The Equipment I Use

–“What lens did you shoot that with?”

The basic camera bag with gear I carry around. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

The basic camera bag with gear I carry around. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Frequently after giving a presentation about my work before a group, this is the first question that gets asked. It’s the one that grates the most! Not ‘what were you thinking’,  ‘how did you approach that subject’, or  ‘how did you handle the lighting’  but ‘what lens did you use?’

For a professional who does photography full-time, equipment is important, but it’s just equipment. Donald McCullin, a noted British war photographer, answered the question this way, when asked about his equipment:   “I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Having said all that, I currently use Canon cameras for most of my work. I’ve also spent years as a Nikon shooter. Both systems are excellent. Besides the mechanics of the camera bodies, what you’re paying for is the quality of the glass. Both Canon and Nikon make excellent lenses, and both have systems that you’ll never outgrow. If you’re serious about your photography, you can’t go wrong with either of these choices.

My Camera Bag

Canon EOS Body

Canon EOS Body

I carry two Canon EOS-1 D Mark IIn’s with me, along with a 16-35mm f2.8 zoom, 50mm 2.8 Macro, 70-200mm f2.8 zoom, 300mm f4, and a 1.4x teleconverter, and two 580EX Canon strobes. With this gear I can cover most of the situations I run into on a regular basis, regardless of the nature of the job. This is the basic gear that I tote around.


Norman 200C Power Pack

Norman 200C Power Pack

Speedotron Power Pack

Speedotron Power Pack

I use Norman 200C portable strobe lights which have their own battery power pack for small jobs, portraits, etc. These units are great when you want a studio-quality light for a portrait say, out in  the middle of a football field. For larger jobs, I use Speedotron strobes and power packs, bullet proof equipment that I’ve had for years. They can light your studio, the inside of a building or even an aircraft hanger, if you have enough of them.

Video gear

Canon XH A1 Video Camera

Canon XH A1 Video Camera

For video shooting, I use a Canon XH-A1 HD video camera with a Sennheiser ME66 shotgun microphone. I also carry and use when needed a set of Sennheiser Evolution wireless mics and a Shure SM58  handheld voice mic.

Odds & Ends

I carry two tripods: an old Leitz Tiltall for still shooting and a Libec H22 for video work. Cables. light stands, extension cords, power strips, gels and clamps make up the rest of the basic kit.

That’s about it. The most important piece of equipment that you have and use as a photographer, however, is between your ears! It’s your thought process, your intuition, how hard you’re willing to work, how hard you’re willing to learn to see the world around you.


Take one camera body and one lens, preferably something around a standard fixed, 50mm lens. Use this, and only this, to shoot photos for an entire day of personal photography. Don’t use anything else! Notice what this does to your shooting, and more importantly, your thinking, as you approach each situation. See what this teaches you about yourself and your shooting!

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

22 Comments on "The Equipment I Use"

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  1. Peyton says:

    Great exercise! Thanks for the tip.

  2. You know it’s very interesting that you do not mention the post shoot exercises and at a guess I would say that you are an avid film man long before digital came into being.
    Thanks so much for the wisdom concerning lens choice. As you pointed out its what’s between the ears and the ability to compose that makes pictures stand out amongst the mediocrity that abounds these days under the auspices of HDR and Photoshop. Not that I have anything against them but one should learn not to depend on them.
    We run with Nikon D90 D80 and D3x with as yet not such a wide choice of lens that you have but the 50mm…. well its just the best!
    All the old masters of photography: man Ray, Bretton, Armstrong Jones etc produced their best stuff with the 50mm.
    Thanks once again for the article amongst the best common sense I have read. I’ll look out for your stuff.
    take good care and get as much joy as you can everyday.

  3. Thanks for the great commen\t, baldchemist! I also love the discipline that shooting with a “normal” lens imposes—forces you to “see” things within a set of defined parameters. Sometimes too many choices results in no good choices being made! —

  4. Lilly Bell says:

    power strips are very useful but they octopus connection is dangerous’:.

  5. neys says:

    As you pointed out its what’s between the ears and the ability to compose that makes pictures stand out amongst the mediocrity that abounds these days under the auspices of HDR and Photoshop. Great exercise! Thanks for the tip.

  6. stephen says:

    For on camera lighting I use a couple of Canon 580 EX II flashes. They take some getting used to but do work. Yes, Nikon does seem to have a better flash system. So if on camera flash is a main part of your work, I would suggest looking into a Nikon system. Since it’s not for me, I’m a Canon guy.

  7. Paul says:

    Having stumbled across your site, I have to confess your photos and writings have inspired me to get out there and to start enjoying the hobby that I have neglected for some time.

    I seem to have fallen into the trap of buying all the latest gear, but somehow in the process have forgotten to put it to good use.

    Keep up the inspirational work!

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Paul.

  9. Anyway it is still the talent that captures great photos. Talent combined with the latest technology and proper

    training results in masterpieces. Nice tips you got there. Thanks.

  10. Rapid Prototyping Services says:

    I agree that what’s between the ears is the most important gear in photography. And also in any craft talent and intelligence is the primary tool. Excellent reminder.

  11. Aarontpz says:

    Would you say that a video cameras completely necessary? Because in today’s day and age, most DSLR’s come equipped with a video taking feature? What’s your take on that (might need to get money to pay for the video camera if so…damn…I hope my tire rebate goes through)

  12. Since I wrote this post, I’ve started shooting a good bit of video with a Canon EOS Mark IV. If you bling it up with a external mic you can get decent results, and the cinematic nature of the lens perspectives you can achieve is fantastic. Shortcomings are still the audio and lack of decent zooming options, although if you want to spend enough money you can buy some expensive accessories to help with that.

  13. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for the information! I would have been one of those people bothering you! 🙂 I am excited to try the exercise!

  14. Morgan says:

    Thanks for such sensible and practical tips, Andrew! I highly appreciate it. I’m feeling my way through the photography world. Experience is the best teacher. My mistakes have proven to be great lessons which I have learned a lot from.

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