What's in my camera bag

I get asked about my gear a lot. "What are you shooting with?" "What lens is that?" "How many memory cards do you need?" "Canon or Nikon?" SOOOOOO, I decided it was time to open up my bag and lay it all out. Ready?? Here it is - what's in my camera bag!

1. The Bag.

Lawd, you guys. I have been a professional photographer in business for myself for almost a DECADE now, and I finally bought myself a new bag last month. Before that, I had the same insanely ratty Canon backpack that had frayed and broken in a hundred places. I worked that thing INTO. THE. GROUND. for a decade. Do you know how many sessions that is?? How many fields that thing sat in? How many alleyways it graced? Holy cow. So I felt a little like having a funeral when I finally retired it last month.BUT YOU GUYS. My new bag is so fly. It's orange. I LOVE ORANGE (and please don't ask me if that means I'm a Tennessee fan or a Clemson fan because sportsball is Not My Thing). It has pockets for absolutely everything. The leather is gorgeous. It has short straps for shoulder carrying and a long strap for cross-body carrying. Everyone who has seen it has said some version of "How does it fit so many things?! It's a Mary Poppins bag!!" And yes, my friends, it DOES fit everything. What does it fit?? Read on.

2. The Cameras.

I have had so many cameras over the years, you guys. And I feel that this - right here - is the perfect place to stress this absolute truth: it is NOT THE CAMERA that makes the photographer. Seriously. I currently have the most expensive, cutting-edge camera I've ever owned, but I could easily shoot the same images on my very first camera. It is the artist that makes the art - not the medium. So please don't ever tell a photographer "Oh you must have such a nice camera to get those shots" - it's very demeaning, and if you're saying it to me, I will lightly retort with "yeah, you must have a super fancy computer to create those apps/write those books/make that podcast."That said, let's get on to the fun part: my fave camera. I'm a Canon photog, all the way, and my favorite camera body is the Canon 5D MK4. It's a workhorse. The dynamic range is beautiful, the bajillion focal points are BLESSED BY GOD, the wifi features are so incredibly handy, I love the touchscreen, the high ISO capability is wow, and the controls are intuitive (which is the most important thing to me because the nature of my job requires me to shoot REALLY quickly).Not pictured, but also in my camera bag: my backup camera, the Canon 6D. It's a solid backup, and at one time was my main camera. I have no issues with it at all, except that I wish it had more focal points.Also in my bag, the dark horse of professional photography, the Fuji Instax. Yes ma'am, I love that camera. Yes, it's indulgent and nostalgic, and no, I don't care a bit. IT IS SO FUN. I get endless delight from watching my clients' kids taking a picture of themselves with it whenever I get it out during a session. Nothing in photography will ever be so magical as an instant tangible photograph that you have to shake (shake it, shake shake it, shake it like a polaroid picture) and watch it appear. MAGIC. 

3. Camera Straps.

SO VITAL!!! Never overlook a good camera strap. For years, the only one I used was the one below - this neoprene handstrap from Amazon. It's soft and comfortable and keeps my mind at ease when I'm shooting a newborn session and standing above the baby - I know that even if my hand somehow fails, the camera isn't going anywhere. It's strapped to my hand and not going to pose a threat to the baby. Nothing on earth is more important to me than keeping my tiniest clients safe, and this strap helps make that happen. I have it on both my Canon cameras.But is ONE strap sufficient? NAY, I say. Nay. I have two on my main camera: the hand strap pictured above, and the fabulous scarf strap pictured below. Guys, I love this strap. The hand strap has been wonderful for years, but when I'm shooting for longer than an hour, my hand gets T-I-R-E-D. Good gracious, guys, SO TIRED. With this scarf strap, I can stylishly stash my camera cross-body and let it hang there between shots. It's unbelievably soft, and although it's suffered a few snags (as you can see), it just adds character.

4. Lenses.

My friends, lenses are such a hot-button issue for photographers, and with good reason. But here is all the wisdom I have to dispense on the subject:

  • YES, lenses are expensive. SO EXPENSIVE. You may be tempted to lease an organ or two to pay for one (resist the temptation, you need those). But here's the deal: camera BODIES get updates and upgrades constantly. You can't keep up unless you're rolling in the green. But LENSES make all the difference in photography - you can make incredible photographs with a subpar camera, but it's very difficult to make a good picture with a subpar lense. So what I'm saying is: SPEND YOUR MONEY ON LENSES. They don't (often) get upgrades, they don't come in model years, they're just insanely good glass that helps you see the world the way you want to. Put your money here, trust me. You get what you pay for.
  • Every photographer has their favorite lens, and they will tell you all day long that it's the most important lens in their arsenal - and I don't doubt that for a second. But that doesn't mean it is/should be the most important lens in YOUR arsenal. Early on in my career I made the mistake of reading posts like this from other photographers, and instantly obsessing over the lenses they declared to be the best. This led me to purchase several lenses (such as the 85mm) that were touted as ESSENTIAL for every portrait photographer. I ended up hating them and eventually selling them. I had to find my way, my groove, by trial and error, and if you're going to be a photographer, you do too. No one can tell you what you have to have. Hell, don't get a camera at all if you don't want to - make a pinhole camera with a shoebox. You do you, no one else can. For me, I had to realize that my style (very documentary and candid) was very hampered by a tighter crop. I wanted to see more of the scene, always more. I didn't want to feel cramped. I shoot mostly in homes, which doesn't normally afford me much space, so a solid wide angle lens is a must for me.All of that eventually led me to the 24-70mm 2.8 Canon L lens, the Sigma ART 35mm prime (excellent quality for the money, but generally has focus issues which can crop up early on), and this badass tiny workhorse, the Canon 50mm 1.4. Can I just say that the 50mm is my personal hero? I've used it TO DEATH for ten years, had it repaired several times, beaten it to death, dropped it on sidewalks, and used it to take hundreds of thousands of photographs (HUNDREDS. OF. THOUSANDS.) and still it's one of my Big Three lenses. And it's the cheapest lens I ever bought! How is this possible?! This is the one time in my experience that you DON'T get what you pay for with lenses. It's cheap af and very solid.Those are currently my three lenses, and I generally spend most of my shooting time with my Sigma. I'm not really crushing on any other lenses, unless maaaaaaaaaybe maybe the Sigma 105mm Macro. I wouldn't use it much, but it would be nice for shooting details of newborns (ears, toes, fingers, eyelashes).

    5. Digital Asset Management.

    I lovingly refer to the digital asset management part of my job as "DAM" because I hate it so hard. I miss the days of film, developing, and delivering. So straightforward. No backing up, backing up the backups, fretting about memory card integrity, etc. I know I'm over romanticizing, because there were a hundred other things to worry about, but I wouldn't mind NOT worrying about DAM.That said, I use both SD cards and CF cards for my cameras (the 5DMK4 has dual slots for one of each, which is so nice). -Which means I have a lot of both cards, which means I need a place to store them. I have the two cases below (the butterflies just make me happy, get over it).For backups, I actively use three portable external hard drives, plus the ever-present Cloud to make sure that all my hard work is protected. 

    6. The Essential Accessories.

    Show Me Your You prompt cards. I love the activities and ideas that lead to deeper connection and intimacy between my clients, and even between my clients and the camera.Extra batteries and chargers. OMG. Don't overlook this, or you'll be sorry.Card reader. Because you can take the most fabulous pictures in the world, but if you can't get them on your computer, what good are they? 

    7. Pelican Case. 

    This one's not actually in my bag, obvs, but it's vital. This case is the best. Waterproof, everything-proof. I keep my external hard drives here. It saved my digital assets during our road trip last summer, and the love continues. 8. MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.Yes, this fits in my bag, and yes, it's nearly the most essential part of my workflow. Only about 10% of my time as a photographer is spent with a camera; at least 90% is spent with the computer. This beast is incredible for all the things I need it to do. And let me reiterate - it comfortably fits in my bag. What in the world. It's magical.

And that's it! I have some random Kleenex's, lens cloths, my bullet journal, and chapstick. With space left over.

Not in my camera bag, and rarely used:

1. Alien Bees and Lightstands.

I have three of these guys, and I have to be honest - I'm too impatient to do much with them. I got them for a song from another photographer, and believe me, I know the gems I have and don't take them for granted, but I just. don't. have. time. to learn to use them well. Old dogs and new tricks and all that jazz. But learning them is on my list, and I will accomplish it one day!

2. Manfrotto tripod. 

This guy is awesome. I just rarely need a tripod in my daily work. But when I do, I REALLY do, and this one is the best I've used.

3. Diffusers.

Not the kind you use with essential oils; the kind that manipulate the natural light around you. I have this one (different brand but almost identical) and this one. Very helpful when lighting is inideal.And that's it! Questions? Hit me up! I love to talk about this stuff.