I’ve had a lot of questions about equipment and what I have in my bag, specifically for senior sessions! I remember when I was first getting started in photography and had no idea what I needed. When my mom bought me my first prime lens (50mm 1.8) I had no idea what a prime lens was or why I should like it so much more than my zoom lenses!
With everything being so expensive, I knew if I was going to invest any money I needed to be intentional about what I purchased to get the most out of it!
I’ve upgraded a little at a time over the years, only buying new equipment when I absolutely knew it’s what I wanted. I think that worked out well for me and I absolutely LOVE all of the equipment I have now.
If you’re in a place where you’re looking to upgrade or grow your collection, it’s okay to take it slow!!! Do your research. Recognize that everyone has different preferences. Find out what works for you and your style. Rent lenses and practice with them first.
For me, I have grown to love prime lenses and I really only stick to a few during portrait sessions!! Here’s the rundown of what I bring to each of my senior portrait sessions.
I am a full frame camera girl and I loveee my Canon 5D Mark iii. It has multiple focus points and the colors and focus are perfect. I have thought about upgrading to the Mark IV but with the price difference, it just doesn’t make sense (right now at least!). I do like the touch screen feature for focusing and reviewing images on the Mark IV but I use back button focusing when I’m shooting so it wouldn’t be as much use to me other than making things a little faster.
Like most, I started off with a Canon Rebel T3i and then when I decided to get more serious upgraded to a Canon 6D. If you are starting out but want to take your photography to a professional level, I highly recommend the Canon 6D! It’s lighter than the Mark III, has wifi (which comes in handy for quickly sharing images to your phone), and doesn’t break the bank for a full frame camera!
I still use my 6D as a back up and always recommend it to photographers who are looking to move up to the next level.
Tip: Shooting with a full frame camera is what makes the photos look more professional. Since the photos aren’t being cropped in camera, they are closer to actual film which is the goal!
The Canon 50mm 1.2 lens is my BABY. I almost never take it off of my camera I love it that much!
Because it’s a prime lens, it lets in a TON of light, has the sharpest focus, and let’s you get the creamy bokeh background that everyone loves! It’s a great focal length for portraits because I can be close enough to direct posing and make adjustments if needed but also far enough away that it doesn’t feel like I’m right in your face.
I recommend everyone who is starting out to get a 50mm because it’s the best to learn and practice with prime lenses. I started off with a 50mm 1.8 (only about $125) and it taught me SO much.
When I upgraded to the 1.2…it was a complete game changer. The glass is a lot nicer (which you would expect with the price increase) which gives that crystal clear focus and allows subjects to pop off the background.
Here are some of my favorite images with a 50mm 1.2!
The Canon 85mm 1.4 is my most recent purchase and I am learning to love this lens! I bought it because all of my photographer friends raved about the bokeh and how much subjects pop off the background. I had to have it!
I rented it from lensrentals.com for a wedding, fell in love with the images, and ended up buying it rather than sending it back.
Many people who shoot with the 85mm have the 1.2 but the 1.4 version is the newest from Canon. From all of the reviews I read, the 1.4 is essentially “better” with focus and bokeh, so I went with this one!
Tip: I LOVE using lensrentals.com for equipment I don’t have yet and for testing out new things I may want to buy. If you love what you rent, you have the option to pay the full price for it and keep it for yourself!
If you’re planning on renting a lot, they have an option to pay one fee for shipping and then you get it free for the whole year. That’s really paid off for me!
I like to bring out the 85mm 1.4 once we’ve warmed up a little in the session because I have to back wayyy far back to get everything in the shot. By then everyone is a pro at posing so I don’t have to run back and forth for direction and adjusting!
After using it for a few sessions, I really saw why people rave about it! The creaminess of the bokeh is beautiful and it does add a little extra pop for the background!
Here are some of my favorite shots with the 85mm 1.4.
The Canon 24-70mm 2.8 is one of the first “nice” lenses that I purchased and it will always hold a special place in my heart, even though it’s not a prime lens! I bought this lens when I had a limited budget and needed something that would give me more versatility –– something I could use to get up close but also shoot wide shots without having to run to the other end of the field.
I don’t usually bring out the 24-70mm 2.8 during a senior or portrait session because I like the other lenses better for the job that I’m doing, BUT I like to keep it in my bag just in case.
The other two lenses aren’t the best for getting really epic wide shots. Even though it’s not really my style to take wide shots, I don’t ever want to be in a position where I’m in a tight space or want to see the whole side of a building and don’t have the lens to make it happen.
To be honest, I will likely be “replacing” this lens with the Canon 35mm 1.4 soon so I can stick with all prime but I still love it!
If you are looking at getting a really nice quality lens that also can be used in a ton of situations, this is a great lens for you!
I know the cameras and lenses are the most interesting part (and the pieces that make the magic actually happen!!), but I also wanted to give you a peek inside what else is in my camera bag!
I usually use 64GB memory cards with a really high writing speed –– I shoot fast and slower memory cards take too long to save the images and it throws me off a little!
My favorite right now is the SanDisk 64GB Extreme (which you can usually find on sale!!).
To keep my memory cards safe, I use this Beeway® Tough Water Shock Resistant Protector Memory Card Carrying Case. If I’m not using a card, it’s in this case!
I like to have this just in case I need a little extra light on my seniors’ faces! I love the
Selens 5-in-1 43 Inch (110cm) Portable Handle Round Reflector because it has a handle so I can hold it under the camera to bounce the light onto my subject. This helps with making eyes brighter, getting rid of shadows under the eyes, and providing a pop of brightness!
Tip: The reflector is definitely helpful in bright green fields to keep their faces from looking too green!!!
This is my favorite part about “what’s in my bag”…the actual bag! It is a Kelly Moore Libby 2.0 Shoulder Bag and I am absolutely obsessed with it.
Kyle actually bought this as a gift for me a few years ago and I was shocked! It is perfect for sessions and also traveling. It has room for all of the lenses, the camera, memory card case, plus the extra things that are needed just in case (chapstick, lipstick, glitter, snacks…you know, the normal stuff).
I love that I can sling it over my shoulder, drop it down when I find the perfect location, and it keeps everything safe and organized.
Not to mention that it’s super cute and totally my style!!! (After using the bag, I realized just how many light brown leather bags I owned!!!)
Okay guys, that’s all that I have in my camera bag on senior session days! If you have more in-depth questions about my opinions on different equipment, how I use each one, or what would be best for your specific situation, please comment below or reach out!
I’d love to talk through your photography goals and what will be the best investment of your money, because it’s truly an investment!!