Ever since I started this site, I tend to get questions about my camera and lenses. The answer to what’s in my bag has changed a lot over the last few years as I’ve grown and learned. If you’ve ever looked at the photos on my site and wondered what I’m shooting with, this should answer all your questions!
But first a frame of reference: I am one part stay at home mom, one part photographer, one part professional blogger. The images I capture document all that is most precious to me in this world and I take that task very seriously. I also happen to make a small profit from selling food photography to a stock agency. Our budget hasn’t always been flexible enough to own everything I mention below, it is a collection I have built over years with lots of hard work and saving. I’ve tried to call out which items are great for beginners and I’ve tried to explain how I knew when to take the next steps.
My recommendation is to start with what your budget allows and as you learn what you need and why that’s when to add to your collection.
If you still have questions, I’d love for you to leave me a note in the comments so I can edit the post! I’d be happy to clarify anything.
P.S. This post is sponsored by JoTotes. When I told them I wanted to share their bag with you they offered a $100 gift card for a giveaway, how cool is that?? Be sure to check out the entry at the bottom!!
Camera gear and mobile office tools for a mom on the go
1. The Bag:
I have tried out at least 6 different camera bags/purse arrangements since first getting a DSLR in 2010. They’ve all been too big, too clunky, or just not right. Right now I am LOVING my JoTotes Gracie bag in mint. I had hoped it might be the perfect size for a day-to-day bag but for my personal taste it is still just a bit too big. What it beats every other bag I’ve ever tried is as a travel/conference bag. Oh my gosh you guys, I LOVED loved loved carrying this to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in April. It is by far the most perfect airplane travel purse ever.
There are tons of hidden pockets in and outside of it that are just the right size for easy access for your wallet, cell phone, and iPad mini sized tablet or Kindle but even more secret pockets for keeping valuables tucked away. It is padded so my gear feels safe and cozy but just roomy enough to hold all my conference essentials once we are at our destination.
It comes with two straps–one shoulder purse length and one cross-body length. I change it up frequently and loved having the hands-free option while wrangling the kids in the airport but looking classy at the conference with my purse.
Be sure to check out the Jo Totes giveaway at the bottom of the post, I’m super excited to be able to hook a reader up with a $100 gift certificate to snag their own JoTotes.
2. The Gear:
From July 2010 – July 2013 pretty much every photo on this blog was shot with my Canon Rebel T1i. I loved that camera so big and so hard for all those years. I couldn’t recommend the Rebel series any more highly to a new photographer. It is the perfect size and weight, has just the right features, and when coupled with a 35mm or 50mm lens is the perfect set-up for learning to shoot in manual.
In July 2013 I finally decided to upgrade the body to a Canon 6D full frame. This post would be too long if I explained the technical differences between that and the crop sensor Rebel but let me say that the full frame gives me so much more room to breathe in my compositions. I don’t have to back up as far when shooting with my prime lenses and the ISO capability allows me to shoot in dimly lit situations my Rebel would have freaked out in.
The Lenses from Left to Right:
24-105mm f/4: This was the kit lens when I bought my Canon 6D. It is a phenomenal lens and part of Canon’s L-series. You can tell by that red stripe on the body of the lens. Before this lens came into my life, I was exclusively a prime shooter. This made me a zoom convert. I’ve used this lens for trips to Disney, trips to the beach, most of my food photography in the last year. It has been my go-to lens for most practical things. Sharp, excellent colors, and the f/4 doesn’t bother me as long as my light is great. When I’m feeling the need to be more artistic, I often grab one of the other lenses on this list. This one is my workhorse.
50mm f/1.4: I originally started out with the “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 on my Rebel but when I started to produce images specifically for selling to a stock agency, I upgraded to the f/1.4 version. This thing is a light seeking machine!! The colors and the clarity are so much better than on the f/1.8 but unless you are selling your work or have developed a super picky eye, it probably isn’t worth the extra cost.
35mm f/2: This was the lens I used almost exclusively on my Rebel for 3 years straight. I love the focal length of this and how it is so much wider than the “nifty fifty” everyone recommended I start with. If you’re shooting anything indoors with a Rebel, you really should look into this lens. The price has gone up significantly since I got mine years ago, probably because of the introduction of this next lens. . .
40mm f/2.8, the pancake lens: This was my most recent purchase before we traveled to Disney this spring. I desperately wanted something lighter and more portable and it definitely did the trick. I love how this lens makes my bigger bodied DSLR look more discreet. It’s perfect for a shy photographer like me. I hate shooting in public, believe it or not. I always feel so self-conscious with that big crazy 24-105 hanging off my camera as if I don’t deserve the gear I own. The 40 lets me blend in a little better and feel more confident. And it is sharp and earns it’s keep! If the 35mm is out of your budget range, I would most definitely recommend this as an alternative. You’ll sacrifice a little of your aperture flexibility but you’ll love how much wider than the 50mm it is!
3. The Mobile Office:
As I mentioned, I’m one part stay-at-home-mom, one part professional blogger. I have a lot of things to organize. This year I have three blogging conferences to attend and several family trips where I needed to bring “my office” on the road with me. These are the tools I could not survive without:
iPhone: It’s an addiction. I’m an Apple Girl through and through. Part point and shoot camera, part social media lifeline, part “Which exit from this highway are we using for a potty break??” information seeker. This little gadget has saved me from emergencies of many kinds to many times to count.
iPad Mini + Bluetooth Keyboard (not pictured, Little Pea stole it!): Because my computer at home is a desktop, the iPad Mini has become my portable computer of choice. When coupled with this amazingly light and portable bluetooth keyboard, the iPad has served as my laptop for blog writing and note taking, portable library of books and magazines, and entertainment center of choice for movies, games, and time wasters of all kinds. (Pinterest, I’m looking at you.)
Erin Condren paper planner: “One of these things is not like the other. . . ” Yes, this digital girl insists on good old fashioned pen and paper for calendar keeping, life organizing, and big dream planning. My planner holds everything from doctor appointments for the family to brainstorming lists for the blog to conference notes for review. I’ve used this planner for 2 years and I love it. You can read a full review of the planner here.
Packing list for my bag:
When I’m heading on a trip or to a conference, this is everything I can fit into my JoTotes bag:
- Canon 6D with one lens attached, usually the 40mm
- A spare lens, usually the 24-105mm
- extra memory cards in this travel case
- battery charger
- iPad Mini + charger
- Bluetooth keyboard + spare AA batteries
- Erin Condren planner
- Lens Pen for cleaning my gear, best $6 you’ll ever spend
- iPhone with my headphones
- External battery charger that works for all the digital devices
- business cards
- these pens
- the spare strap for my bag
- a pouch to store my receipts or sometimes I dedicate one of the secret zippered pockets inside the bag
- package of tissues
- antibacterial lotion for my hands
I’ve had no trouble finding room for all the above mentioned things. Things get a little heavy but I love being able to tote that all in this purse rather than needing a full blown brief case style bag.
Are you ready to enter for a chance at your own JoTotes bag?