Recently I had quite a few people asking me what camera and lens do I use, so I thought instead of typing up multiple emails, I’d write a blog post about that! Hopefully it will help someone – even if a tiny little bit.
To start with, I really should point out that although having a professional camera and lens will make a difference to the quality of photographs you produce, you can take good photographs with anything. Even with an iPhone – if you know how to.
It’s like skiing. You can get the most expensive gear, but if you haven’t learned the basics like stopping, falling and snowplough, no expensive Rossignol will make you a great skier overnight.
So before buying an expensive camera, go and read your manual, learn about aperture, f-stops and ISO, keep practicing with your old camera and see if you REALLY need to buy the next best thing (and unless you’re a professional photographer, you really don’t).
(okay, okay, I couldn’t find a decent people picture done with a compact camera – but it’s because I last used a compact in 2004 and back then I really didn’t have a clue and did think that I needed a big expensive camera to take nice pictures. I do like a challenge though, so give me your compact, I’ll show you what you can do with it!)
So, what’s in my bag?
Same lens, different camera. It’s been 2 years between these two shots – can you tell?
My “permanent” lens set is rather simple. My two main lens are Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L. The 24-70mm is great for wide angle shots, where it’s important to set the scene, when there’s a limited space (mostly when shooting indoors), or when you need to get close to your subject (for example to be able to talk to them or tickle them!).
My favourite is 70-200mm 2.8 though (which I jokingly call “the beast” as it’s very heavy – good for exercising your biceps and triceps). I use it for portraits and when I really need to step away from my subject and give them a bit more space to relax and forget they are being photographed.
I also have a Canon 50mm f/1.4 which don’t use very often (I suspect because I’m pretty lazy to walk up and down). Joking aside, I do find it difficult to use prime (fixed focal length) lenses when photographing kids – the minute you decided you are going to use a particular lens, the child decides to do something else and runs away, and you are left wishing you had a zoom lens on. But it’s a great little lens which is perfect (combined with superb low-light capabilities of Canon 5D Mark II) for situations when there just isn’t enough light and for one reason or another you can’t or won’t use flash.
Occasionally – particularly for newborn photography sessions – I’d also rent a Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. However, it is perfectly possible to only use the wide angle zoom lens (like 24-70mm) and still get a great close-up photograph of a tiny object – like a week old baby!
But guess what? A macro lens can also be used for portraits :) There is really no limit to what you can do with a single lens.
Other things in my bag include a set of SanDisk 8GB Compact Flash memory cards, lens hoods and some Hoya UV filters. The bag itself is Think Tank Airport TakeOff (for carrying everything including back-up equipment to and from the shoot) and Think Tank Lens Changer (for carrying extra lens on me during the actual photoshoot). I do have a simple reflector, but never ever use it. Oh, and I don’t have an off-camera flash (although that’s the next on my shopping list, since I’m photographing more and more weddings). For now I will be renting, and do recommend you rent and trial a piece of equipment before you part with hundreds or pounds buying it.
Hope this post was vaguely helpful. Do ask questions in the comments if you have any!