prêt-approved // what's in my camera bag

i hate that i'm now becoming one of those people who say, "i've been getting a lot of questions about [insert topic or product here]." but here we are. so to just rip off the bandaid, i've been getting quite a few questions about my camera, lenses, and general gear that i use for my photos.

phew okay, that wasn't that bad was it?

but before i jump into all of the goodies in my camera bag, i first want to give you all a little insight into my photography history. coming from a business and finance background, photography was nowhere in my course load. when i studied abroad in paris as a junior in college, i ended up stealing my bother's beginner canon rebel kit and thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread simply because it was a dslr (digital single-lens reflex camera). although the rebel does have manual capabilities, i was exclusively using the automatic photo option...aka not much better than an iphone. i would occasionally get a "good photo" but it was all luck at that point. 

it wasn't until i was beginning the design phase of my blog where i began to want better and higher quality photos. so the uneducated photographer in me simply thought, "i just need a better camera." i began to scour countless websites of my favorite photographers including that of carin of paris in four months to see what she was using. carin mentioned that she used (at the time) the canon 5d mark ii with a disclaimer that it isn't the camera that makes the photographer. and as any "award-winning" stubborn college kid would do, i rolled my eyes and added the ridiculously expensive camera to my online cart. and in addition to this lens, i bought a "big" lens because i didn't know any better and thought the bigger the lens meant the better the lens. and quite honestly, i couldn't even tell you what the "big" lens was because i never really picked it up.

after playing around with my new gadget for not even an hour, i quickly learned that carin's disclaimer couldn't have been truer; i had absolutely no idea what i was doing and with a lack of an automatic option, none of my photos were turning out properly! i frantically began watching youtube tutorials from everything including the basics of aperture (essentially how blurry the background is behind the subject) and shutter speed (how quickly the shutter opens and closes and determines how much light is let in) to how to change the focus on the camera. i was like a lost puppy but i was in too deep to turn back. i was going home to michigan for one of our school breaks and reached out to michigan photographer ann gordan to rescue me. thankfully she was willing to teach me the foundation i needed to begin to grasp the concept of taking a photo in manual mode and editing in adobe lightroom. while our photography styles now are very different, without her lesson, it's safe to say i would not be where i am today!

from then on i practiced photography more than anything in my entire life and simply fell head over heels for it. i took my camera with me everywhere and just took pictures of everything i could to practice changing the settings. when i didn't quite know what to do, i would set the camera to "av" also known as aperture priority. this means you tell the camera what aperture you want the camera to be set at and then the camera figures out the rest. but now i rarely touch that setting. take a look how my photos looked in the beginning! my photos were over-exposed and i don't know what i was thinking with that editing! and when i moved to nyc, i began taking pictures for dana and a few other blogger friends. but even then, i was still learning and practicing here when i was just breaking into doing freelance photography on the side. but the reason i show you these is because getting a new camera, new lens, or a new preset that someone else has isn't going to make your photos groundbreaking, you are!

okay so that may have been the longest disclaimer of "the camera doesn't make the photographer" in the history of disclaimers but let's move on to the good stuff, shall we?


the body
as i mentioned, when i started, i was using the canon 5d mark ii, and then moved to the mark iii, and now i currently use the canon 5d mark iv. my biggest piece of advice if you're looking to dive into a new camera body, is to either borrow from a friend, rent, or buy it used. it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run! for beginners, i strongly recommend any starter dslr of the rebel series. this is because it does give you the capability of manual mode for the days you're feeling adventurous as well as the simple automatic setting for the days you're a little on the lazy side! it also has a built in flash for convenience (whereas a lot of the more professional level cameras do not).


the lenses
my other greatest piece of advise is to invest in a good lens before you invest in a new body. this is because the lens is going to have the greatest impact on the final result of your image and many times, the life of the lens will out-live the life of your body simply because technology changes in the bodies so much quicker than the lenses. with that being said, i have quite a few different lenses that are in my arsenal and i'm including example photos with the settings of each lens that can be seen when you hover over the image:

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85mm f/1.2 l ii usm
ideal for portrait photos and has great depth of field
the only downside is you have to stand a good distance away to fit a full-body image into the frame but this is my favorite lens and use it as much as i can!

 iso 500  |  f/2.5  |  1/500sec

iso 500  |  f/2.5  |  1/500sec

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50mm f/1.2 l usm
beneficial when i can't back up as far for the 85mm lens and/or want a little more scenery visible in the frame (aka a wider angle).
good depth of field and i use this the most when i travel!
this lens is one of the most commonly used in the photography world because it most closely resembles the view from the human eye and adorably nicknamed "the nifty fifty."

 iso 320  |  f/2.8  |  1/1250sec

iso 320  |  f/2.8  |  1/1250sec

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35mm sigma f/1.4 art dg hsm
i use this mostly when i'm in very tight spaces like a restaurant but also for very wide angle scenic shots.
depth of field is good

iso 800  |  f/2.2  |  1/160sec

 iso 320  |  f/2.2  |  1/250sec

iso 320  |  f/2.2  |  1/250sec

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16-35mm f/2.8 l iii usm
i use this lens a lot of times when i'm traveling so i am able to get a variety of different wide angle lengths. it is a very sharp lens and has the ability to have a decent depth of field when the subject is close.
the only downside (and this goes for any wide-angle lens) the edges start to warp significantly the wider you take the lens (meaning close to that 16mm focal length)

 iso 500  |  f/2.8  |  1/3200sec  at the 16mm length

iso 500  |  f/2.8  |  1/3200sec  at the 16mm length

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24mm f/1.4 l ii usm
this is probably my least used lens but i use it occasionally when i need to fit a very large object into a very tiny instagram square or horizontal photo...i.e. the manhattan bridge!

 iso 320  |  f/3.2  |  1/250sec

iso 320  |  f/3.2  |  1/250sec

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one last point about lenses:
fixed lenses (lenses that do not zoom) vs. zoom lenses

you may have noticed that i almost exclusively have fixed lenses aside from my 16-35mm lens. this is purely personal preference but i feel as if the fixed lenses give me a crisper image overall. a lot of times, on zoom lenses, you see not only a range of numbers for the focal length but a range of apertures as well because it is very costly to maintain the apertures within the moving glass of a zoom lens. this truly is why my 16-35mm lens is by far my most expensive because no matter my focal length, the aperture can always reach f/2.8.


the extras
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a portable hard drive - as someone who takes a copious amount of photos not only for myself but for my clients as well, i would not be able to do my job if i didn't have some kind of secondary storage. it prevents my computer from slowing down when i'm not working on my photos and doesn't fill up unnecessary storage on my computer's hard drive. overall a life saver!
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back up camera batteries (and case) - this is for when i'm out shooting all day and don't have time to charge! even if i'm pretty sure i'm not going to need a backup battery, i just bring it anyways!
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memory cards (and case) - in total, i have 8 memory cards! i know it seems like a lot but with so many photo clients, i want to make sure they are sent their final photos before i format the card for the next client. also, if i'm on a trip i don't want to have to worry about formatting a card with the trip photos on it before i have a chance to back them up. speed and storage is also key when choosing a memory card. the faster the processor and the larger the storage the more expensive it's going to be. i stick between the 32gb and 64gb range for storage because i really don't need much more than that. if i was filming video, that would be a whole other story! and the slowest card i have is 120 mb/s with the fastest being 160 mb/s. i can always tell the difference from a slower processor because many times after a series of photos are taken, the card takes a second to process the images to preview on my camera...and it can be very annoying. 
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a flash - as i mentioned briefly above, my camera (and many of the professional level cameras) does not come with a flash. so for certain situations, it is integral that i have one just in case. i will bring this out for many indoor shoots that don't have a lot of natural light and studio shoots. i have only photographed clients using my flash as i personally stick to outdoor photos for myself.
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a tripod - again, this is something that i rarely use but is necessary in certain situations. of course the obvious is when i'm taking a picture of myself (and don't have lydia nearby) but i also use it when i purposefully take photos with a long exposure (or slow shutter speed) to catch the movement of objects or people. when taking photos under this setting, the camera becomes very sensitive to any movement and must remain stationary to ensure the subject is in focus...and the subject must be extra still as well! see this photo that i took of dana in los angeles!
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remote shutter release - this goes hand in hand with my tripod but if i'm taking a picture of myself, i have to have a remote too!
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lens brush and cleaner - sometimes the lens needs a little touchup and if i don't have a glass cleaner cloth for a quick clean (ones that come with sunglasses is sufficient!) i will use something a little more effective.


i think this covers literally everything! please let me know if there are more questions and i will be more than happy to answer them!