What can be found on a photographer’s gear list? I get this question a lot not only from fellow photographers, but also from clients who are just curious about what professional photographers shoot with these days. While I LOVE my gear and it does help me create my images, it’s not everything. I often hear, “oh I wish I could get a really nice camera like my photographer” or “your camera takes really nice pics!” While I agree my gear is pretty amazing, keep in mind that it’s not the gear that makes great photos. Practice, education, and talent go a long way! Some of my best work was shot on a $99 film camera! I try to remind myself of this every time I wander over to Canon’s website and start drooling over the new Canon 5D Mark IV.
So why do I shoot with high end (expensive) gear? My husband is curious as well. Haha. Well it’s no different that a painter with the best, most fancy paint brush and the canvas made of the best material. Or a carpenter with the best table saw and the best drill. The quality of your tools make your vision come to life easier. Simple as that. The truth is, a photographer can capture the most beautiful, award-winning photograph with any camera. After all, some of history’s first famous photographers did not use the gear we have today, and many of them would hands-down win every award next to many of today’s photographers who use top of the line gear.
So if you’re just starting out, do not focus on getting the best, most expensive gear. Start small and work your butt off, you will get there! I promise!
First up is my camera body, the Canon 5D Mark III. I have two of these and I always bring them both to a birth or a wedding with me to have one on hand as a back up. I never want to be in a position where my camera isn’t working and I’m shooting something that cannot be re-shot later. I love the ISO capabilities of the 5D Mark III, it can help you out in any lighting situation! Let’s be real, nighttime births are a tough thing to shoot and having this in my bag helps me worry less about being able to focus quickly and with very little noise in my images.
Oh the 35mm 1.4! I love this lens. It’s one of my favorite lenses in my bag and it was the second lens I bought when I started my business. It is incredibly versatile, allowing you to capture a whole room or to capture a close up of your subject. It is the only wide angle lens that I own and I call it my story-telling lens. It allows me to capture a tiny moment up close or a whole scene that tells a story. This is the only lens that I bring with me to births and the only lens I use when shooting a film. I have plans to add the Canon 24mm 1.4 II to my bag of goodies, but I hardly think it will match up to my love for the 35mm.
I take this lens with me to pretty much every portrait session, families, maternity, newborns, baby milestones, etc. I will use it if I’m shooting anywhere from a one person portrait to a six person family group shot, although if you step back there really is no limit to how many you can fit in your shot (just a personal preference). I like this lens because it gives a creamy bokeh (blurry background), and it’s great for low light situations because you can drop your aperture down to 1.2, and focus is spot on every time! The focus is faster on this lens than my 85mm 1.2, which lets me use it when running after little ones and needing to grab shots quickly. I will typically shoot this at f/1.8 to f/1.4 and its PERRRRFECT! I have shot it at f/1.2 many times, but it took a little practice to nail my focus and I will only do it when I have the time to look to be sure my shots are in focus. If you could only get one lens, this would be your best investment.
YOU GUYS! This is the dream lens right here. I dreamed about owning this lens for four years before I could purchase it (shhh….don’t tell my husband about this one). So…can I live without this lens? Short answer…yes, but I don’t want to! It’s SOO pretty! Your images even at a slightly higher aperture will have the most beautiful bokeh. I tend to shoot this at f/1.2 to f/2.0 depending upon how many subjects I’m trying to get in focus. I will take this heavy guy along with me to maternity sessions or to family sessions with older kids or babies who cannot run yet (not toddlers). It is SO gorgeous, but it is slower to focus than every other lens that I own, so I tend not to take it along to sessions with little ones who will be running around and have a more difficult time sitting still for the camera. It’s a great lens for low light when indoors (PERFECT for shooting formal dances during wedding receptions), however now days I only shoot with this one outdoors. Since it’s a longer lens, you cannot be very close to your subjects. I would say that I tend to stand about two to three steps farther back than when I’m shooting with my 50mm 1.2 or my 35mm 1.4. I LOVE the close up feel it gives. It’s a great option if your clients feel a little intimated by you standing too close to them. Giving them space will let them relax and the 85 lets you still capture that more intimate look from farther away. Starting your session with this lens and then moving to a 50mm or a 35mm, allows you to slowly work your way closer to your subjects as they become more comfortable with you and your camera.
This lens is a must-have if you shoot weddings. I bought this one when I was shooting mostly weddings throughout the year. It’s great during wedding ceremonies and for second shooters because it allows you to be a “fly on the way” throughout the day. Now that I no longer shoot weddings, I will only use this for documenting my kids at school or sporting events. To be honest, I don’t love this lens. It’s too heavy (causes serious carpel tunnel after holding it at an 8 hour wedding), and it’s not ideal for low light. But will I sell it? No. It’s too important and too expensive to re-invest in later if I decide to pick up second shooting again. Plus it does get the job done when I wanna capture kindergarten graduation or the school Christmas program from 500 rows back.
This macro lens is excellent for capturing wedding rings, newborn baby toes, or nature, like bugs. We all know I don’t use it for bugs. HAHA. But there are many photographers who have created BEAUTIFUL close-up photographs of nature with this lens. I have this lens to capture close up detail shots of newborn toes, eye lashes, ears, etc.
I use this on-camera mic when shooting films. This is one of the most cost effective mics to start out with. I use this one because it does pick up some ambient noise (background noise) which helps tell the story of whats going on beyond the subjects and gives you a feel of their environment. I like it because it doesn’t require a battery and it’s so light that you can hardly tell you have one on-camera.
I usually don’t like to use filters on my lenses, but when it comes to filming this will make your life so much easier, so I use it with every film that I shoot. Using this filter gives you between 2-8 stops of light control. I like how it gives me the ability to shoot at the necessary shutter speeds I need for filming (1/60th or 1/125th) and the aperture I like to use to achieve my shooting style (f/1.8–f/2.0), even in bright sun light. If I see a change in light and need to adjust my exposure, I will just turn the filter to the left or the right to adjust to the correct exposure, and move on without changing my shutter speeds like I normally would.
I hope this helps! Just one last tip, check out Canon’s refurbished section of their website. I have purchased almost all of my gear, refurbished. I have never had any issues and highly recommend saving yourself some money!
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Kelly Laramore is a St Louis maternity, birth, fresh 48, newborn, baby and family photographer and filmmaker serving the St Louis and surrounding areas and is available for travel worldwide
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