An In-Depth Overview of my Photography Must Haves
Discover exactly which pieces of gear I use, love and personally recommend as a professional photographer.
Don’t be fooled by the title of this post—I’m not JUST inviting you into my bag. I’m taking you beyond my photography bag and into my car, my office, and every nook and cranny that you’ll find my professional photography equipment. So while you’ll see my day-to-day essentials, you’ll also see all the tools I use for processing, storing, lighting, and more. This is something you’re going to want to bookmark.
While I started my career with Nikon camera and lenses, I definitely don’t regret switching over to the Sony line. I actually have 2 of these mirrorless sony bodies that I use in tandem at nearly every shoot. I think it’s crucial to have a backup camera in case the unthinkable happens to your primary body, but I also find it incredibly useful to have one lens attached to the first body, and another focal length on the second body. (see the harness I use below)
What I love most about the A7iii:
– Very lightweight compared with DSLRs
– Touch-screen LCD lets me use single point BBF by tapping
– I assign single point focus to one custom button, and the Eye-AF (yeah, it actually focuses on the correct eye for you) on another button
– Compatibility with top glass (look for E-Mount lenses and adapters)
– LIFECHANGING video capability and a dedicated slow-mo mode
– Dual card slots!
This lens is the most prized staple of my gear collection. I use this lens for ALL headshots, and even some group shots, lifestyle, and even product photos. The focal length is ideal for eliminating barrel distortion, so it’s flattering for portraits and it magnifies the background nicely as well. I use this for a lot of product photography precisely for that reason too. For example, if I’m shooting a cylinder product like a candle, using this lens will help make even more of the label visible than a 50mm or 35mm focal length would. At the same time, the 85mm length is comfortable for even small spaces. The best part of this lens, however, is the super narrow depth of field you can achieve with the 1.4 aperture capability. That’s what REALLY sets this lens apart and makes it a staple in my bag as a professional photographer.
I use and LOVE this lens for wider environmental portraits, lifestyle branding, group photos, and documentary. I also use this lens in particular for all videos. Like my 85 ART, this 35 ART has impeccable color quality, sharpness, and it’s lightning fast. These lens are both pretty large (though they are certainly not 70-200 large), but paired with the super lightweight mirrorless body of the Sony a7iii, it’s very manageable for holding and shooting with for hours on end.
Main Light: GODOX AD200 Pro
Honestly I wish I’d invested in this one right out of the gate. Instead, I invested in very cheap yongnuo speedlights with limited capabilities for TTL and HSS, which meant I couldn’t use them in creative settings like outdoors. I’m begging you to invest in the RIGHT piece of gear to make your life a lot easier (and to make lighting a LOT more fun). I love this monolight because it has all the portability I love about speed lights, but the power and performance of a more expensive and heavy strobe.
I use the AD200 Pro as my main light, an AD200 (non-pro) as my 2nd light. It has slightly less power but it’s very similar in performance and is marginally more affordable.
Background/Kicker: Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 S TTL
This speedlight flash is identical to the Godox V860II-S and even says so on the amazon listing. The only difference is the branding. But for the record, you could buy either one and they’re exactly alike. I own the flashpoint one because you can get it as a standalone flash and save money. It looks like the Godox version is sold as a kit.
This is the most reliable transmitter I’ve tried so far. I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of misfires from faulty transmitters, and ultimately this is the one I now use and recommend that you start with if you have the compatible setup. It allows you to control all your lights right from your camera hotshoe. You can even toggle HSS on/off without touching your lights. It’s a little intimidating and overwhelming at first with all of the controls, but you’ll be glad you got this one. Just spend some time getting familiar with it!
This modifier is portable, durable, super lightweight, and just incredible for the price. I love how even the spread of light is, and the convenience factor of the carrying case and the way it springs open and closed for setting up quickly. This is a no-brainer, you can use this outdoors or in studio. I bring this everywhere.
I’ve had this reflector for several years and it is affordable, durable, easy to use, and very large—all while being SUPER versatile. I use it as a reflector for all my headshots since the size perfectly complements my beauty dish modifier, and I also use the diffusion panel without the reflector sleeve for product photos occasionally too. Overall, 10/10. There’s no reason to look at any other reflectors.
I know what you’re thinking: this is TOO much. It’s unnecessary durability, storage and performance for a simple memory card. But listen, it only takes one corrupt or broken card to tell you how important this overlooked essential is. You don’t need a bunch of memory cards, you just need a handful of really really good ones. I have two of these TOUGH 256GB—one in my first card slot on each of my cameras.
Why this is the BEST memory card for Sony users:
It has no ribs. Ribs are those little flimsy plastic parts on the connective part of the card that can get easily bent just from normal use. When those break, you risk losing all the data on the card. It happened to me. The TOUGH card is insanely strong, so you’re actually saving money in the long run on all the cards you WON’T have to buy as replacements.
If the 256 is out of your budget, check out the 64GB or the 128GB cards!
What I actually have:
iMac Retina 4K, 21.5 inch 2017 with a 3.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 32GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive
Unfortunately this is a difficult to find model with these specs because I had to order the 32GB Ram upgrade when I purchased mine at Best Buy. Please make sure your computer has AT LEAST 32GB RAM if you plan to use Photoshop and/or Lightroom. Trust me when I say that these programs run significantly hindered on 16GB RAM and even worse on the standard 8GB Ram. In my opinion, no iMac should be sold with less than 32GB Ram. So just be very particular about the specifications. There are some models of iMac that allow upgrades to RAM after purchase, but mine was not among them. Do thorough research into this and make sure you get at least 32GB as an upgrade at the time of purchase.
If you’re unfamiliar with Solid State Drives (SSD), here is a definition from avast.com:
“A solid-state drive (SSD) is a new generation of storage device used in computers. SSDs replace traditional mechanical hard disks by using flash-based memory, which is significantly faster. Older hard-disk storage technologies run slower, which often makes your computer run slower than it should.”
They’re essentially better performance storage than a traditional external hard drive. The popular external hard drives are all known to fail pretty often unfortunately, which is why I invested in this instead. I’ve had mine for a couple of years now and I absolutely LOVE it. For the price, it can’t be beat. By now you probably know how much I value portability and this is a no-brainer investment for storage. I use this to keep my photos on and my LR catalog so that I can take my work with me and use a laptop OR my iMac to edit without any hiccups.
You’ll still need to invest in a long term storage solution, even with an external hard drive. I back up everything automatically from my portable drive to the cloud with Crashplan for small business. Literally everything is saved forever, even after I delete it locally. My biggest professional photographer tip is to be sure to name your files correctly with as many keywords as possible though, because you can’t preview your files in Crashplan when you want to recover them.
Unfortunately the wacom photo tablet I use was discontinued, but after careful research this is the closest surviving model from wacom and the price is just as amazing as my photo tablet was. If you’re in the market for a tablet (I use mine for editing and can’t IMAGINE going back to a mouse for retouching), you’l notice a wide range of tablets from $40 up to $1000. You don’t need a tablet that costs hundreds of dollars. Just get this one.
I use the Xrite ColorMunki Display personally, but upon research this is the most recent (2021) popular affordable option. It’s the same price as the one I use but this wasn’t an option when I purchased mine.
You should invest in a monitor calibration software kit because you NEED to be able to see the true to print colors of your digital images when you’re editing. You’d be shocked how poorly calibrated screens are for photography when you purchase a computer. I can’t emphasize enough how crucial this one-time investment will be and how many editing nightmares this will save.
If you shoot creative portraits, events, or weddings and use a speedlight flash either on OR off camera, this kit is a must. Just attach the rubber magnet grip to the flash head, and then the attachments snap on and off by a strong magnet on either side. You can use these to shape, bounce, diffuse, grid, and gel the light.
I use this particular harness whenever I need both cameras handy—branding, events, lifestyle sessions, and especially weddings. This harness is WAY more affordable than the famous “holdfast moneymaker” harness, and in my opinion it’s better made. The holdfast pieces are plastic and these are metal. I get a lot of compliments on this harness when I wear it and I highly recommend it for professional photographers at the price.
I use this popular compact microphone when I shoot videos occasionally. It sits conveniently on the hotshoe of your camera with a short cable to connect to the mic port. The deadcat protective layer minimizes any wind for a clear, professional sound. The price is unbelievable. This is yet another no-brainer investment for photographers who dabble in video occasionally, though a professional videographer may want to invest in something higher quality I’m sure.
This is one of my more recent purchases for headshots to take the lighting to the next level. It’s flattering for facial features, and absolutely dazzling in the way it illuminates the eyes. While this is a portable system technically, practically I don’t think it makes sense to break this down and set it back up due to the difficulty in putting it together. But with a little bit of strategy and a lot of determination I was able to get this bad boy into my car fully assembled for a location shoot. If you have a studio where it can be assembled and left that way, I highly recommend this.
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This post contains affiliate links, meaning that using these links to my recommended products will earn me a small percentage commission when you make a purchase. Using these links does not add to your cost to purchase any of the items. All opinions and recommendations are my honest professional photographer recommendations regardless of the affiliate programs.