Although taking digital photos can be easier with a digital camera, what hasn’t changed since the days of film is all the equipment you can buy and take on your next trip or photo session. Determining exactly what you need, and only taking those essential pieces of equipment, is an important element of taking better pictures. For too many photographers, especially amateurs, the simple, but wrong, solution is to buy most everything and lug it with you everywhere in a large, awkward camera case.
The equipment manufacturers and retailers don’t mind if you buy more equipment than you need, but that doesn’t mean every item must accompany you on every photo trip. In fact, the right solution is to spend some time to pick the least amount of equipment you’ll need, and travel light. Although it seems counter-intuitive, preparing for every contingency usually leads to being unprepared for the exact digital photos you want to capture. If you take eight lenses, then the odds are good that the wrong lens will be on your camera when an image must be photographed quickly. Plus, you won’t be able to move easily because you’re carrying so much weight. Put your camera bag down and it’s less secure. You’ll make the manufacturers and retailers happy a second time when you must replace all of it.
Follow these tips when deciding what equipment to take on your digital photography adventure or client session.
Pick the camera body first, which then narrows your selection of lenses and filters to those that fit the camera.
It’s unnecessary to take lenses that cover the entire range of focal lengths, from 14mm to 400mm, for example. In fact, it’s best to select a group of lenses with approximately a 50 percent to 100 percent gap between their focal lengths or either end of a zoom lens’ range. For example, you don’t need a 14–24mm, 24–70mm and 70–200mm. Eliminate the 24–70mm, or take a 24mm lens and the telephoto-zoom, instead of the 14–24mm and 24–70mm. Avoid duplicated focal lengths in more than one lens. You don’t need a 28–105mm zoom lens, if you’ve decided to take a 17–40mm lens. Both lens include the 28–40mm range. Another excellent combination is a 17–40mm and a 70–300mm. The 40–70mm is unnecessary.
If you’ve decided to take fixed focal length lenses, then all you probably need is a 20mm, 50mm and 85mm. The underlying philosophy is less is more. With fewer lenses (and other pieces of equipment), you’ll spend more time shooting digital photos and less time changing equipment.
Select lenses with two uses. Include one fast lens, such as a 24mm, 28mm, 25mm or 50mm, and you can shoot in low light as well as daylight. Pack a 105mm macro and you won’t need another telephoto lens or telephoto zoom. 100mm and 105mm macros at f/2.8 are much smaller and lighter than zoom lenses at f/2.8, and focus very close.
Pick just one lens between 35mm and 50mm. Longer and shorter focal lengths are too specialized and tend to be big, heavy and expensive.
If you actually need a wide-angle lens, then select just one: 21mm, 24mm or 28mm. The same strategy holds true for telephoto lens: pick either a 85mm or 90mm. Remember, you’ll seldom use lenses shorter than 20mm or longer than 135mm, but you must carry them all the time. Professionals never buy those extreme lenses (except in rare cases). If they need them for an occasional shoot, then they rent them.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for more tips about how to take the least amount of equipment on your digital photo shoots.