I have been photographing professionally since 2003. Before I start talking about what equipment I shoot with, let’s get it out there that I photograph with Canon. I hate the Nikon versus Canon debates that happen on a daily basis. I really do not care what brand you shoot with, as long as you are creating great images. Why do I shoot with Canon? Because I always have. I bought my first SLR when I was sixteen from the Pickering Flea Market and it was a Canon AT-1. I have been loyal to the brand ever since. When Digital SLR’s started becoming actually good and worthwhile to invest in in 2003, Canon was ahead of the game with the 20D and I bought one as soon as I had the money to do so. I like choosing a brand and sticking with them throughout the whole game.
I have to also say that I am not a hugely technical person. I know what I need to know. That is not to say that I am a dummy when it comes to the technical aspects of photography. I did study photography for four years at Ryerson University and did come out of there with a BFA in Photography. And when I studied there, it was the film era so there would be assignments that had me lugging a 4×5 camera all over the city, meticulously taking images. I would then have to process the film and go into an actual darkroom and make physical prints (take that, photographers under twenty-five). Assignments would include shooting a scene at various apertures and then processing each sheet of film so that it was the exact same density in the end. I remember another assignment that had us take five images in a row (five of the same scene to make up a panorama of sorts). We then had to process the film, scan the film, take those five images into Photoshop, tediously put said images together into one seamless panorama image, burn that panorama onto a film negative and then print it in the darkroom. This was before Photoshop would automate any of that for you. Take that, tech nerds.
What I am saying is that I know my stuff but I am also one of the simplest photographers. Meaning, I only own equipment that I know that I need to actually use. I don’t get caught up in the hype of needing every Canon L lens to complete my series (but oh, that red stripe!). I invest in what I know I will need for all of the various types of photography that I do and after years of shooting professionally, I think that I have a pretty good kit.
So what is in my kit? I have this idea in my head that I always want to be capable of transporting all that I need for a shoot. While when I photograph weddings I do bring an assistant, on most other jobs it’s just me. I want to be compact, I want to be able to carry everything in one trip and I also want to be prepared for anything. First off, practically all of the gear that I own is stored in my ThinkTank Airport International V2.0. I have already blogged in the past about ThinkTank and about how much I love their stuff so won’t get into it too much here. But let’s just say, ThinkTank is another brand that I am completely loyal to. They rule and this bag fits everything that I need. Plus, it’s on wheels so my back (and chiropractor) thank me for that.
I have two cameras with me at all times. If you call yourself a professional photographer, you must have at least two bodies. At one point in your photography career during one of the worst times, your camera will break and you must be prepared for that. I have two 5D Mark III’s. These cameras are beautiful and I could not ask for anything more in one.
For lenses I currently own:
– two Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. One of these stays in my kit and one is in the car as a back-up. I love the range on this lens and use it mostly at weddings during the ceremony and reception.
– EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Yes, there is the f/1.2 version with that beautiful red stripe but I could care less. The f/1.4 is just as beautiful and for the price of it, it’s got great value. I love shooting portraits in my studio with this lens. Plus, the photos in this blog post were shot with it.
– EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Lens. Fer Juaristi got me onto this baby after I hosted a workshop by him at my studio. It’s a beautiful lens for weddings but I also really love it for lifestyle family sessions that take place in the client’s home.
– EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. Fran Chelico is responsible for me buying this lens. I shot a wedding with her and saw the images that it produced and I could not stop thinking about it. I finally bought it last summer and it has changed my life. I love it for low light wedding receptions and I love it to get those beautiful marco ring shots.
For lighting, I pretty much only use my Canon Speedlites. I recently bought two 600 EX Speedlites and I am in love. They are a huge step up from the 580 EX II. You have amazing control when shooting with them off-camera, especially when used with the ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter (which I also own). I still have one 580 EX II in my kit to use as a back-up should I need it, or should I need a three-light set up. I also have two sets of PocketWizards so that all bases are covered should any one thing in my lighting equation stop working. Not pictured here is my stand bag that holds three stands, tops for the stands that have a hotshoe for the flash as well as a cord for the Pocket Wizards plus a shoot-through umbrella and the Westcott Apollo 50″ softbox. With these things, I can light pretty much anything.
Above are all of the other things that my camera bag hosts. I have the two camera battery chargers (in case one breaks) and I have a 15-minute AA battery charger for the flash batters. I have a Canon off-camera shoe cord just in case all other ways to get my off-camera flash to fire fails. I have a cheap LCD light that I bought after I photographed a wedding and found that the lights had been dimmed so much that I could not focus my camera on the bridal couple while trying to backlight them with an off-camera flash. I have a Expodisc to help with colour balance and a “rain jacket” for my ThinkTank bag (this comes with the bag and is super handy to have to further protect your
life gear). Another brand that I love is Rogue because, much like ThinkTank, they make cool little gadgets that work really well. Pictured here is the Rogue flashbender. I bought this after watching Susan Stripling on CreativeLive use this to light her family portraits. I also have the Rogue Flash Grid 3-in-1 Stacking Grid System. This little guy is a pretty simple thing that sticks on your flash and allows you to create 16, 25 and 45 degree grid spots.
– Silica Gel – you know those packs that you get in shoe boxes? I keep them and toss them in my camera bag. The idea is that they soak up any moisture which, as you well know, is not good for our cameras.
– Advil, allergy pills, antacids, tissues, Tide stick, blotting papers. Have all of these things in your bag and you are ready for anything. It’s great to have these items on hand for you and your assistant but even better when one of your clients or a wedding guest is in need of one of the above. You will instantly become a hero.
– Equipment manuals. I know, who reads them, right?! But seriously, if you have recently purchased new equipment, throw the manual in your bag just in case something happens and you need it for reference.
– Clear plastic bags. You know the thick, clear plastic bags that you sometimes get from gift stores? I hoard those suckers and keep them in my kit. Why? Well in case it rains one day while I am out on a shoot. While any professional camera can withstand some rain, it’s nice to not have everything out when it’s heavy rain. If it does, I can put my camera in the bag and rip a hole in the end for the lens to poke through.
– Business Cards. Duh, these should always be on you, always ready to pimp your work.
P.S. Did you notice the little rainbows in the photos in this post?! These images were shot during what I call “magic hour” at our home – the time when the sun perfectly hits that crystal hanging in the window. I love it.