I have been a commercial photographer for more than 25 years and have changed gear many times since the days of film. I am often asked what’s in my camera bag for location work and what is the best gear to buy. We all have mixed needs depending on what and how we shoot so I wanted to share the different aspects of gear in my camera bag when shooting on-location assignments.
I was slow to jump into digital many moons ago due to the cost and the fact that I primarily shoot in manual mode. I hate the ever-changing technical aspect of digital technology because it is expensive and overwhelms me at times but I understand the importance. I know what it takes to be a pro, I understand lighting ratios, shutter drag, histogram, white balance and I still practice old-school techniques from my past. The gear in my camera bag allows me to generate the mood and story of the subject I am portraying. It is important to my craft because it allows me the control to tell a story that sells an idea. I must also have a strong understanding of light and composition as well as what my client needs are in order to create a unique image that will stand out.
Much of my imagery includes products, headshots, and personalities for business branding, pr, advertising, and editorial assignments. My work generally involves setting up multiple lighting scenarios, mixing strobe with available light, directing the subject in front of the camera, working within specific constraints, and working FAST.
When it comes to cameras, since going digital, I have always been a Canon shooter. I am a fan of the 5D series but I have to be honest, I am currently looking into the new R5 full-frame mirrorless system. I am still waiting to see more reviews but from what I hear it may be a nice improvement. I have been shooting my travel work over the past few years with Panasonic mirrorless cameras (DC-G9 and DMC-GX8) and I have held off updating my Mark III to the IV for a while due to wanting to see the changes in the technology vs. the price to purchase.
While my gear is not the newest cutting-edge version of what is out there at the moment it works perfectly for how I shoot for now. This is my list of cameras, photo gear, and gadgets I am currently using:
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 35mm digital camera, Canon Speedlite 430EX Flash, Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L Lens, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L Lens, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L Lens, Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L Lens, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 Lens, Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens, Canon EF 100mm Macro f/2.8 Lens, Canon Battery Pack BP-511 Charger with extra Camera batteries, 2 Lite Disc (gold and silver), Neewer Timelapse Trigger, Opteka shutter trigger, Tether Tools starter kit, bubble level, flash mount, ExpoDisc 2, FC-311 Flash Chord, Bogen Monfrotto Ball Head, Bogen Tripod, Andoer Tripod Head, Sirui P-SR Monopod, Peak Design Everyday Messenger Heritage Tan, Peak Design Field Pouch Heritage Tan, Peak Design Slide Classic Strap Black
In my studio, I have some very old-school Norman 2000 watt studio packs and heads and 3 large Dynalite kits. Dynalite has always been my favorite “go too” lighting source for 25+ years because they are lightweight, solid, and easy to travel with if needed. Sadly I learned that after 50 years in business, in January of this year they closed their doors. At this time in my career, I still plan to use all of my older gear until it no longer works. While the newer gear has a lot to offer, the older gear seems to be made solid with a lot less cheap plastic parts. I also don’t want to endure the cost of having to purchase all of the brand accessories until I have to. If you are having a tough time coming up with the money to purchase the new cutting-edge gear you may want to consider used gear, there are still companies who can repair those items.
When I have a large complex location shoot I still take a Dynalite kit but when I don’t need more than 2 lights my Elinchrom Kit works well for shooting smaller location assignments. It is a lightweight kit, it fires fast, uses rechargeable batteries, and holds a long charge. This kit allows me to constantly move around and change up my light into multiple arrangements giving me the ability to offer my client a vast array of final choices. It also helps keep me from embarrassing myself by tripping over a power chord.
As with my older gear I discussed above the Elinchrom gear also continues to change and many of their kits have been discontinued. If I were to update anytime soon I would likely go to the EDL 500 TTL
Like myself, I guess as technology continues to change, these older kits will continue to be replaced. This is the lighting gear that I currently use for smaller location assignments:
Elinchrom Kit: 2 Quadra Flash Head cables, Ranger Li-Ion Charger, Ranger Quadra Hybrid RQ Head (with reflectors & diffusion), 2 Ranger Quadra Li-Ion MK-II Batteries, Elinchrom Speed Ring, 32′ Head Extension Strobe, EL-Ranger Q Adapters, EL-Skyport Speed Wireless trigger, Hard travel case
This is a list of other essentials and electronics:
Lens cloth, assorted batteries, model releases, pen, readers, sunglasses, universal tool, small clamps, gaff tape, business cards, Apple Macbook Pro 15”, card reader, iPhone 11 Pro Max
As a photographer with many years of shooting under my belt this list of what’s in my camera bag is ever-changing with the constantly growing technology. It is important to understand these are only tools, the real beauty of photography comes in the art of seeing and creating no matter what tools you are using.
If you would like to see a full list of the gear I use including vlogging and podcast gear you can see that here.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave comments below. Stay tuned for more ahead!
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