mkIV, and 7D, just not currently.

(Camera Body Wishlist)

 Yep, I want a Nikon D800.  I’d also like a Fujifilm X-Pro1.  Heck, even the Sony Nex-6, Nex-7, or Samsung NX300.  Of course, all that said, I honestly still use this camera more than any other (and thus always get the new one).

 

Lenses

70-200

 Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II

This is the one lens I couldn’t live without.  Versatile. Awesome portrait lens. I love the perspective it gives (narrow angle of view, great background compression).  More than anything, it just gives breathtaking results.

Canon 135mm 2.0L

My favorite portrait lens.  And one of the cheapest “L” lenses.  To me, this means it’s one of the best value lenses out there.

Canon 85mm 1.8

I’ve used the infamous 85mm 1.2L many times.  Gorgeous glass for sure.  The 1.8, all things considered, will get you 90% of the way to the infamous 1.2L, but for a mere fraction of the cost.  Since the 135L above was always my preferred portrait lens, I saved the $$ on the 85mm focal length.

Sigma 50mm 1.4

Similar story here to the 85mm lens above.  The Canon 50mm 1.2 is the legendary lens.  If you’re a pro (or rich) and find your sweet spot in the 50mm range, sure, spring for the very best.  Otherwise, the Sigma 50mm 1.4 will, again, get you perhaps 95% of the way there, at 1/3rd the price.  This is the lens I recommend all moms and dads save up for!

Canon 24-70mm 2.8L

Versatile standard range zoom lens.  A must have for weddings.  For normal folks, this is the best standard range zoom lens you can get your hands on.

Canon 17-40mm 4.0L

A great wide angle zoom.  I’d pull this one out a few times per wedding to take in the big scene.

 

Bags / Cases

thinktank retro 30

You’ll probably want to think about two different kinds of bags.  One is a working bag, meaning a bag that you can keep on you while shooting.  These bags typically hold lenses, perhaps and extra body, and accessories.  Then you have bags, or cases, that store all your junk.  These are great for the studio, the car, a trip, etc.

I use the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 for my working bag.  Keep in mind I come from a background in weddings.  It’s a big bag, but I had to have a lot of equipment handy.  They now have much slimmer bags, which I’d love to perhaps have someday 🙂

I also used the ShootSac for many years.  It’s a low profile bag that hugs your body well.  It can hold lenses and whatnot, but I think the Think Tank bags tend to have more configurations and options (removable dividers, sizes, etc) to make them customizable to your needs.  The ShootSac does have the option of many many covers to make your bag fashionable.

As for cases, it’s hard to beat the ruggedness of Pelican Cases.  They’re virtually indestructible.  And they’ll float in the ocean for a few hours (comforting).  I actually own three of them, ranging from a small size that can pass as a carry on (if you ever fly on assignment, always fit your most critical equipment into a carry on!), to a huge one for lighting equipment.  The other is a medium sized one.  There are many options!

Lighting:

My favorite lights? Hands down, the Profoto D1 500‘s.

profoto d1

Profoto lights are simply a pleasure to use.  Some would even say that they can tell when Profoto lights are used just based from the picture (the quality of the light).  I think that’s a bit over-the-top (double-blind tests would also agree with me).  But, in terms of ease of use, exceptional design, and “built like a tank” reliability, they are quite simply the reference standard.  Oh, and consistency, shot after shot.  All things considered, Profoto sets the bar, hands down.

That said, there’s much more value in the Paul C Buff Einstein E640.

einstein

I own 4 Einsteins, and highly recommend them for their value, and the fact that they get the job done.  The layout of the buttons and the “user interface” is light years behind the Profoto systems, but in my opinion, you can still get the same end result.  Plus, they are made right here in the USA! Nashville, TN, to be exact.

When you get into lighting, you of course need at least a few light shaping tools (softboxes, reflectors (the dish kind), etc).  I won’t go into all of those for the scope of this class.  But I’ve owned just about all of them, except for the gigundo $3k+ parabolic reflectors.   But, just for the heck of it, my favorite light shaping tool? Strip Boxes.  No joking.  These are usually only 1 ft wide by 3-6 ft long (tall).  I love the quick light fall off into shadows.

If you want constant light (you don’t want to mess with learning flash), I own (and recommend) the Westcott Spiderlights.

spiderlight

You can get great results from these spiderlights.  And it’s easy as pie thanks to the “what you see is what you get” approach.  Not as good as if you know what you’re doing with a high quality flash (or two, or three, or five), but good nonetheless.  That said, rumor has it that LED lights will be taking over the world of pro photography studios within the next handful of years.

And to that, I’ll add this little handy dandy light to my wish list.

Ice Light

Lastly, I almost forgot, I own two Canon Speedlites (580exII).  More info on those lights here.

Accessories:

reflectors

Reflectors: I tend to prefer the Westcott reflectors.  But most any’ll do.  The kind that fold up into a fraction of the expanded size are great, but you’ll often need a stand to hold them (or an assistant).  I’ve owned this reflector a couple of times…it’s handy in that it props itself up on its own kickstand of sorts.  But, it’s expensive, and it can still fly away pretty easily in moderate to strong wind.
Memory Card Wallet: After shooting just a few weddings, I realized the importance of always keeping my memory cards on me at all times.  Both free memory cards and full memory cards.  That way if a bag gets stolen, smashed by a meteorite, etc, you still have the only thing that’s irreplaceable (the pics of the wedding).  I have a simple system. If the card is in right side up, it’s free and formatted…ready for use!  If it’s upside down, it’s already full.  I like this one, but there are many to choose from.  Make sure you get the appropriate holder for your memory cards (CF, SD, or possibly both).
Rechargeable Batteries: Any will do.  I happen to use these.  I bought them a few years ago and they’re still holding a charge after many cycles.

The White Balance Lens Cap: I’ve owned a few brands of these custom white balance jigs that you use from your camera (no gray card required).  But I like the fact that this one is actually a cap.  That way you’re not carrying something extra around.  Setting custom white balances did not make the cut for the original SPS class, but if you buy one of these, instructions are included. 🙂

 

 

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