What's In My Camera Bag?

December 2, 2020 Business

If you're as curious as I am about what other photographers choose to shoot with ,this email is for you.

Below I break down each and every thing in my kit, what I use them for, and why.

Ready? Here's the tea.


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(2) Canon EOS 5d Mark III bodies

Not the newest gals on the block, but they're a pair of workhorses.

I've had the bodies so long I've replaced both shutters, and while I'd like to upgrade, these ladies are still in solid working order so I haven't made the leap just yet. After shooting with them for years, and having zero issues, I can totally vouch for the quality on these bodies. Now that they're not the newest tech out there, you can get their predecessor, the Canon EOS 5d Mark IV for the same price. I also love how you can shoot simultaneously to two cards: CF and SD cards. For large commercial projects, or special one-time events like weddings, being able to create an immediate, in-camera back-up is so reassuring.


If you're looking for a full-frame DSLR that's a bit less expensive, Devin owns the Canon EOS 6D.

This is a great little camera and I highly recommend it for those wanting a little more functionality and quality than a crop sensor offers, but without the hefty price tag of other pro-grade bodies.


Canon 50mm f/1.2L

If you've ever wondered what lens I use, this is it! 90% of everything I shoot is with a 50mm.

I love the focal length - it's not noticeably wide like a 35mm or super tight like an 85mm - which makes it versatile for shooting indoors and out.

The bokeh on this lens, when it hits focus, is close to magic. I will say that it can be finicky with focus - honestly, that's the entire Canon system in my experience - but if you're willing to work through this quirk, it's more than worth it.


Devin owns the 50mm f/1.4, and it's affordable, focuses more consistently and is a heck of a lot lighter.

Highly recommend either, depending on your budget.


Canon 17-40 f/4L

I use this lens almost specifically for interiors. And, yep you betcha I found it through Roger's Take!

While I would occasionally like to be able to stop down beyond f/4, for the price point (and price difference between the 16-35mm f/2.8) this little lens can't be beat. I have used it for portraits before when I don't need as much bokeh, and it's a solid little lens for that, also. I previously owned the 24-70mm f/2.8 and found it to not be quite wide enough for some spaces.


SD Cards

Hear me and hear me well: Do not skimp on cheap cards.

Spend the coin; buy the pro grade cards - I like Sandisk Extreme Pro but have also used Lexar and Trancend's pro cards with solid results.

If you're shooting RAW files, buy them in size 16GB or larger. A 16GB card will hold about 500 RAW files, a 32GB will hold about 1000.

The pro-grade cards write faster, so if you're photographing families with kids, sports, or weddings

you won't have to worry about shooting too quickly for the card to process.


Pro-tip: Leave all files on your card until you've delivered the client's session as a second or third back-up.

Once delivered, delete the files and don't forget to format the card. This ensures you sweep residual data after every use and keep the card in top shape.

With this process mine last soundly for years.


(2) Canon 600EXT Speedlites

Terrified of lighting? This is a relatively easy-to-use, portable, affordable light supplement.

Plus, they have built in triggers so no need for an additional transmitter. (It's little things like this that make my minimalist heart happy; I prefer to keep my bag as streamlined as possible.) And if you're worried about figuring out how to use them in manual mode, don't stress: I've actually never taken them out of ETTL (aka. dummy mode) for the years-long duration they've been in my bag. You can do it!

Tripod

I don't use a tripod very often - personally just for the occasional family self-portrait, and professionally, pretty strictly for interiors.

I purchased a lighter one from Manfrotto (similar linked here) that compacts easily for travel, again, to keep things simple. Then if you need to fly with one you don't need two. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to adjust the top attachment (I'm super technical, have you noticed? Ha.) but once you get that figured out it's a great little tripod for people like me that don't use it on the daily.


Lightstand

To hold your second speedlite and umbrella. I like these because they extend to almost 7ft and have a max load capacity of 7lbs,

which is enough to hold an Alienbee strobe and a softbox. (Softboxes, and the accompanying strobes you pair with them, are much heavier than my everyday speedlite/umbrella set-up.) If I find I need a softbox and strobes for a shoot, I always rent mine from Lensrentals.

If you're interested in renting before buying, you can use code saracoffin15 for 15% off your rental


Umbrella

Old-school but they're cheap, portable and much easier to set up than a soft box.

I like white umbrellas with a removable black back - Wescott makes a good one - that you can use these either to diffuse the light (speedlite facing the subject, turned into the sheer umbrella with black backing removed) or you can leave the black back on, open the umbrella to face the subject, and have the speedlight bounce off the umbrella for a more dramatic, directional look. It offers a nice variety of options, and for the money and supplemental on-location lighting, can't be beat IMO.


Thinktank Airport Navigator

I fought the suitcase situation for keeping my gear contained for years; I just couldn't shake the old-lady vibes.

But after struggling with backpacks and cumbersome shoulder bags for far too long, I gave in to my inner Meemaw and purchased this bag from Thinktank. It holds two bodies, three lenses, two speedlites, and all my batteries, plus their chargers, and other small extras perfectly. I also love how it's overhead-compartment friendly for air travel, so if you're like me and hate being parted with your camera babies, you can just bring them right on board with you.


If I was doing more traveling with my gear than I currently do, I'd upgrade to this Pelican bag. While it's carry-on-friendly, you can also feel comfortable checking it if for some reason there's no room in the overhead bin, something I wouldn't feel great about with the soft-top Thinktank. It's also crushproof, dustproof, 40% lighter than other cases AND comes with Pelican's lifetime warranty.


Ona Bowery Bag

This isn't the most practical bag if you need to have multiple items on you at all times,

but if you're a portrait or commercial photographer and only need a few pieces of equipment with you, this bag is the best. It's stylish, and the patina from years of use and wear only make it more beautiful. Holds one camera and 50mm lens, my phone, car keys, some additional cards, a bar and 8oz bottle of water perfectly, but you'll struggle to fit the camera with lens attached and an additional lens or speedlite simultaneously.

I recommend: Carrying your camera in hand, and putting an extra piece of equipment in the bag.


Eneloop AA Batteries

The only rechargeable batteries you should buy.

They're pricey, but boot in a fraction of the time of other brands I've tried, which makes recharging on set a cinch. Plus recharging is good for the environment; if you haven't said good-bye to disposable batteries by now, I promise, one shoot with these and you'll never look back.

I have 4/sets of (4), all fully charged pre-shoot, so when I switch out the second pair in my speedlites, I immediately put the used set on the chargers. They always charge by the time I need them, but if that makes you nervous, or you have more than two speedlites, I'd recommend buying a few extra sets.