So…What Kind of Camera do You Shoot With?

Photo by: wickenden

Have you ever experienced camera envy?  Of course you have, you're a photographer.  It comes with the territory of being a photo geek enthusiast.

Weddings are notorious for gear envy. While most full-time professionals have top-of-the-line gear, many of us part-time pros find a way to make due with what we've got.

I know you're just itching to know… I'll spare you the agony and tell you that right now I shoot with a Nikon D90.  I think it's pretty awesome.

But the last wedding I shot I was “out-geared” by at least 4 other people.  Not pros, just moms and dads and brothers and sisters looking to capture the events of a wonderful day…who also happened to own cameras that have more digits than mine and lenses that were more heavy than mine too. :|

Gear envy.

Good thing I was too busy shooting the ceremony to dwell or even take detailed notes on exactly what they have that I don't.

Envy is a deadly sin for a reason.

And it's tough to avoid.  But in the busy-ness of doing my job (click-click-click), I do remind myself that I've been paid to be there….to shoot wonderful photos with the camera that I have…because I was hired by this bride and this groom based on a portfolio of shots that I took and know I can take again with this already out-dated absolutely adequate equipement.

And I have to remind myself from time-to-time that a good camera does not necessarily make a good photographer.  And that even a good photographer does not necessarily make a good photography business owner.

Case in point — I once saw a hired wedding photographer take at least 50% of their shots with a point-and-shoot.  At the time I thought “OMG – are you serious?”  But you know what?  Those shots turned out incredible.  Without the bias of actually seeing the little camera he shot with, I would have had no idea the shots weren't taken with an expensive dSLR.

Heck, even iPhones are being used now to shoot weddings. Now that takes guts.

Once the reception starts, I love how the photographers in the crowd find a way to bump into each other.  And no matter who starts the conversation the opening line is always the same…

“So…What kind of camera do you shoot with?”

It's almost like a secret hand-shake. Us photographers have to stick together, don't we? We're a tribe, a community, and it's nice to know our crazy passion is shared.

And while we geek out on bodies and lesnes and whatever else, in the back of my mind I'm thinking the real answer to the question is…

“It doesn't really matter. It's just nice to talk with another photographer.”

OK, I'm serious this time…What kind of camera do you shoot with?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you've got in your bag. I'm ok if you want to leave me green with envy.  I'll get over it. :)



  1. Linda Whitworth says:

    Right now I shoot with a point-and-shoot of sorts, a Nikon Coolpix L810. I’ve never been able to afford all that “high-end stuff”. But I’ve gotten some pretty decent shots with a point-and-shoot. I used to be in a photo group and the guy who started the group always used me and my photos as an example of how you can get great photos without the “great gear”.

    I do agree with you about the camera envy. I’ve seen cameras and lenses that made me drool! I’ve felt inadequate with my dinky little cameras. But, I also agree that it’s nice to be able to chat with other photographers, regardless of the gear. No one “gets it” but other photographers. When I mention anything photography related to my husband, he automatically goes into “tune-out” mode.. you know the look… lol

    My daughter has an iPhone and she once got a shot of her brother-in-law letting go of a baseball mid-throw. I was amazed that a “phone camera” could capture that kind of shot! It was crisp and clean and spot on. Helluva shot!

    Thanks for covering this topic. It makes those of us who can’t afford “the good stuff” feel just as validated as the guys who own all the top gear!

  2. Hi there. What kind of camera should i use to photograph the inside of RVs with minimal lighting? I use a Coolpix S4300 now that the dealership has provided me with but i think it is terrible. i want to get a GOOD camera that doesn’t make every picture of each part of the RV look like it is a different RV. The fabric, the wood, flooring etc looks like completely different colors in different parts of the RV. Is there a decent priced, good camera out there for photographing the inside of RVs? Any help is greatly appreciated! ;)

    • Hi Jessica. Well, if it was me. I’d use the camera I have, but invest in a good tripod and possibly a shutter release. The tripod and the shutter release will allow me to shoot great photos in low light – better than almost any high-end camera WITHOUT a tripod. I’d also consider learning about HDR photography. HDR photography is great for indoor architectural photography because it allows the image to have detail in both the highlights (think windows) and the darks (think wood details). The best resource on HDR photography is Trey Ratcliff at Stuck In Customs. Here’s a great HDR tutorial. Hope that helps!

  3. I’m using a Nikon D7100, mostly with a 50mm 1.8 but I will use my kit lens from time to time if I want more zooming capability. This is my first DSLR camera and I’m just trying to soak up as much information as possible. When I first bought my camera I was unaware of the fact this is not actually what a professional would use. As I’ve gotten more and more into cameras, lenses, and photography in general I find myself looking longingly online at cameras that I just can’t afford.

    I needed this thread. I needed someone to tell me that I can and will get beautiful shots based on my skills and not just my camera.



    • Jessica, I shoot with a Nikon D3200 and came to the same, harsh, realization. I thought that any DSLR was a “professional” camera, and now I feel pretty silly shooting with the same (or less capable) camera that every middle class hobbyist uses to shoot macro flowers.

      Though, it’s still a little embarrassing when I come across said people, I have gotten enough feed back and am starting to develop enough confidence to know that my knowledge of my camera, composition and lighting, accompanied with my post-editing knowledge, have set me at a higher level of skill set than the average person with the same camera as mine. That said, I fully intend on getting an upgrade when I start getting a consistent paying client base. ;)

  4. Christina Barratt says:

    I am a novice photographer and was using only a basic Panasonic camera. having lost my camera recently I am now looking to upgrade to something I can use in a more professional manner, in the hope that photography is something I can take up as a profession in the future. I am in the process of booking into photography and photoshop classes to learn from other the tricks of the trade to help build up a portfolio I can use in business. could you please advise on the types of camera I should be looking at and what equipment is essential and what is not, as when I have been to look at camera’s in the shops the assistants seem to be more interested in selling me the most expensive camera rather than what camera is most suited to my needs. Hope this makes sense, thank you in advance for you time and information given.

    • Hi Christina,

      Part of it depends on what type of photography you want to do. If it’s portrait work – where you want to create your own lighting and things like that, then I would look at a dSLR. Any of the main brands will do well (Nikon, Canon, etc.) But for me, personally, I moved over to the smaller micro four-thirds system after being frustrated with the size of the dSLR’s. So I use an Olympus OM-D EM-5 and I love it for my street photography work. And I know from guys like Trey Ratcliff that the micro four-thirds are also great for landscape and fine art photography too.

      My overall advice is to go into the camera store and buy the most expensive camera you know you can afford — and choose based on what feels best in your hands and is attractive to the eye. Don’t worry so much about specs. All the top models are basically the same.

      Hope that helps!


  5. I have an entry level Nikon D3200. I know it’s an entry level but suits the purpose for me for now, I think anyway. I have the 18-55 and 55-300 kit lenses. I also have the 50mm 1.8 and my fave 18-200 which is now my GO TO lens.

    I also have a speedlight, SB910 and a ring light (constant light). I own a tripod, 1 light stand with boom arm and 1 umbrealla, reflector. 1 circular polarized filtter for my 55-300 lens. I have 2 lowe pro sling bags, the 102 and 202.

    I need the SU800 commander to work with my off camera speedlight, since my camera is entry level, I need to allow it communicate better and then when I add other speedlights.

    My wish list: I want the 85mm 1.8 for portraits and I want a 70-200 2.8 one day!

    So, I am just rolling out, and and up for suggestions, any and all. On gear, website or otherwise. I know I will need to upgrade my camera one day, but for now I think I am ok.

    I learned about your site, when I watched your SmugMug tutorials. Love them. Helped me alot. My site is not completed yet, it’s a working shell, awaiting content.

    Again, suggestions on anything! (p.s. I send you an email today as well).

  6. Hi !!! I have a nikon d90!!!! However I am just a novice that is somehow convinced to do private weddings, birthdays, christening s for family and friends. I was thinking I need to upgrade my camera because ALOT of the shots I take ( in middle of day ) are too dark and shadowy! I get so envy when I look at professional photos and the photos are so crystal clear! Skin is like baby’s bums! Eyes are like diamonds! I just can’t get that! Do I just need accessories? External flash etc? I have twin lens kit but that’s it! Also I find my camera doesn’t take some shots! I can be shooting, think wow here comes the money shot then silence…. My camera doesn’t click! Won’t take pic! Why is that? I’ve missed so many magic moments :(

    • Hi Renate – I shot with a D90 for many years. I don’t think you need a new camera (yet). I would invest in some better lenses then the kit lenses. I highly recommend the very affordable 50mm 1.8 as well as the very versatile 18-200mm. The 18-200mm was my go-to lens for many weddings – because it had such a powerful zoom range.

      You may need an external flash – but perhaps you need to know a bit more about your camera settings. If you’re getting dark and shadowy images, you’re photos are underexposed. And you can correct that easily with your settings.

      Keep working on your craft – try things out and keep track of the results. You’ll get there. :)

  7. I have two: A Canon 7D with a couple of decent lenses and a Lumix LX7, which I absolutely love for “street” photography. I have actually been getting my better shots lately with the Lumix. Quite an amazing little gem. (BTW, probably my most gratifying shot of the year so far was shot with my iPhone, just saying….)

    • Hi Mike
      Whatever you’re using for your street photography — it’s sure working out for you. As I mentioned in my other comment to you – your street photography is awesome.

      And when I’m outside in good light, I take great shots with my iPhone too! Sometimes the best camera you have is the one that’s in your hand (which is often my iPhone)!

      Thanks for the comment Mike.

  8. Cliff Razzo says:

    Good blog Ryan…wish I had read this sooner. Reminds me that its just about getting and taking photos with the gear we have than the gear we wished we had. BTW still using my D40x.

  9. I shoot with some expensive gear but for the type of photography I love to do it is really a necessity.  I must admit I take a lot of snaps with my iPhone as well!
    My main body is the Nikon D4 and my 400VR 2.8 almost never leaves it except for when I get in a mood to create some landscape images I use the very awesome Nikon 14-24 2.8.   I also have the D800 but have not been that impressed with the speed.  A great landscape camera though no doubt.
    Having said that I shoot birds.  Birds of all types, birds in flight and any other critters I might scare up.  
    Anyone who has ever tried shooting birds in flight or getting the fine detail that is required to sell prints will understand why I use this gear.   
    In my opinion different types of photography have different gear requirements.  Weddings for example would probably be well served with Nikon’s or Canon’s so called Holy Trinity and a FX body.

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      @mComeau You raise a great point. There are certainty different needs for each type of photography. High speed and long range shots for wildlife (and sports – which is another kind of wildlife) require very fast cameras and very fast telephoto lenses.
      Oh – and I’m a huge fan of the iPhone. I use instagram all the time. After all, “The best camera is the one you have on you”. :)

  10. I shoot with an iPhone 4.  I don’t feel good enough to have anything better right now and thus can’t justify a purchase.

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      @eblenn I sold my point and shoot as soon as I got my iPhone 4s. Great cameras! But would take a very special talent to convince clients that it’s what I will use for my professional shoots.  (So I don’t……I just use it for my own family snaps)

  11. I use a D700 as my main camera for weddings. Never had a problem with it. I have the D7000 as my back up. I only have the 35/1.8 and 16-85mm DX lenses with it. All my other lenses are full frame. During church ceremonies, I use telephoto primes with the D7000 to get that extended reach, while the D700 handles the closer shots. My fav tele prime for the D7000 is the 180. Fantastic combo! After the ceremony, I mainly use the D7000 (with the 16-85 DX) for group shots and quick casual shots, preferring the D700 for the formals and beauty shots. Been doing weddings for many years. I wouldn’t hesitate shooting them with these cameras

  12. I upgraded from a D90 to a D7000 and I must say the D90, I love both of these cameras.

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      I haven’t upgraded from my D90 yet. Not sure what I should do first – new Macbook, a 2.8 portrait zoom lens, or a new Nikon body.  Hmm……first world problems, eh? :)

  13. I shoot with what ever I feel like! I just like to make pictures!

  14. NicoleMills says:

    Hi Ryan,
    I shoot with a Canon 5D (bought it used a few years ago).  I just bought a Canon 17-40 f/4 L series wide angle (justifed this because I can use it for taking pics of my real estate listings!), I also have a Canon 24-105 f/4….but the lens I used most, you ask??  My plastic fantastic…50mm 1.8/f.  I spent $50 on it, and it gives me the best portraits!  I buy all my equipment used and have spent thousands (yep, I fall in to the category…”If I buy that, I WILL be good!  I also have some flash equipment, a really nice tripod, and the camera bag you blogged about (but I tend to carry my camera around in one of my Vera Bradley bags…not sure why, it just works for me as a gal who usually carry’s other stuff around with me while shooting.)  Oh, I also have a 24″ ezybox (that I don’t use because I’m so intimidated by flash and rarely practice, although I seriously need to…especially since I’ve spent so much $$$$ on all this fancy stuff).  Boy, I’ve never listed off everything I have before (and I’m sure I haven’t included everything here), and it makes me realize that I’ve really invested a lot of money and I’m not really putting it to use.  It’s no wonder my husband gives me funny looks when I talk about buying something else photography related!  I feel kind of silly now….hmmmm…maybe I should go dig out that flash and try to use it today.  Of course, that means I have to get off the couch, and right now, I’m really enjoying reading all your blog posts…and it’s kind of a dreary day.  Will think on this some more…and will read a little more…  :) 

    • Ryan Oakley says:

       @NicoleMills Nicole – that was one of the best blog comments OF ALL TIME! :)
      I hope you don’t mind if I share my 2 cents…
      1. Consider opening up a separate bank account to track both your photography income and your photography expenses. This way, it forces you to make money before you spend it (and the spending feels soooo much better!)
      2. Good for you to buy used. That’s smart.
      3a. Consider selling stuff you don’t use. (You can put the sales $$ into your new photography account!)
      3b. Ship that ezybox to me if you’re not going to use it – I’d love to give it a whirl!
      Glad you’re enjoying the site. Have a great day – on the couch or out shooting. :)

      • Ryan Oakley says:

         @NicoleMills I hope you know I was just kidding about shipping the ezybox to me.  I was just being silly. :)

        • NicoleMills says:

           @Ryan Oakley
           Ha!  I was just going to try to sell it to you!  ;)  Actually, I WANT to get good at flash, but get so overwhelmed by all the things that I want to learn (but don’t really have time for…I have a toddler, ‘nough said), that I find myself too crazy in the head to focus on any one thing for longer than a minute.  Does that make sense?  I have a real estate business to take care of, a child, a home (you see where I’m going with this, I’m sure), and I still want to fit in all the “fun stuff”  (photography fits in here), but struggle to prioritize and focus.  I’ll be working on my real estate website one day, then the next I’m trying to decide if we should buy a new home or keep remodeling the one we’re in…then the next day, I’m thinking I need to focus more on photography, then the next…you get the idea!  No need for me to drag you further in to my crazy head/life.
          I try to remind myself that I have 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else…but I SWEAR that mine are going by faster!  Damn…my mother was right all along…time does go by faster the older you get.  Now I’ve got another thing on my “to do” list…I’ve got to call her and tell her she was right (won’t she LOVE that phone call?) 
          Anyway…when we win the lottery…which I’m sure is going to happen one of these days…I’m going to hire so many people to help me with my life that I’ll have loads of time to learn how to use all this fancy photog equipment I’ve been busy collecting.  In the meantime…life goes on!
          And yes, I know I should have a separate account for photog money…but if you knew how many accounts I already have for personal and business…well, I have enough.  I’m not adding to the mix just yet!  It would just depress me, anyway.  My CPA recently pointed out to me…”This isn’t a hobby, Nicole…I don’t want to hear you say that…it’s a business…remember that.”  I think he told me that because I’m writing off all my equipment against my meager earnings thus far…and being the nice guy that he is, he doesn’t want me getting in to trouble with the IRS.  :)
          You know…this is fun too…commenting on your blog.  Maybe I should do a blog too??  Just kidding.  ;)  I’ll just hijack yours occasionally (like I’m doing now), and hopefully that will satisfy my other “I’d like to do this, but don’t have time” dream of being a writer.  Thanks Ryan!  :)

        • NicoleMills says:

           @Ryan Oakley
          Oh, one other thing….my husband wants to know how you have time to work a full time job, have several kids, a wife, run a photog business…and have time to create and maintian this blog?  Specifically…he wants to know when you sleep.  :) 

        • Ryan Oakley says:

           @NicoleMills You can tell your husband that I just don’t do everything at once! That’s all I can say.
          And time is elusive for all of us. We all have to say no to things we wish we could do. It’s tough sometimes.

  15. I shoot with a Nikon D80 currently, but upgrading to a Nikon 7000 by the end of 2012.  My standard lens is a 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX Nikkor Autofocus Lens, but I also carry an AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom Lens.  I would love to get a nice prime lens!

    • Ryan Oakley says:

       @MackJamProductions Nice set up. Can’t go wrong with a “cheap” 50mm 1.8.  They practically give those lenses away! It’s incredible.

  16. hi ryan!

    I am in the process of going through your web site tutorials and having a wee break by reading your blog! I shoot with a nikon d7000 & two prime lenses 28 & 50 mm. I do have a zoom but dont like it very much . I am just starting out & am building my smugmug site as we speak. I have done one wedding & I brought my original olympus as back up just in case. It was a freebie but I took thewhole thing very seriously, I loved every minute & my bride is delighted with her book & pictures.

    Although my next purchase has to be an 85mm i will never go without a hired second body for my lenses again as the thought is scary to say the least.

    thanks so much for the great tutorials I am not a web designer but I am really pleased with what I have done so far& you have really really helped me

    Fiona Jamieson (if you want to have a look its not finished yet though)

    • Hi Fiona – Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and for the kind words about the SmugMug tutorial. I’m so glad it’s helping you out.

      Regarding your equipment – nice work on using just primes! You must have had to move around a lot during your wedding shoot. :)

      I usually write 1 blog post every week so if you want to be notified when they are published you can join my email list…if you haven’t done so already.

      Take care!

      PS. Your photos on your website are lovely! Well done…

    • Ryan Oakley says:

      @Fiona Jamieson

      Hi Fiona – Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and for the kind words about the SmugMug tutorial. I’m so glad it’s helping you out.

      Regarding your equipment – nice work on using just primes! You must have had to move around a lot during your wedding shoot.

      I usually write 1 blog post every week so if you want to be notified when they are published you can join my email list…if you haven’t done so already.

      Take care!Ryan

      PS. Your photos on your website are lovely! Well done…

  17. Hey Ryan,
    Man I’m really loving your website. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing something similar. Helping other new photographers in the same way that helped me (mostly YouTube)! I really enjoy your articles and the questions that you ask. As for me and what I shoot. I have a Canon 7d. A 24-70mm f2.8, 135mm f2, 11-16 f2.8.

    Again, love the stuff!

    • Hi Ryan. I love to see all those 2.8’s in your bag. Beautiful. Glad you like the article. Many more to come! Let me know if there is anything in particular you’d like me to write about.

  18. It’s more important to have reliable gear that you’re familiar with and have suitable backups than it is to have the best gear. I’ve given many a lesson to people on how to use their camera; they can’t understand why they spent $1000 on a camera and lens and it doesn’t take good pictures.

    Of course, I always find it funny when people think $1000 is a lot to spend on camera gear. I primarily shoot sports. That means I have long fast primes (400 f/2.8 IS, 300 f/2.8 IS) for outdoor sports and shorter fast primes and zooms for indoor sports. I was at a soccer game with a pair of 1-series Canons, one with the 70-200 f/2.8 and one with the 400 f/2.8. One dad came up and told me he wanted to buy gear like mine so he could shoot photos like me. He asked if he could get the gear I had for under $2000. When I pointed to the 400 and said that that lens alone was over $6k, his eyes got big and muttered something about it being cheaper just to buy my photos. I gladly swiped his credit card. :)

    • Yeah….it’s incredible how much glass can be. But boy….the photos turn out great! I have a long wishlist of gear I want to add to my bag. But it’s good to know that if a bride calls tomorrow, I have enough to equipment to make it all happen. :)

  19. Kathy Young says:

    Great blog. This is all great information – mixed with a good sense of humor. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Good call on not having time to worry about other people’s cameras at a wedding. If you got that time, your doing something wrong! haha.

    I’m shooting with a Canon 5D & 7D with a bunch of prime lenses, 1 long zoom and one super wide.

    Good post, keep it up ;)

    • Hey Rob.

      Nice gear. My envy rose one more unit. :) Do find my 18-200 VR stuck to my D90. Love being able to go from a wide-angle of the entire ceremony to zooming into the ring in 0.8 seconds. Do you mostly shoot with your primes or your zooms?

  21. Hi Ryan:

    Love your honest humor (comment “first on this blog from someone that doesn’t live in my house. Awesome.

    I’m a fellow IMBA’er and a fairly serious photographer. I would echo the previous comment about reliability of equipment and backup. Another subtlety is knowing your lenses and their little quirks and abilities.

    There is no pressure like being responsible for creation of a families MOST treasured mementos. This is the voice of experience as I had the horrible experience (quite a while ago during film days) of taking wedding photos that either didn’t come out at all or were barely acceptable.

    Good luck

    • Hey George,

      Thanks for your comment. I actually couldn’t image the preasure of shooting with film during a wedding. I’d be sweating bullets until I could see the prints.

      So what did you do? Did you have to re-do the wedding???

      I think if something happened like that I would try to get my hands on all the “amateur” photographers shots and try to salvage the day as best as I could. At the very least, you’d be able to get some decent shots from other people at the ceremony. The formals you’d probably have to redo.

      Yikes. Thanks for sharing.

      • Not one of my finer moments. That’s how you learn I suppose. Managed to put together some good shots from people who were there. I was mortified but it worked out ok. I really don’t miss film at all.

  22. Hey Ryan! I totally agree that it is a waste of time to be jealous of other photographer’s gear, and that it’s pretty easy to out-shoot someone even if they have you “out-camera’d”.

    However I did want to bring up one important aspect that a professional in particular needs to concern themselves with- reliability and backup. Because while megapixels and FPS don’t matter that much, a few other things are VERY critical. Primarily the simple fact that ANY camera can fail and having a backup is extremely important, but also small things like AF accuracy and low-light performance are extremely important.

    Usually, my recommendation is for people to avoid a position of professional responsibility (at weddings) until they at least have a backup system. I’m sure you’d agree!


    • Hey Matt,

      Thanks a lot for your comment! It’s the first on this blog from someone that doesn’t live in my house. (c:

      Having a backup system is key — though I have to admit that I shot a couple of weddings this year without a second camera (gasp!). It’s risky, and I hope I don’t have to do it again. My advice to others (and myself) would be to at least rent or borrow a second camera if you’ve got yourself a paying gig.

      I checked out your website — great shots. Stunning. And I like your choice to use smugmug (at least for some of your stuff). I’m a huge fan of that company.

      Lastly — I’d love to know how you found my site. Google, twitter, other??

      Thanks again and have a great night.



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