Photographers love looking at what other photographers have in their bag. Comparing techniques, swapping tips, debating pros and cons of one camera versus another; it's all part of the fun.
There's an important side to this gear-talk, though, too. Understanding why each piece in your kit does and how how it all works is essential for mastering the craft. Plus knowing when to buy, when to rent, and when to make your own is a key part of keeping your photo or video kit manageable, affordable, and effective.
I have well over $15,000 invested in camera gear. I would never recommend anyone go out and buy it all in one go. It was a slow build up starting from nothing, learning everything about the gear I currently had, including it's limitations, and thoughtfully getting the one piece of gear that will help take my work to a new level.
I am a commercial portrait and wedding photographer. I also do music videos and commercials. I chose the equipment I use to achieve a specific set of goals, and I believe that the things I learned in making those decisions are more important than the gear itself.
But, without further ado, watch the video for the low down on my kit!
Note: Video Gear starts at 13:30. Listed below is currently used equipment. All links are to currently available or equivalent models of equipment at time of writing.
All equipment shown in the video besides the C-Stand, Beauty Dish, 6ft slider, and pop-up backdrop fit in these two bags.
I chose the backpack over a roller bag because it suits my style of adventure type work (cliffs, helicopters, and hot air balloons, etc.) better. The Eddie Bauer bag holds softboxes and lightstands, can take a beating, and is affordable. It's the same size and build-quality as the ThinkTank Logistics manager, but costs less.
"What lens should I get next?" is a phrase that plagues every photographer. Without knowing what it is you are shooting, your style, your preferred framing (wide vs. tight), and what parts of the fast/good/cheap triangle are most important to you, no one else can help. Chances are, if you can identify the answers to all of these, then you'll already know what the next step is in terms of lens choice.
I started with your basic kit lenses. Upgraded to a 50mm because people told me to, and now I hardly ever use it. The 85mm, 17-40mm, 70-200mm, are my go-to lenses (in that order), using the 100mm for ring shots at weddings and the 50mm when I want an environmental portrait and the 85mm is too tight.
I upgraded from a consumer level Rebel to the 5D MK3 after I had shot a few weddings and needed a huge low light boost. At the time of purchase, this was the best camera for what I needed to do.
- 430 EX & EXII Speedlites
- Pocketwizard Flex TT5's and Mini TT1
- Paul C Buff Einstein's
- Pocketwizard MC2
- A few hotshoe mounted LED video lights
- LumiQuest Bounce
- Optical Slaves
- High Output Reflector
- Beauty Dish
- Vagabond Mini
- Manfrotto Air Cushioned Stackable Light Stand
- Avenger C-Stand
I started with a simple speedlite and a set of radio triggers. This list has grown more out of need than anything else. The Einstein's let you block out the sun and use a wider variety of modifiers. The LEDs were picked up for video work, but I still find occasions where they work better than flashes for small fill lights.
- AudioTechnica Shotgun Mic
- Rode VideoMic Pro
- Feisol Tripod
- Manfrotto Ballhead
- Manfrotto Monopod with Fluid Head
- Manfrotto 501 QR Plates
- 2 ft Cinevate Slider
- 6 ft Digital Juice Slider
The Rode VideoMic Pro is great for run and gun shooting, but I don't even bother plugging it in for studio work where I have sound controlled rooms and the AudioTechnica shotgun mic.
Some people use a tripod all the time and need the best. Some people are like me and almost never use one ever. I bought a tripod mostly so I could do "talk to the camera" video promos, and of course, tutorials here on Tuts+. If your style of shooting calls for a tripod, definitely prioritize this over the other mounting options.
If I were to start all over in the video department, I would start with the Manfrotto monopod and 2ft slider. For my commercial video work, these are the work-horse camera mounts.
- Monitor Calibration Tool
- X-Rite Color Checker
- Luma Pop Background
- Gaffer, Duct, and Electrical Tape
- Roscoe Strobist Gel Kit
- Plastic Name Tag Holders
- Camping Flashlights
- Clip-on Flashlight
- Leatherman Multitool
- Lens Cloths
Everyone should have an emergency kit. Pins, tape, batteries, and any other things that don't seem important until you need one and don't have it. I also think everyone should should have a monitor calibration system. If you are a hobbyist, highly recommended. If you are a professional, absolutely required.