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“Gear is good, but vision is better”
We’ve all heard that gear isn’t as important as talent and creativity. Better gear won’t make you a better photographer. And I agree with that… to a certain extent.
The latest and best gear is not required to produce great photos. Even a smartphone can create amazing shots. However, gear is essential if you’re going beyond the amateur/hobbyist level.
No client or publication would accept your assignments if you had just an iPhone with Instagram, or a 6 megapixel point-&-shoot camera.
Good gear will let you control your environment to produce the shots you want, like flash units or reflectors. Higher end cameras will produce bigger files so you can print them easily.
Now does that mean that you need to upgrade your Canon 5D MkII to the latest 5D MkIII just because it’s better and has more megapixels? Certainly not.
Get yourself a good camera body you’re comfortable with and instead, invest your money in good quality lenses.
But enough chatting, here’s my list of equipment:
My main camera body I have been using for the past 4 years. It’s well-built and sturdy enough to withstand dusty conditions as well as humid environments (shot many times under light rain and even survived the Songkran festival with just a plastic bag). It doesn’t have any video capabilities (although that can be remedied) but has an fast burst speed of 6.3 shots/sec, making it a good camera for sport lovers or fast action shooters.
My main everyday lens. It covers most focal range needed for street or travel photography. Photos are sharp with beautiful colors and contrast. Weather-sealed, fast and silent focusing motor and beautiful bokeh when wide open. Downsides: Weight (it’s nicknamed “The Brick“) and no Image Stabilization (IS), but it’s a fairly fast lens (f/2.8) so it’s not much of a problem. Definitely recommended.
An essential lens to have in your collection. It’s probably the cheapest Canon lens but performs amazingly well. Very fast lens that delivers sharp photos. It’s also a great lens for beginners as it will teach them to “zoom with their feet”.
A popular ultra-wide angle lens if you don’t have the budget for the Canon 10-22mm. Very light with a silent focusing motor. Edges appear very soft when shooting at 10mm. Caution: It’s an EF-S lens and only works with crop-sensor bodies (no full frame).
As I don’t shoot a lot of macro, this one’s the only macro lens I have in my collection. Fairly inexpensive but popular third-party lens. Light, small and sharp. The focusing motor is very slow and noisy so better use manual focusing when shooting macro.
A good strong tripod I’ve been carrying everywhere. It’s definitely not light but is much cheaper than Carbon Fiber tripods.
My tripod head. It’s a 3-axis head and works great in every direction. However, I’m probably going to upgrade to a ball head instead to avoid playing around with the handles all the time.
Originally a gift, I find this more of a gimmick than a real substitute to a tripod. I don’t trust my camera on it. However, I found a great use for Gorillapods: External flash tripods.
I’ve traveled long distances on foot, carrying all my camera gear in a normal backpack. It took me a while to really find a bag that would fit comfortably, have enough space for my gear, with a little extra for clothes, and not hurt my back after an hour of walking. I’m very happy with the F-Stop Satori bag and I definitely recommend it.
I used this bag quite a while when exploring different locations. Until I bought the 24-70mm lens. The camera with the big lens is too long and doesn’t fit. Anyway, I mostly walk with my camera in hand now and I still use this bag sometimes to put different lenses and filters.
A nice and cheap flash unit that does its job. I used it mostly on Manual (not TTL) with cheap wireless triggers. Instead of getting expensive triggers like PocketWizards, I prefer buying cheap ones and not cry for days when it breaks or gets lost.
Always handy to have when you want to control the light direction and brighten up those shadows.
If there’s one software you need to buy for your photography, it’s Lightroom. It has become an essential part of my photographic workflow and I couldn’t imagine working without it. 95% of my retouching is done through it and my photos are neatly organised and keyworded in the Library module. It’s pretty cheap so go get it now.
I don’t think Photoshop needs introduction. Even though I have it, I barely use it except for detailed retouching (cloning out power lines for example). Most of my work is done in Lightroom.
I’ve tried many different companies offering plugins to improve my Lightroom/Photoshop workflow and I found Nik Software to be the best. They have by far the best black and white conversion tool (Silver Efex Pro 2). If you can’t afford the whole bundle, I recommend for a start to get Color Efex Pro.
Online storage is absolutely essential if you value your work and want to back it up. I use Smugmug to store my edited photos in the cloud. It also serves as my portfolio website, an online store to purchase prints and it helps save bandwidth on my personal website since all the photos here are linked from Smugmug. Another alternative is Photoshelter or Zenfolio.
Disclaimer: Most of the links above are affiliate links. However, they are products I use and recommend. Feel free to click on them if you want to help out. Thanks.