What's In My Bag?
I get asked what's in my camera bag quite a bit from inspiring photographers and colleagues. So, I thought it would be a good time to do a detailed post about all my gear, what I use to shoot and why, and where I keep it all!
I currently shoot on the Canon 5D Mark III for all my work. I spend all of my time shooting on location; in the woods, in the rain, in lakes and ponds where yes, I am fully submerged many time, in trees, on dangerous rocks and walls, etc. So, I guess it's safe to say that there is an enormously high chance I could accidentally drop and/or destroy my camera during a shoot. Luckily, it hasn't happened yet, but I find it's important to have two camera bodies on me when you start booking important jobs. You definitely don't want to have to cut a session short because of technical difficulties.
Which brings me to my backup...
My Canon 6D is my main back up, it is light weight and allows me switch back and forth on my Money Maker with my 5D at ease because of it's weight. It is also what I mainly use to do self portraits. The built in WiFi capability is amazing and if I ever decide to upgrade this camera it will be to the 5D Mark IV for that reason alone.
I have a Canon 1D Mark III also as my back as well as an insurance policy in case anything happens to my main camera bodies. Even though this is an older camera, I find it does well in the instances that I need it. They are few and far between because it is so heavy, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
I also still have my old Canon Rebel T3 body that I used to shoot on when I started, that I keep at home also just in case. I keep thinking I will pass it down to my son, but I am kind of attached to it, though I do let him learn on it from time to time. I just think I will get him his own.
I also shoot on a Canon AV-1 Film camera that I love. Even though my style replicates the classic film look, I still love using actual film when I have the chance. I just get too lazy to develop it, hence the switch to digital.
Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 | The 35mm is a great all-rounder lens for me, I use it on babies, couples, families, and personal work. I find that this lens never leaves my camera unless I am shooting a subject that I need a closer focal length. I love shooting portraits with it and I will take it with my as my sole lens while I am traveling. I find that my 35mm is sharp 95% of the time, even when you shoot with a wide open aperture of 1.4, but like a lot of Sigma lenses it can miss focus when subjects are moving fast, which is why I use a different lens for small children. I only shoot with a wide aperture for personal work and models, and usually bump up the aperture to 2 or more when shooting for most client work and up to a 4 for families.
Canon 85mm f1.8 | The 85mm was my third prime lens that I have purchased. I love using it for couples and senior portraits, especially when I want the bokeh to be very noticeable. It does tend to shoot a bit blue for me, but I normally fix that in post with adjusting my white balance.
Sigma Art 50mm f1.4 | This was my very first prime lens and my baby for the longest time. My nifty fifty never left my camera for about 3 years because it was perfect at the time for what I needed. Most of my graduate thesis was shot with this lens as it is incredibly sharp and didn't distort any of my subject matter at the edges like some primes do.
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 | This lens is what I use for births and for small children. The focus is spot on and it handles low light situations perfectly. I would use a prime for births, but I like having the zoom capabilities in a fast paced environment where I can't always move around a lot to get the focal length I need. That makes this lens perfect for those situations
Canon 70-200mm f4 | I have always wanted to upgrade this lens, but I only use it for weddings and proposals, so I haven't found the need to do so yet. I hear the 2.8's sweet spot is right at f4 anyways, so I don't feel like I am missing out on anything yet. I only use this lens during wedding ceremonies on my second camera, and other than that it probably is in my bag more than on my camera. But, I still can't part with it yet.
Canon Speedlights + Triggers | I have two Yunguno flashes which I primarily use when shooting wedding receptions and try to avoid using them as much as I can. May birth photographers will use them during their births, but I find it is too distracting and my Mark III handles low light well enough that I have never needed to use them for one. I very rarely use them for a session, but occasionally it can be an interesting light source to work with for creative concepts. I also have flash triggers to create a back-lit flash effect, which I normally do during a wedding, but also creative sessions as well when the occasion calls for it.
Batteries | This is probably one of the most important little things that I have in my bag. I have four sets of AA batteries to power my speedlight and three of each kind of Canon battery I need to power each of my cameras. I actually have more for my 1D since it is older and runs through them faster than my 5D. I am used to spending full days (from sunrise to dark, though sunrise is very rare because I am not a morning person) shooting on location with no where to charge my batteries if I run out, so I keep a lot of spares on me for these occasions. That and you can never be sure if one of them is going bad or not until it dies on you mid session, and trust me, that sucks when it does.
Memory Cards | With long days of shooting, especially when it comes to birth stories and weddings, that mean a lot of pictures, so I have quite a few memory cards on me at all times. The 5D Mark III has a dual slot ability, so to ensure nothing happens to the images I shoot on the day, I have my photos recording to a CF card in the camera as well as an SD card too. So I have two copies of all my images before I even get to backing them up for safe keeping. Though I only use this for special events because it does tend to slow down my write speed when using both.
Most of my CF cards are either 32GB or 64GB that I change throughout a shoot when they fill up, or are at least close to it. I don't like having half a session on one card and the other on a different one when they are smaller shoots because it messes with my work flow. Weddings and birth stories are different though, because I edit those in sections based on events.
Holdfast Money Maker Strap | I wear it for most of the day at all my weddings and for smaller children. (Think toddler stage) I don’t use it for couple sessions unless we’re going on a hike and I want to have easy access to two cameras quickly without the bulk of an extra bag. This harness has been customized to fit me perfectly, which is why it looks different with the twine and the lace.
Planner | I normally carry around my planner (The Colorvale "Lights, Camera, Take Action" is my top choice for a photography planner). It keeps me sane and I keep track of all of my mileage, appointments, daily tasks, payments received, and meal plans here. I would probably lose my mind if I didn't have it, because between working full time, chasing around a toddler, and keeping track of my business, I normally forget everything. This keeps me in check.
Laptop | I love my MacBook Air! I can't say that enough!! It is small and light weight, so when I am traveling it doesn't add more weight than I already can't carry. It gets everything I need done and all of my editing is done on it as well.
Hard Drive | One last thing I keep in my camera bag (or if it's not in my camera bag, it's in my hand bag or in the car or just somewhere within my vicinity when I'm not home) is a small portable hard drive. On this hard drive I keep all my master JPG files from the beginning of time as well as all the RAW files of shoots I haven't edited and completed yet. This is just another backup option just in case my archived hard drives corrupt or are stolen, I don't have to lose any of the shoots I've done for clients whose photos I haven't delivered yet - or lose any of my photos in general.
Snacks | When you shoot long days, you need to refuel your body. I normally always have a bottle of water and some protein bars in my bag. If I would fit a Keurig in it I would, since coffee is my life, but I normally have to just buy it from Starbucks or Biggby, which ever is closer to me at that time.
Wallet | I mean honestly, where would I go without it? Besides my license, cash, and cards, it does hold my business cards, a few bobby pins and receipts until I get sick and tired of them being in my way that I move them to a folder to be entered into my petty cash log.
My Camera Bag
Last but not least, we are brought to the point of figuring out how I carry all of this stuff. I have my heavy duty House of Flynn Evermore bag that I absolutely love thanks to my amazing boyfriend. (It was my Christmas present a few years back) It's comfortable for the most part (It does get heavy for my 100 lb body), doesn't look like a super ugly dorky camera bag and fits everything I need. Actually, it looks just like a purse, and the Rose Gold color that I wanted is beautiful. I don't take ALL the gear that I own to every shoot, so I'm normally carrying 1-2 camera bodies, 2 - 4 lenses, 1 or 2 flashes, all my camera batteries, flash triggers, AA batteries, and 2 memory cards. But this bag could fit more if I wanted it to. (I didn't even picture some of the things in it and it still has room to spare)
When I am traveling and my bag is too heavy to use for long walks and hikes to the location, I use a custom made backpack with inserts. I found it randomly searching Etsy, but I have loved it. Handmade from India, it is stitched with love and hope. Half of what I paid even went to a local charity there, so I was more than happy to buy it. I usually just put my camera bodies, 2 lenses, and the batteries and memory cards in this bag when I use it. Less is more when I am travelling.
What I Bring To Each Session
Now, all this gear is super heavy and not always needed for every single shoot I do.
Depending on what I am about to work on for the day, I pick and choose the gear I need to take with me for that day. The gear that is always in my camera bag includes: 2 camera bodies, all my camera batteries and memory cards and a few little extras such as water and a snack. 99.99% of the time this means my 5D Mark III and my 6D, and luckily they take the same type of batteries.
Then I decide my lenses to take that day. The majority of the time I only take 2, or sometimes 3, lenses that I might need instead of all them, because I have more than I even mentioned, those are just my common ones I use. My 35mm always comes with me, and then I usually use my 85mm on my second camera, but occasionally I will use my 24-70mm for the instances I mentioned before.
I keep my bag as light as I can so I don't strain my body when I have to walk around with my camera bag, as it is half my size. That and if I have AJ with me, he normally ends up taking a hip or else his wanderlusting soul gets the best of him, so that's another 26 lbs to carry on top of my bag lol.