Tuesday Tips – What’s in my bag?
One of the most commonly asked questions I get is what type of gear I use. I am 100% Nikon. Back in the days of film, I was 100% Canon, but I never really owned anything on the pro level, even though I did shoot 3 weddings with that gear (so scary as I look back!). Anyway, gear is important, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all. I had a photography professor once tell me that it didn’t matter at all what gear you use: “if you can make stunning art from a disposable camera, then that is what you should use.” She basically told me to find something that worked for me and rock it. So, that is what I have done, or tried to do. When I first started out in high school, it was required of me to use a camera that didn’t even have any automatic settings, not even autofocus (which is tough for a lady with an astigmatism). This was so crucial to my learning photography! I could do a whole post on just that, but I won’t this time. My point is that it doesn’t really matter what I say below because another photographer could use the exact same gear and have less-than-mediocre shots and another photographer could use much cheaper equipment and still have excellent results (though I haven’t really seen that necessarily). :-) So… Know your gear!
Anyway, here is what is in my bag at a typical family/kids portrait shoot. I do have lots more equipment that I bring for weddings, and I also always have an extra camera body (D700) stashed in my car at a portrait session, as an emergency back-up. But, this is my go-to/travel light gear:
My main camera body is the Nikon D3s. I actually just bought it a few weeks ago after two years of renting it for weddings, but that is a post for later. I take this to everything now: portraits and weddings, and I love it. It handles indoor, natural, low light situations so unbelievably well!
As for the all Nikon lenses, here is the list from the image above (starting to the right of the D3S and moving clockwise): 80mm f/1.4 (great portrait lens!), 70-200mm f/2.8 (my most used lens), 100mm f/2.8 Macro, 50mm f/1.4 and 17-35mm f/2.8 (great for the wide shots). I don’t actually pack 5 lenses in my bag for a portrait session, mostly because it is just TOO much weight but also because it is unnecessary. There is one lens that I always leave out, depending on the shoot. Most of the time, I leave out my macro, unless I am photographing a newborn (in which case, I often leave out the 85mm). I often leave out another lens (either the 50mm or 85mm) if I am going to be photographing a toddler or 2 or more kids. I do this to lighten the load even more so that I can run, but I also do it because when the kids are highly active, I can’t always “zoom with my feet” like you need to with the prime lenses. Thus, the 70-200mm and 17-35mm are used more since I can zoom in and out, depending on how close the subject is. Of course, I still will use a prime lens at those shoots, just to challenge myself, but only after I feel like I’ve got the more “expected” shots, of just if a moment arises.
I should add two things. One, I often throw a flash in my bag if I am doing some shooting inside or on an overcast day, but I almost never use it, even if it is dark. Instead, I carry a Westcott 40″ 5-in-1 reflector. The carrying case for this is so unbelievably tattered because I carry it to every shoot (wedding and portrait); I am just waiting for it to completely disintegrate. I have had it for nearly 5 years, and the reflector is still perfect, even after more than one kid has trampled on it or tried to roll it or use it as a frisbee… and more than one dad has tried to fold it back up, too. I use it a lot, especially if it is overcast or if I am shooting indoors or at a time that isn’t super desirable for nice light. I even use the white as a scrim sometimes when photographing babies or seniors when the sun is still a bit too strong. I am sure if I ever saw myself on video during a shoot, I would probably be a little embarrassed by my contortions to attempt to get perfect light and perfect angles with this reflector, while still shooting with the other hand! But, it is worth it!
Second thing to add: the bag I use. It may be a minor detail, but after a few years of carrying a very functional, but VERY BORING, equipment bag, I decided to spend a little to get a cute bag, made just for women photographers. I got it in purple to match my branding, but I think the next one I buy will be a more natural color. The bag is by Jo Totes. If you are searching for a cute equipment bag, I do recommend it!