What’s in your camera bag? Pro photographers share their favorite gear

Photography is all about the art of creating images, but without the right gear you might miss that decisive moment or fail to capture it all.

 Depending on what you like to photograph, you’ll need different types of equipment. Food photography can demand a macro lens, a fast prime is crucial for street photography, long lenses for birding and a waterproof camera housing to capture critters in the sea. And we haven’t even gotten to lighting and camera support systems.

Of course, gear is only a tiny sliver of the photographic process. To take great images you’ll also need an artistic vision, a decent chunk of knowhow and the willingness to experiment. 

With all of that in mind we went to a few pro photographers from around the world to see what they pack in their bags for their wild and adventurous shoots, as well as any lessons and stories we could glean from them.

Tell us about yourself

Hi, I’m David Newton, a UK-based professional photo/videographer. I’ve been shooting professionally since 2005. I’m a SanDisk Extreme Team Member, Manfrotto Ambassador, Lee Filters advocate and Koy Lab Ambassador.

What do you like to shoot?

I shoot a whole variety of subjects, it really depends on what day it is and where I am. I guess I tend to gravitate more to travel and landscape but wildlife, sport, portrait, street, commercial and studio are all things I find interesting and get to shoot depending on my client’s needs or indeed what catches my eye.

What's in your bag?

Because my subjects are so varied there is no one fixed kit list – it will vary greatly based on what the subject is and where I happen to be. However, if we look at what I currently have on location, where I’m shooting mostly travel and landscape images, it forms a good base. 

  • Canon EOS 5DsR (Stills)
  • Canon EOS-1Dx II (Stills and 4K video)
  • Canon TS-E24mm f/3.5L Canon EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon EF35mm f/1.1L II USM
  • Canon EF50mm f/1.8 STM Canon EF85mm f/1.8 USM
  • Canon EF100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II IS USM
  • Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
  • Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT
  • Lee Filters 100mm kit (Hard and Soft ND Grads, Big and Little Stopper) Cable Release
  • Gitzo GT4542LS Tripod with Gitzo GH3382QD head
  • DJI Osmo
  • Manfrotto Lumie
  • Muse LED Sennheiser MKE400 microphone
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro CF cards – 128GB and 256GB capacities
  • SanDisk Extreme CFast 2.0 cards – 64GB and 128GB capacities
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC cards – 64GB capacities
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro microSD – 64GB capacity
  • SanDisk Extreme 900 1.92TB SSD (use for backing up video)
  • SanDisk Extreme 510 480GB SSD (use for backing up stills)
  • SanDisk Extreme 500 240GB SSD (use as a scratch drive when mobile video editing) SanDisk ImageMate and CFast USB3 card readers
  • HTC 10 mobile phone (SanDisk EPIC-certified smartphone with SanDisk iNAND and SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSD)
  • Olight SR10 II and SR30 II torches (usually used for little bits of light-painting at sunrise or sunset)
  • Petzl Nao Headtorch (to find my way in the dark) Apple MacBook Pro Retina Leatherman Skeletool and bits 3m of paracord (very useful!)
  • Small roll of duck (gaffer) tape
  • Garmin Fenix 3 Manfrotto ProLite Roller Bag (gets my camera kit through airports)
  • F-Stop Tilopa rucksack (hiking on location)
  • ThinkTank Photo Urban Disguise 50 with backpack conversion straps (laptop carrying while travelling, or lightweight bag for a few lenses when city shooting)
  • Source Water bladder
  • Bose QC35 headphones (when you fly a lot they are worth their weight in gold!)

Any favorite pieces of gear or memorable stories?

It’s very hard to pick a favourite piece of kit – they are all tools and all help me do my job – depending on the shoot I will feel more affinity to one item or another – however, one constant among all of them is that I have to trust them implicitly. 

It takes time and effort to get to locations and have a chance of capturing images you’re happy with. You have to know that your kit will work when you get there you’ll safely bring your pictures back.

While shooting in Cornwall a year or two ago, I was surprised by a bigger than normal wave. As I scrambled backwards to avoid being caught by it, I lost my footing, knocked my tripod and watched in horror as it fell towards the sea – A Canon EOS 5D Mark III and TS-E17mm lens on top, with some Lee Filters on the front. 

“Fortunately”, it fell into a rock hole in front of me. Yes, the hole was full of sea water. The lens sheared off the front of the camera, dropping to the bottom of the fairly deep hole, the filters flew in a different direction and the camera, still attached to the tripod, was sitting upside down, with a big hole where the lens should be, fully immersed in water.

When the wave receded, I climbed down, got hold of the tripod leg dragged it back out, water pouring out of it. 

Needless to say it was pretty totalled. 

However, once out I rescued the SanDisk CF card from the slot (that was full of water too as the card door had popped open in the drop) and dried it off, I was happy, but not surprised find it worked perfectly my card reader – all the pictures were there and it was suffering no ill-effects from its dunking in sea water.

Steve Giralt is a commercial food photographer, director and visual engineer based in New York. In 2005, Steve was selected as one of PDN magazine’s top 30 emerging photographers and just a year later Steve’s site also won one of PDN's digital PIX imaging awards.

Steve’s day job consists of shooting photos for a variety of food and beverage clients including Anomaly, Budwieser, Godiva, Starbucks, Pepsi, Harman Kardon, GE, Foldgers and Smucker's just to name a few. Steve is also a stock photographer and you'll find his work at Offset

As a commercial food photographer, Steve’s workspace is both a photo studio and kitchen. Every photoshoot involves arranging products, setting scenes, dressing plates and, often, cooking additional items to make images that look as sumptuous as they are delicious.

Aside from photography, one of Steve’s greatest passions is learning new skills. Over the years he has learned to welding, woodwork, form plastics, build micro circuits, 3D print, 3D design, program Arduino boards and manage power supplies.

Earlier this summer, Steve’s multitude of passions culminated into an infamous robotic ‘Burger Drop’ machine. The project essentially consisted of two mechanical arms designed to hold all the individual parts of a burger (buns, cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, beef patty, etc) until an Arduino-based timing control system named P.A.T.R.I.C. commanded them to drop.

The end result of the project was a video sequence of the perfect burger literally falling into place complete with mustard and ketchup shooting into the air.

What's in your bag

  • Ari Skypanel S60-C LED Light
  • Profoto Acture2 2400 Power Packs X 2
  • Canon 550EX FlashCanon G16
  • Profoto Acute D4 Head with zoom reflectors X 45 degree and 20 degree honeycomb grids
  • Tarmac Camera BagDigital Juice Diffusion Gel Kit Pegasus J2 SSD Thunderbolt Raid Drives
  • Phase One P45+ Digital Back
  • Hasselblad 150mm F4 CFi
  • Hasselblad 135mm Makro Planar f/5.6 CF
  • Hasselblad Makro-Planar 120mm f/4 CFi
  • Hasselblad Makro-Planar 120mm f/4 CFE
  • Hasselblad 100mm f3.5 CFi
  • Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 CFE
  • Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 CF
  • Hasselblad 60mm F3.5 CFi
  • Hasselblad 60mm F3.5 CB
  • Hasselblad 50mm F4 CFi
  • Hasselblad 40mm F4 CFE
  • Hasselblad 555ELD Camera Body X 2
  • Hasselblad 503CW with Winder Camera Body
  • Hasselblad Extension Tube 16E
  • Hasselblad Extension Tube 8
  • Canon 5d Mk II Camera
  • Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS
  • Canon 28mm F1.8
  • Canon 35mmCanon 50mm F1.4
  • Canon 17-40 F4
  • Minolta Color Meter III
  • Minolta IV F Light Meter
  • Color Checkeri1 Monitor Calibrator
  • Pocket wizard Plus X 3
  • Pocket wizard MultiMax X 2
  • Pocket wizard Plus III
  • Panasonic AA battery Charger
  • Cyberpower Car AC converter
  • Allen wrench set
  • Misc Cables
  • Still life kit with cubes, wax, tweezers, etc
  • MacBook Pro Laptop and charger
  • Dell Ultra HD 4K Monitor P2415Q
  • Black Gaffer Tape
  • White Gaffer Tape
  • Large A clamp X 2
  • Regular A Clamp X 2
  • Small A Clamp X 2
  • Avenger Tall Century Stand with Turtle base and extension arm
  • Super clamp X 2
  • Gitzo Tripod with head
  • Folding light stands
  • Sandbags

Tell us about yourself

My name is Terrell Lloyd. I’ve been shooting professionally since 1992, and am based in the San Francisco Bay Area, near the high-tech capital of world, Silicon Valley. 

I got my start shooting weddings and portraits, but now I’m currently one of the San Francisco 49ers team photographers, a post I've held for the past 19 years, in addition to running all the team’s photography services.

I am also the athletic photographer for San Jose State University and have had the opportunity to shoot PGA golf, professional tennis, the NFL Super Bowl, MLB baseball, the NBA and many more sporting events.

What do you like to shoot?

I love sports photography, but my favorite sport is shooting football

What's in your bag?

Well for football I use 4-5 cameras while shooting which includes a number of different lenses.

  • 5 x Canon 1Dx / Canon 1Dx II bodies
  • Canon EF 600mm F4L Lens
  • Canon EF 400mm f2.8L Lens
  • Canon EF 300mm F2.8L Lens
  • Canon EF 700-200mm II F2.8L
  • Canon EF 24-70mm II F2.8L
  • Canon EF 16-35mm II F2.8L
  • Canon EF 8-15mm F2.8L Fisheye
  • Canon Extender EF 1.4X III Empty list

Any memorable stories?

One of my most memorable shoots was this image of one our former players Vernon Davis. I captured him making a catch and I said I think he is going to jump over the defensive player and I was correct and ready to capture it.

Tell us about yourself

I’m Christian Nørgaard. For years I have photographed and traveled extensively in Asia and have been humbled by the reception of my photographs. In recent years I have also collaborated with Steve McCurry and other of National Geographic's leading photographers for photo workshops. I am the founder and CEO of the Better Moments Photography Workshops

The portrait from india is a farmer who ask me to take his picture

What do you like to shoot?

I started out (when I was 17) as a photojournalist for Scandinavia's largest newspaper, Berligske Tidne. Here I was a staff photographer for several years, where my main tasks was sports and portrait photography.

I grew tired of others telling me what to do and what not to do, so I decided to become a self-employed photographer when I was 25. It was a decision I never regretted for a second. I began to travel and have actually done it ever since – now for almost 30 years. 

My passion is portrait and landscape photography – so the short answer is – portrait and landscape photography.

What's in your bag?

Hasselblad and Canon and a variety of lenses – the picture of my equipment is just the tip of the iceberg. But if I only had one lens to bring along, it would be a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens.

Any favorite pieces of gear or memorable stories?

Once, almost so many years ago that one would think that it was a lie. I climbed a small mountain in Indonesia. We were two, a good friend and I, and we started out early in the morning. We climbed most of the day and on the way I shot some pictures – most banal view pictures and some portraits of my friend. 

The story is that back then, I photographed analog (with film) and the camera, a Nikon was an integrated system and was therefore dependent on batteries.

The Burma portrait is shot just as a monk walked past the broken window. Fortunately, he looked through the window – you need luck once in a while

A long story short – when we arrived to the top that night, I planned to take the most important image of all – a portrait of us on the mountain top. The background was colorful and we were lit up with snow, stars and the moon. The portrait was also quite important because we had a sponsorship contract, and our sponsor needed our portrait for marketing.

Just when I was about to take our portrait, the camera run out of power and worst of all – I had no spare batteries.

Ever since, I always travel with three extra batteries, and of course with a large handful of SanDisk cards now that everything is shot digitally.

I was in a mountain village, where I meet a woman outside her house. She is beautiful and it important for the balance in the portrait, that the goat is in the lower right corner

Tell us about yourself

I'm Bryan Minear, an Official Fujifilm X-Photographer based in Michigan. When I am not working as a full time graphic designer, and being a husband/father, you can find me out shooting.

What do you like to shoot?

I spend the majority of my time chasing interesting light and weather conditions around the beautiful areas that the Midwest has to offer. My primary focus is landscape, nature, and cityscape photography.

What's in your bag?

  • Fujifilm X-Pro2
  • Fujifilm X-T2
  • Fujifilm XF16mm f/1.4
  • Fujifilm XF10-24 f/4 OIS
  • Fujifilm XF56mm f/1.2
  • Fujifilm XF50-140mm f/2.8
  • ISFormatt-Hitech Firecrest NDs (10-stop, 4-stop, and 3-stop Grad ND) Filters
  • Vanguard Up-Rise II 48 Bag
  • Vanguard Alta Pro 284CB Tripod
  • 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro w/ Apple Pencil
  • 960GB Sandisk Portable SSD
  • Anker PowerCore Power Bank
  • iPhone 6S Plus with Moment Case and Wide Angle lens

Any favorite pieces of gear or memorable stories?

I like to go on road trips with my Instagram friends as often as my schedule will allow. My first road trip with the X-Pro2 back in March had me and a friend arriving Chicago very early one morning to shoot all day, only to return that same night and go to work the next morning.

What we didn’t realize until later in the afternoon was that the day we picked just so happened to be Chicagohenge, which is where the setting sun perfectly aligns with the east and west bound streets. 

It ended up being such an unbelievably beautiful spectacle that I will remember for the rest of my life. Tons of photographers lined the streets in hopes that the sun was going to pop out from behind the clouds in time for us to catch the magic, and after looking like it wasn’t going to happen, the flood gates of light opened up for 3 minutes or so. It was a true marvel. 

Tell us about yourself

My name is Lucas Gilman. I’m a Travel, Adventure Photographer & Filmmaker based on the Central Coast of California.

What do you like to shoot?

I really enjoy shooting everything, but I specialize in shooting surfing, kayaking and adventure travel.

What's in your bag?

Top Left Tile:

  • Nikon D5
  • Nikon D4s
  • Nikon D810
  • Nikon D500
  • Nikon 1 AW1 + NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 AW
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro CF Cards
  • SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC Cards
  • AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2 VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8
  • AF-S NIKKOR 800-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII
  • AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4 PF VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8
  • AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR
  • MF NIKKOR 500mm Reflex f/8 (mirror)
  • AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4 VR
  • AF NIKKOR 105mm F/2 DC
  • AF-S NIKKOR 60mm f2.8 Micro
  • AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4
  • AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8
  • AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8
  • AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4
  • AF NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye
  • Nikon R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System
  • TC-14e III TeleconverterTC-20e III Teleconverter
  • Nikon Extension Bellow PB-6e
  • Nikon SB5000 Speedlights
  • Fenix 1000 Lumen Flashlight
  • Giottos Rocket Air Blaster
  • WR-R10 Wireless Remote Controller
  • WR-A10 Wireless Remote Adapter
  • MINDSHIFT Hive Mini Filter Case + Assorted Formatt-Tech Filters
  • Honl Lighting Grids, Gels, Gobo
  • Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 3.0 IRND Filter + Soft Grad Filter + Filter Holder
  • Eneloop AA Rechargeable Batteries

Top Right Tile:

  • Pelican 1535 Air Case + TrekPak inserts
  • TetherTools USB3 Tether Cable + TetherTools Jerkstopper
  • TetherTools USB3 TetherBoost
  • Profoto Standard Reflector
  • Profoto Zoom2 Reflector
  • Profoto Magnum Reflector
  • Profoto TeleZoom Reflector
  • Profoto RFi 1,3×2 Softbox
  • Leatherman Skeletal CX Multitool
  • Benchmade Griptilian Drop-point AXIS Knife
  • Profoto Air Remote
  • Profoto Air TTL Remote N
  • Profoto B1 500W/s AirTTL Battery Powered Flash x 3
  • Avenger Turtle Base C-Stand Grip Arm Kit
  • Quick-Grip 58300 Spring Clamps

Botton Left Tile:

  • Fiber Optic Light Painting Brush + Coast HP7 Flashlight
  • F-Stop Gear Tilopa Backpack
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad
  • Orca Tactical MOLLE Rip-Away EMT Medical First Aid Kit
  • FUGOO Tough Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
  • Nikon Aculon 10 x 50 Binoculars
  • Climbing Harness + Petzl Slings + Petzl Locking Carabiners
  • Black Diamond ATC
  • Petzl Climbing Helmet
  • Gerber Gator Machete
  • Supernova Halo 180 Extreme Rechargeable LED Lamp
  • Arc’teryx Theta Gore-Tex Jacket
  • Persol Di Siena Wayfarer Sunglasses Polarised Lenses
  • Arc’teryx ACRUX² FL Approach Shoes
  • Light My Fire Original BPA-Free Tritan Spork
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
  • Sterling Ultraline Water Rescue Rope
  • Manfrotto Mini Tripod
  • Snake Bite Kit
  • Sea To Summit Talus TS I 23 degree Sleeping Bag
  • Lucas Gilman Productions Custom Team Hat
  • Nemo OBI LS 2 Person Tent
  • GOALZERO VENTURE 30 Recharger
  • GOALZERO NOMAD 20 Solar Panel
  • Sterling 200FT SuperStatic2 Rope
  • Hydro Flask Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
  • Platypus Softbottle Water Bottle

Botton Right Tile:

  • Avenger Turtle Base C-Stand Grip Arm Kit
  • Pelican 1535 Air Case + TrekPak inserts
  • G-Technology G-DRIVE ev ATC with Thunderbolt + ev RaW SSD
  • G-Technology G-DRIVE ev RaW 1TB SSD
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
  • Jetboil Flash Cooking System
  • SPL A-SERIES D810 Waterhousing + Port
  • Churchill Makapuu Swimfins

Any favorite pieces of gear or memorable stories?

I carry a Gerber tactical pen. I was almost kidnapped by Zapatistas revolutionary army deep in the jungle in Chiapas, Mexico on a kayaking expedition. It got pretty hairy but they finally accepted a $ 1,000 bribe and we hightailed it out of there. 

A tactical pen could help you out of a sticky situation if you get cornered by a mugger/kidnapper or break a car window if you are trapped inside. I also carry a first aid kit decked out like it could be in a war zone. You can never be too prepared.

Any tips for aspiring photographers? 

Ya for sure. I do as much research as possible on the location I'm heading to. 

The important things to me are:

  • What time is sunrise/sunset and where does the sun rise and set (I use an iPhone app called Sun Surveyor on location for this as well)
  • Create a daily shoot plan to maximize your shooting and focus on being at the prime locations at the golden hours
  • What's the projected weather – You want to be warm and dry and also keep your gear safe. So you can focus on being creative
  • Are there any interesting landmarks I should put on my shoot list? – Google Earth has millions of images geotagged with different locations use it to your advantage
  • Figure out how much memory you’ll need for the project. I shoot with the D810 which is 36+ megapixels so I bring plenty of SanDisk CF & SD cards.

Remember, you will probably shoot more than you think and the last thing you want to be doing as the light is getting perfect is deleting images.  Also, plan on backing up your images onto multiple drives. 

The G-Technology G-DRIVE ev ATC is my go-to in the field because it’s waterproof and shockproof. The reason I backup in the field is you never know when your gear will get nabbed so keeping backup copies geographically separated is key. 

For instance I’ll have one of the athletes on the expedition hold on to a drive in case my gear is stolen. You’d hate to lose all your images.

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