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Have you ever wondered if there is specific photography gear that you will need for different types of photoshoots?
It has now been over a decade since I started shooting professionally. Over the course of that time, I have often been asked for advice on what camera to buy to take professional images. Now, if you’re into photography, I think you’d agree with me that this is the wrong question to ask. There are far more important factors to consider when taking an amazing image rather than the latest shiny camera.
My answer to the above question is always the same: it’s not the camera (given that camera manufacturers churn out new models year in year out). But instead, it’s two other things – the lens and the photographer.
A camera is no good if the photographer doesn’t know how to use it properly to achieve the image they have in mind. Equally, what good is a new latest-tech camera if the lens used for the purpose is not the correct lens? An example being, using an ultra-wide lens to capture a portrait.
Therefore, the better question to ask is, “which is the appropriate lens to use for a particular photoshoot?”
In other words, it is crucial that you, as the photographer, match your gear to the needs of the photoshoot. This will enable you to achieve the image you have in mind.
This article discusses the photography gear you will need for different types of photoshoots.
However, I know that we each have our own ways of doing things and our own preferences, so bearing this in mind, what I have written below are suggestions and based on what I do as a photographer.
What’s in my gear bag depends on what I’m shooting. I have a variety of photography bags for this reason. As a side note, it is worth investing in proper photography bags to protect your gear.
But first, the staples. If you are (or want to be) a professional photographer, this is my recommended minimum photography gear you will need.
For photoshoots, always carry at least 2 camera bodies, ensuring you have one for back-up in case something happens to the other one.
Make sure you sync the times for both cameras, and that the settings are the same.
Also, fully-charge your batteries in both cameras. My cameras are all full-frame. If you have a camera with a crop sensor, this changes the way you capture your images. Here is a helpful article on the difference between full-frame and crop-sensor cameras.
On top of the camera and lenses, I always bring at least 2 flashguns with me and make sure I have spare batteries (or fully charged if they are rechargeables). I use a diffuser cap with my flashguns and generally use these to bounce light both indoors and outdoors rather than directly at the subjects unless I’m shooting backlit.
In general terms, the ideal set of lenses for a family photoshoot includes a wide, medium, and a long range of lenses.
My preference is for prime lenses, as they are usually small and handy, and give me sharper and cleaner images.
Good prime lenses can be heavy and also a little expensive. I carry the 35mm f/1.4G, 85mm f/1.8G (also available in 1.4G) and the 105mm f/2.8G. Because these are used on a full-frame camera, the lenses capture their expected focal range accordingly, that is, that a 35mm lens has a 35mm effective field of view. If your camera has a crop sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x for example, then the 35mm will have an effective field of view of a 46mm, the 50mm will have the 65mm and the 105mm will be 135mm. Therefore, you would then need to consider more wiggle room when shooting.
These are important to bear in mind, especially when shooting in small spaces indoors.
The 105mm gives not only a long-range but also macro capability. I like having a macro lens with me, which works wonderfully to capture details.
You can also have zoom lenses in your bag instead of primes. Zoom lenses can be very versatile. For example, the 24-70mm lens will allow you to capture wide and medium-range images with just one lens.
However, they are a little bulky in comparison to primes, especially if the lens is professional and has a fixed aperture. That would also mean better optics, and it would be heavier too.
If you just want to use one lens that covers this range, then there is the 24-105mm Canon lens option.
For events such as birthday parties, product launches, conferences, and suchlike, my preference is to go for zoom lenses rather than primes. Events are usually fast-moving, and I don’t have the time to keep changing lenses.
Often I will have both cameras on me with a double rapid strap. One camera will have the 24-70mm, and the other has the 70-200mm. These are usually sufficient.
I always carry a macro with me, though, just in case. However, with both bulky zooms that cover wide to long-range, I use my nifty 60mm micro lens for extreme close-up and macro shots.
In addition to the above, I also carry with me wireless transceivers that enable me to shoot with off-camera flashes. Transceivers are wireless transmitters and receivers that enable you to control your flash remotely. This also means you need stands for the flashes. So, carrying a monopod and a gorilla pod, or a tripod if you need more stands.
If I’m shooting a wedding alone, I pack all the above minus the 35mm and the 50mm as the zooms already cover these focal ranges.
Needless to say, I pack my entire arsenal and the kitchen sink when shooting weddings with a second photographer, as with two of us, more gear and back-ups are needed. That means at least four camera bodies, at least six lenses, a minimum of four flashes (sometimes six), and all the transceivers and stands required.
I have written an article on wedding photography gear you will need when starting out on here.
Portrait photography is a specialty that requires a different set of lenses.
For flattering images of a person, I would always use the 85mm for headshots, the 50mm for medium shots, and the 35mm for full-body shots.
You may not need to use all three, so plan ahead of what you might be shooting, so you don’t bring unnecessary gear.
Again if you want the zooms as opposed to the primes, you could always use the 24-70, 24-105, and the 70-200. Just make sure that you shoot within the range mentioned above as a guide.
Longer focal ranges compress the background resulting in a more flattering look compared to using a wide lens. For example, if you use the 24mm, you are shooting so close to the person, you will end up with image distortions.
Depending on the portrait session, I may or may not use off-camera flashes which would require the transceivers. A small reflector is also really handy for portraits, especially when controlling shadows. I have written an article on gear essentials for portrait photography when starting out here.
You would need wide lenses, such as a 16-35mm or a 24mm to capture wide, expansive shots. You may also want to invest in a telephoto to capture long landscapes with great background compression if you are shooting mountains, for example.
If you plan on doing long exposure photography to achieve soft, blurred waterfalls and waves, you will also want to invest in a tripod and some filters, such as ND and graduated filters. This will enable you to reduced the amount of daylight coming into your lens so that you can slow your shutter speed down without completely over-exposing your image. You would also need a cable or remote shutter release so that you don’t introduce camera shake by pressing the shutter button.
To find out more about landscape photography, read these helpful articles here.
When speaking of travel, my only experience in this type of photography is family holidays. For professional travel photography, read these articles.
If you are just after good holiday photos that capture memories of your family, then I can help with that. I have tried various holidays with only one lens. One time I just took the 85mm. Another time, I took just the 35mm, the 50mm on another holiday, and, more recently, the 60mm. Following on from these experiences, my personal travel lens is now the 60mm.
The 50mm is also a favorite.
Occasionally, I do some product photography. My go-to lenses for these are the 24-70 and the 60mm micro.
I use off-camera flashes and transceivers and some flags. When shooting small items in a white seamless background, using a white lightbox will help you achieve this easily.
For more tips on product photography, read this article.
For interior photography, my go-to lenses are the 24-70mm and the 50mm. You can read more in-depth as to why I use the 50mm here and how I use the 24-70mm especially for shots of an entire room scene.
I hope this article and the further links provided have helped you think through what photography gear you will need for different types of photoshoots. If you have any suggestions to add, write them on the comments below.