“Nice camera! I’ll bet it takes nice photos.”
I’m sure you’ve lost count of the number of times people have said that to you.
While we all know it’s the skill of the photographer that matters more than the gear, an investment in quality gear can really pay off, provided you learn to use that gear in a way an amateur will not.
The type of photography you specialize in will dictate what type of gear you will need. So, in this post I’m sharing my professional photography equipment list with you. These are the top five tools I use as a personal brand photographer.
Don’t get me wrong — the gear you use does have an impact on the final image quality. It’s just not the be-all, end-all. I am constantly educating the public on that fact.
Yes, I invest in pro gear because I understand how to use it and want my clients (and my portfolio) to benefit from its capabilities. And I’ll say it again for effect: it’s not the gear that matters as much as the photographer who has carefully honed their skills and knows how to make the equipment work for them.
Investing in high quality, professional gear is one of the most important ways you can set yourself apart from the amateurs. These are the top 5 pieces of equipment that I choose to invest in.
As a pro photographer, I naturally place camera gear at the top of my professional photography equipment list. As a brand photographer, I place a strong emphasis on portraiture, so I invest in specific camera lenses designed with portraits in mind.
I am very intentional with my choices — every lens in my camera bag has a job. I also pay more attention to its quality, capabilities, and longevity than to the manufacturer. Full disclosure: I shoot with Canon and love it, but there are other systems that are equally as amazing.
I’m currently obsessed with the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens for portraits. It is definitely an investment, but the performance is stellar and so worth it. I love the sharpness it gives to the eye, the softness it gives to the skin, and of course the gorgeous pop-off-the-background bokeh that no other lens can deliver!
I also love my 50mm for detail shots and flatlays. And for product photography, I couldn’t be without a macro lens.
The second most-used tool in my photography studio is background surfaces. There are so many great companies to choose from, and I’ve probably tried them all.
The ones I love best are nearly indestructible — which is really a necessity more than a luxury because I need to be able to carry them with me. They are also easy to clean and come in a variety of colors and styles that make it easy to match different brand aesthetics.
Of course, a white background will always be my favorite for flatlays.
I also love my collapsible white background for headshots and wouldn’t dream of doing my job without it. It folds for easy traveling, is the perfect shade of white, and it is contemporary and stylish for today’s modern headshot.
If you’re a professional photographer, editing software is an essential piece of equipment for your post-production work. Again, depending on your specialty (and style), the number of features you use may differ, but all photos need basic edits, like adjusting white balance and contrast.
Adobe Lightroom is my go-to software for all of my photography. I’ve gotta say — if you don’t use Lightroom, you’re missing out on some of the most powerful editing software there is. The best part? Once you edit one photo in a series, you can sync settings on all similar photos with the click of the mouse — a huge time-saver when you’re editing thousands of photos in a month.
This might be an obvious one, since editing software needs to run editing software needs to run on something, right? But let’s talk computers for a minute because it is absolutely one of the most important (and highly used) pieces of equipment I own.
In fact, you can’t run a photography business without a computer.
And you need a powerful computer system with external storage. Now, the type of computer and operating system is up to you — desktop vs. laptop, or Apple vs. Windows. You can find many blog posts that compare the two.
The industry standard is an Apple Mac; however, I have seen some superb studios running Windows operating systems too. Adobe software now runs just as efficiently on both.
I, personally, use Apple products. They have a hefty price tag but, again, I look at capability and longevity. A Mac will outlive a PC any day. I also like that all of my devices talk to each other.
As a brand photographer, I consider it my job to flatter every face type and shape who walks through my door. And part of the way I achieve flattering photos is with external lights and modifiers.
Lighting is the final tool I use in my studio, but also one of the most important ones.
You don’t have to use the fancy brand name lighting gear either. I’ve had better results with three Flashpoint lights and a commander than I have with brand-name equipment. The quality of light is the same, and the magic happens when you choose your modifiers. Read more on how I control my lighting in my Headshots Tips for Photographers post.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, different genres of photography will require different equipment. In portraiture, for example, I look for lenses with really wide apertures. The smooth, soft bokeh allows my subject to really pop from the background.
Wildlife and sports photographers will need very fast (and long) lenses to stop (and zoom) into the action. Landscape photographers will look for both long and short lenses with really crisp apertures on both ends of the spectrum.
Now that you know what gear to use when running a brand photography studio, it’s time to start your brand photography business! Are you ready? If you need some tips and motivation, here’s a great blog post to get your started: Business Ideas for Photographers: How To Grow Your Business by Including Brand Photography.
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