I love gear. I love the tools that make my job easier. I love the bells, the whistles, and all the gadgets and gizmos that make the things that I want to do easier or unnecessary. Below is a list of the gear that I've come to depend on as a professional. Is more expensive because its better in every way. I've tried to put these in order of importance to me. In other words, I'm putting the best stuff at the top. LOL
However, we do not all have big budgets for photography gear, so following my preferred gear list is a list of budget options that I've used. These tools will get you by on a budget. In some cases, they might be more difficult to use, or they aren't as durable, or other reasons why I no longer use them. I feel like they would be a great value for anyone coming up in the game until they can afford better gear. ;) Of course, not everyone wants to shoot at a pro level so this gear is wonderful for that type of person.
I've included Amazon Affiliate links to all the gear you can find on Amazon to make it easy for you to find it if you're interested. Using those links helps me but doesn't cost you any extra. :) I get a small commission if you buy something on Amazon after clicking my link. So, shop till you drop. LOL
Canon 1DX Mark II - Find it on Amazon HERE. This camera is my workhorse. It does everything well but when it comes to high volume action/sports photography, this camera is king of the hill. It's also my go-to camera for shooting videos too. It shoots great slow-mo for B-Roll. Subject tracking is the best there is. High ISO performance can't be beaten. It has all the bells and whistles a guy could want for sports photos. The battery life is amazing too. Generally, one battery will last a full day of shooting.
Canon 5DSR - Find it on Amazon HERE. I LOVE THIS CAMERA! It's certainly not a 1DX2 but when you need/want incredible detail or you want to print very large prints, this is the camera for you because it captures 50MP worth of information at every click. I love it for all my portrait work. horse portraits, family portraits, HS Seniors, and headshots. But it's my creative go-to camera for Landscapes, street photography and anything else where I'm not doing high volume photography. This camera has a built-in intervalometer and you can set longer shutter delays making it great for self-portraits or time lapses.
Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 - Find it on Amazon HERE. I had my eye on this lens for the longest time. NFL photogs love the Canon 300mm f/2.8 but they get to run up and down the field to follow the action. I don't have that luxury, the action happens over and over again in roughly the same place. So, I need a zoom range. This lens is paired with my 1DX2 90% of the time. It is sharp, contrasty, and offers f/2.8 throughout the zoom range making it ideal for me. It is customizable through Sigma's dock. It focuses fast and its built like a tank because it is from Sigma's Sports line of lenses. This thing is seriously heavy though so it is almost always mounted to my gimbal head, see below.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II- Find it on Amazon HERE. I have the Mark II but this link is for the Mark III. It's so much better, it's worth it to upgrade. I've had this lens the longest that's still in my "favorite" gear list. I switch to this one when I need a little bit wider than the Sigma 120-300mm. It is also much lighter and still shoots at f/2.8 throughout the zoom range. This is a staple in most photographer's bags. I'll switch to this lens for lower number ropers because they tend to get a little closer to me than higher numbered ropers. So, by shooting a little wider I can still capture the shots I want. It is also incredibly sharp with great contrast. Since its a Canon L-Series lens, its built very well. Even though it is considerably lighter weight than the Sigma 120-300mm, its still mounted on my gimbal head (see below) when shooting long days of roping or barrel racing.
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II- Find it on Amazon HERE. I've shot with the Mark I version and it really is sub-par. Spring for the Mark II you won't regret it (until the Mark III comes out LOL). I love this lens for so many things. Generally, you'll see this mounted to one of my 1DX2's for award shots. Side note: this is a terrible waste of equipment to use it like this but it won't fail and since I'm usually not the one shooting awards, then I need it to be foolproof. Also, it's wide enough that we can get in those tight spots where most producers do awards. This lens really isn't ideal for shooting people unless you want to capture more than just the person, i.e. award shots. I love this lens on the 5DSR too, its great for walking around town or if you can only bring one lens on a hike. Lots of creative potential in this one.
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II - Find it on Amazon HERE. Ever wonder how I get those amazing shots of one person with just their eyes sharp? Even their nose starts to get a little out of focus, then you look at the background and it is so soft that it looks surreal? This is how I do it. 85mm means that there's no zooming with this lens. It is a prime lens, it does one job and it does it better than any other lens. This is my go-to lens for High School Seniors, Glamour shots, or any time that I want to make one person look amazing in a photo with only hints of what the background is. I don't use this for anything but single person photos but if that's what you want to do, then there's no better choice. I prefer it mounted to my 5DSR. I almost always shoot at f/1.2 but sometimes as much as f/2.0. That is what gives a super shallow depth of field. This isn't for amateurs though, its very difficult to get good results if you don't follow proper shooting technique. (Ask me how I know)
Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8L - Find it on Amazon HERE. Ok, I know what you're thinking. . . "I don't wanna take pictures of flowers and bugs, no thanks." But this is so much more than that. It can focus extremely close but it can also focus far way or somewhere in between. I've taken some of my favorite photos with this lens. It is great for separating a subject by blurring the background, you can get great landscape shots if you think outside the box of the macro. This lens has image stabilization so I often shoot in low light at f/2.8 and capture that fine detail or look at small objects in new ways. There is limitless creativity in this lens. If I'm wanting something unique then this is where I start. Try shooting video with it too, even handheld. You'll get some crazy cool results.
Canon 16-35mm f/4L - Find it on Amazon Here. This is the only lens that I still use that shoots slower than f/2.8. (Narrower Aperture) I got this lens primarily for video. It is the lightest lens I own and it has image stabilization. I typically mount this on my 1DX2 for shooting Vlogs, or run and gun videos. I can shoot handheld and get pretty decent shots with IS turned on. Otherwise, it mounts well to the DJI Ronin S (See Below). It is a great bang for the buck at less than $1,000 of this writing. I love it for getting very close and going wide. It makes for some very interesting images.
Sigma 20mm ART f/1.4 - FInd it on Amazon HERE. I use this lens the least out of all my "Favorites" but that does not say it is not worthy of being in my kit. It is an outstanding lens as are all the ART lenses from Sigma. I primarily bought this lens for astrophotography. It is difficult to get focus but it allows you to shoot at a much lower ISO which is really nice. I'll also use this for other creative projects of course.
Profoto D2 - Find it on Amazon HERE. I put the link to the Duo kit because I use so many that I always buy them in pairs. These are amazing because at full power (500Ws) they recycle in 0.5 seconds. That's wicked fast. That means that in half a second I can take another full power photo. I'm generally not using them at full power but some situations call for it. I have so many people tell me how amazing it is that I can get so many shots per run. Other photogs are using lights that are much slower and thus they are limited to how many shots they can get in a short time. :) Needless to say, I LOVE THESE!! Plus, the receiver is built in which means I can control the lights from my camera. I can control when the fire of course but also the power, modeling lamp, and on/off can all be controlled without having to leave my seat via the Air Remote (see below). Setting these up is super easy too. Just switch to TTL mode take a shot and switch back to manual. Generally, it's perfect the first time. :)
Profoto B1X - Find it on Amazon HERE. These little guys are a dream come true. They are battery powered and have just as much power output as the D2's but I can take them anywhere and have studio quality light. The best part is you can get 300+ full power shots with each of them. So, there's not worry about running out of power on a photo shoot. I use these often for award shots (which again is overkill but why not?). Their main goal for me is their use in private sessions like HS seniors, horse portraits, family portraits, or any time when you need off camera flash on location. They also have modeling lamps which are great for those after sunset photos so we can focus and see what the light is going to do before we push the button. The same thing as the D2's they are 100% controllable from the Air Remote (see below)
Profoto Air Remote - Find it on Amazon HERE - Not Available on Amazon at this time (for Canon). You'll need one of these to control the D2's and B1X's as well as other Profoto lights. I basically covered the pros of this remote above. It is really small and lightweight, it takes AAA batteries that usually last me for 8 hours of shooting so I change them out about halfway through my day normally.
Aputure 300D. and Apurture 120D. Find them on Amazon. I use one of each these for interviews. They are a very powerful light with a common Bowers mount, and highly portable. They even have an option to run them off battery power. I also have some of their panel lights and I love them for background lights and whatever else I need.
First off, these can be used on video or photo projects and the brand name isn't super important. You don't have to match the brand of the softbox to the brand of light, you just need a speedring that fits the light. I want my gear to last a long time so I buy the best I can afford at the time. This list could really be endless so I'm just including the stuff you can buy and that I use most commonly. However, I highly recommend building some modifiers to suit the project needs.
5-Foot Octabox - Find it on Amazon HERE. 5 foot is such a great size for making soft beautiful light on someone's face or upper body. Generally, put it 5 feet away from your subject and fill in the shadows with a reflector for amazing results every time.
Zoom Reflector 2 - Find it on Amazon HERE. This is the modifier that I use on everyone one of my D2's when shooting in the arena. I like that I can control the light and focus it in a 35-degree beam. I find that it gives me a long throw of light and its perfectly even across the spread of light. It "zooms" on the Profoto head to give a different angle of coverage.
Magnum Reflector - Find it on Amazon HERE. I bought this before the Zoom reflector because I thought it was better but it was just different. It can go much wider but it has a hot center. I use it at the end of the arena if I use it at all. When I need to cover a wide area as a fill light. It also is a great light for portraits but it has a specific quality to it. Almost light a spotlight with a feathered edge. I don't use it often.
1'x4' Strip Box with Grid - Find it on Amazon HERE. I have a pair of these. You'll want to get the grids so you can have even more control on the light. I use these in portraits as a rim light. I set them slightly behind the subject off to either side. They can create a great look. They are big enough to create a nice even rim light on full-length portraits.
Soft-Silver 45" Umbrella's - Find it on Amazon HERE. I keep 4-6 of these on hand because they break often. They are easy to use, super cheap, and create a fine quality of light. People are exposed well while having nice soft shadows to define them. I generally shoot award photos with these or family photos on location. I like how fast and easy they are to use. I like that I can have someone from my booth come out and shoot award shots and get great results even if they aren't trained, photographers.
1'x1.3' Softbox - Find it on Amazon HERE. Make sure you also get grids for these. I use them like the 1x4 strip boxes above but these create a harder edge because they are smaller. They are also easier to control lens flare. I love these little guys.
3'x4' Softbox with Grid - Find it on Amazon HERE. This is a great softbox for product photography, food photography, or a nice overhead light. It's big and therefore soft. I have a grid and use it capture stunning high contrast portraits.
7' Umbrella with Diffusion - Find it on Amazon HERE. I have a pair of these too. They are great for making soft light with big groups of people. I'll use two of these at 45 degrees on either side of the camera and then a 1x4 strip box on either side of the group behind them to separate them from the background.
Grid Kit - Find it on Amazon HERE. These are wonderful for creating a narrow "beam" of light. It's like making a spotlight. I don't use it often but its wonderful for creativity.
16"x24" Softbox with Grid - Find it on Amazon HERE. This is a smaller version of the 3'x4' softbox. It is great for headshots or more commonly small tabletop set-ups. This is a go-to modifier for creating soft light on small-medium subjects.