“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 current main camera body since November 2013. It’s the big jump to Full-Frame cameras. The 6D is currently the smallest FF camera with a low-price tag. Compared to the flagship 5DMkII or MkIII, it lacks a few (barely noticeable) features, but includes many more that are not available on the 5DMkII such as built-in wifi or GPS. It’s lighter and performs incredibly well in low-light situation. And I do mean it! With an ISO of 3200, noise is barely noticeable on the images. It is a highly recommended camera if you are looking into getting a Full Frame, with good video capabilities, incredible ISO performace, small, light and a good price tag.
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”. If there’s one lens I HIGHLY recommend any photographer to have, it’s this one. Get it.
A great wide angle lens for full-frame cameras. Pretty sharp, not too heavy and silent focusing. Of course, edges appear soft when shooting at 17mm.
A popular ultra-wide angle lens if you don’t have the budget for the Canon 10-22mm. It’s the equivalent of the lens above but only for crop-sensor bodies. 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).
A beast of a lens. It’s huge, it’s heavy, but it’s a fantastic lens that is much cheaper than its Canon equivalent. The 2.8 aperture is great for low-light conditions and the lens is very sharp at aperture 4 and above (it’s a bit softer wide open). It also focuses very fast and is silent. I use it for portraits, and wildlife (during safari).
My current tripod. It’s a great sturdy carbon fiber tripod, with a strong ball-head (BBH-300) and some nifty features.
My current travel tripod. It’s pretty compact and light when folded and is sturdy enough to hold my Canon 6D with the 70-200mm lens.
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 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 is the starting point and ending point of my photographic workflow and I couldn’t imagine working without it. 90% of my retouching is done through it and my photos are neatly organised and keyworded in the Library module. It’s offered now as a package along with Photoshop for an affordable monthly cost.
I also don’t think Photoshop needs introduction. It has become an essential part of my workflow, even though as a beginner, you don’t need it. It has a steep learning curve though but it comes with the Adobe CC package anyway.
I’ve tried many different plugins to improve my Lightroom/Photoshop workflow and I found the Nik Collection to be the best. Previously known as Nik Software, they were bought by Google and the prices were slashed. The whole bundle is pretty affordable and contains many useful plugins, namely Silver Efex Pro for BW conversion, Dfine for noise reduction and Color Efex pro 4 to make your photos pop.
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.
A handy little external HDD that has built-in wifi and an SD Card reader. Read the full review for more information.
I often have neck pain due to my camera so I despise the around-the-neck straps. The Blackrapid strap is a sling strap that is much more comfortable for me and allows my camera to rest on my side.
ND filters are great for long exposures during the day. I don’t use it that often but they’re always in my bag. If you’re looking to creating long exposure shots during the day, you definitely need this. (Be careful when purchasing filters though, make sure it’s the correct size according to your lens).
Always good to have a cleaning pen with you, in case dust gets on your lens and sensor. It’s cheap and small anyway.
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.