Becoming a great photographer, more than anything else, requires hella work and lots of practice. It’s not all about the fancy equipment. The way I see it, a great photographer can make art with whatever they’re given, whether it’s an iPhone, a disposable camera or a point-and-shoot.
Because I’ve been asked a lot about what I use to shoot, I’m going to break down my arsenal below. But keep in mind, having the same equipment as another photographer doesn’t mean your finished product will look the same.
You can buy all the camera gear under the sun, but what can’t be purchased or replicated is the way you use light, your creative eye or your ability to make your clients relax in front of the camera. The way you photograph is as unique as your fingerprint! No matter what you have on hand, I want to encourage you to get out there and shoot, with or without the gear mentioned below.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Canon 5D Mark IV, which I’ve been using for about a year now. The first one I bought had terrible focusing issues. I’d manually focus on a spot, snap the photo and end up with a totally out of focus, blurry image. Not what you’d expect when you drop 4k on a piece of equipment. The second model I purchased from Adorama, and I had a similarly awful experience. The camera arrived flawed with all kinds of internal issues, and Adorama’s customer service was the worst (I do not recommend purchasing from them). Fortunately, Canon was able to fix it for me, but a month-old camera shouldn’t need repairing. Despite my frustrations and rocky start, I’ve grown to love this camera.
Pros: Incredible low light capabilities, compact and lightweight, touchscreen
Cons: Shutter sounds cheap, doesn’t play well with third-party lenses, 6-hour battery life
I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but the Canon 1DX is my secret weapon. My love for this body knows no bounds. She is the Beyonce of cameras. I purchased it a few years back for my low-light church weddings, and I swear I can be running in zig zags and it would capture a photo in perfect focus. I haven’t had the chance to use it as much since I upgraded to the Mark IV, but I don’t plan on getting rid of this beast anytime soon.
Pros: Super fast focus, long battery life, solid camera
Cons: Large and heavy
The Sigma 35mm 1.4 is by far my most used lens. It’s great for wedding and lifestyle portraits, as it really allows the audience to feel part of the story.
Pros: Inexpensive, sharp when in focus
Cons: Occasional back focus issues, not super fast at focusing with motion
The Sigma 24mm 1.4 is my go-to reception lens. It’s perfect for capturing all the craziness on the dancefloor with a minimal edge warp. I also use this lens to capture whole scenes both, indoors and out.
Pros: Sharp focus, not too much warp, inexpensive
The Canon 50mmL 1.2 is a classic and a must-have in any wedding photographer’s bag. You can’t go wrong with it.
Pros: Solid piece of glass, fast, sharp, a total boss
Canon’s 100mm Macro 2.8 has one purpose: detail shots. I purchased this lens after losing my cheap 60mm macro, and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s an expensive lens, but it looks, feels and sounds cheap. When it works, it’s amazing and tack sharp. When it doesn’t, it’s a real pain in the butt.
Pros: Great for detail shots
Cons: Clunky, plastic and cheap feeling, finicky focus, expensive
I’m such a big fan of the Speedlite 600EX-RT, I have two. They’re powerful, reliable and easy to use. I use one on my camera at receptions, often bounding light at a 45-degree angle behind me, depending on the room. You can also use them together as remote lights in place of buying radio connectors for your flash. Overall, incredible.
Pros: They can work as radio flashes together, affordable, easy to use, powerful
It’s been a while since I put my Canon 45mm tilt shift to use, but I think this specialty lens is totally worth having around. It’s a fun lens to add variety to a simple background.
Pros: Unique effect, creates variety from other images
Cons: Limited use, difficult to navigate at first
I don’t use my Canon 85mm 1.8 often, but I’ve had it the longest of all my lenses, and it definitely has its place. I find it comes in handy when I want to give couples a little bit of space while still capturing intimate moments.
Pros: Great portraits lens, compact
Cons: Cheap looking, slower focus than other lenses
The Canon 40mm 2.8 is basically a toy lens. I really only use it when travelling to avoid lugging my expensive equipment with me. It serves its purpose well.
Pros: Inexpensive, compact, quick
Cons: Cheap, not a professional lens
I’ve gone through a number of camera bags over the past few years, but this vegan leather backpack by Kelly Moore has been my favorite so far. It’s tough to find a camera bag that is comfortable, well-made and holds everything I need it to hold. But this backpack easily stores my Mark IV, 50mm, 35mm and my 24mm or 45mm TS along with my memory cards, extra battery business cards, lip gloss and credit cards when I’m traveling!
Pros: Stylish, large enough for what I need, durable
Cons: None so far!
Pelican Case 1510
I prefer the Pelican 1510 case on wedding days to hold all my extra gear: lighting, extra lens, extra camera body, batteries, manuals, etc. I do take issue with the case’s plastic wheels, and I would love to see a version with rubber wheels like the ones they use on skateboards. Fingers crossed.
Pros: Extremely durable, carry-on approved, flood proof
Cons: Plastic wheels
I hope this was helpful for you. Keep your eyes peeled for part II, “My Editing + Office Gear + Why It Really Matters”