What’s In Our Bag | For Photographers

By April 29, 2016 March 20th, 2019 No Comments

original 2016 post



Nobody starts with the best gear, it’s almost a rite of passage. I spent countless hours reading and swooning over photographer gear blog posts, waiting for the day I would have a full frame body of my own. The day I would have prime lenses (before I even knew how much I loved them). The day I would have luxury glass from Canon.

Well, my setup is far from perfect (everyone’s is, and that’s okay!) but I have learned a lot about my shooting style with which lenses I’ve grown oh so fond of. Hopefully, this info helps you in your quest as you grow!

Keep in mind, we shoot very “guerrilla” style, in the fact that we like to keep light weight bags, minimal gear, almost always use natural lighting, and natural. We consider items like weight and versatility to be higher on our priority list when buying new gear, than many other photographers may. And that’s okay! You’ll notice that’s why we have the lighter camera bodies, lighter telephoto option, and small flood lights vs. OCF that may require softboxes, stands, and multiples.

To start off with, I am a firm, firm believer that it’s not about what gear you have, but how you use it. I follow a handful of amazing, jaw dropping photographers on Instagram who shoot with a 5 year old Canon Rebel. Any excuses you are making for yourself about “my gear isn’t good enough to do what she’s doing” is majorly your mind tricking you.

Canon 6d Body

We have two of these bad boys, and I sure love them. Austin shoots with one, I shoot with the other. This year, we plan on adding a 5dmiii to the lineup since we have transitioned into prime lens shooting in the last few months. Once we switch, I still anticipate I will use my 6d as a second body with a longer prime lens (or, to be honest, probably my TS), while my primary body will have a 35 or 50 on it almost always. I’ve avoided this upgrade for a while mentally, but it’s finally time to make that final jump body wise. Many photographers don’t like the 6d, and they say it’s lacking compared to the 5d, but in side by side comparisons, especially if you’re early on in your journey or you care about the financial aspect of things, the 6d produces gorgeous images.



Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L

I’m obsessed with this lens. It’s magnificent. This was our first canon luxury prime glass purchase, and it instantly got us hooked on the quality. I rented this lens in Seattle for a wedding, with the sole purpose of using for a sparkler exit. I ended up leaving it on my camera the whole day, and shooting the entire wedding with it, aside from a few details and telephoto shots. This puppy skyrocketed to the top of my wish list and I don’t regret a penny of this purchase. The bokeh, the depth, the color profile, everything that Canon is known for is showcased flawlessly in this lens. I considered the more affordable Sigma Art option, but ultimately, I’m a Canon girl at heart, and I will always save that little extra for the Canon gear. I haven’t used Sigma in years, so I’m not able to personally compare the quality, but I can vouch for Canon’s unparalleled customer service & support (which means the world to me with any big purchase), and the colors in this lens are amazing. 1.4 is perfectly fast, and gives me flexibility for nearly any scenario. Whenever a photographer asks me which lens I would recommend most, it’s this beauty.

canon_1257b002aa_normal_ef_50mm_f_1_2l_1446051114000_457680Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L

Our newest addition, and a rival to the 35mm. I have only shot with this beauty a few times so far, as it’s Austin’s go-to lens, but every time it’s made its way onto my camera, I’m hesitant to give it back. My first real prime experience was with its predecessor, the 50mm 1.4 which I wanted to love, but the chromatic aberration all the way open at 1.4 was awful. The effect was so bad that I was against any prime lenses for a long time (until renting the 35mm and falling in love). Canon’s 50mm is pure perfection, even all the way open at 1.2! We hardly ever leave it wide open, but when we can, the effect is just unbelievable. Our first real trial run with this lens was during a long indoor church ceremony with only candle light, and a few small windows. This lens performed amazingly with no flash (no flash allowed). I have had many photographers ask me if I prefer this lens over the 35, and it’s a really hard comparison for me. I think the 35 and 50mm length differences all comes down to personal preference. I live in a small city, so renting from a camera rental company is more difficult than I care to explore (they make online ones now!) but I highly recommend renting a handful of lenses you are considering, as that’s the best way to test different focal length’s out for yourself.


Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Many photographers consider this an equal alternative to the 70-200 2.8 (many even prefer it). Of course, that 2.0 aperture is great compared to the 2.8 on the 70-200, but the weight and size difference is an immediate winner in my book. We usually only bring this lens out for proposals, long wedding aisles, and misc other needs, but when we need that distance, it’s perfect. The sharpness, crazy fast focusing speed, and clarity this lens provides (to me) seems much better than what we got with the 70-200, so we decided to stick with this, and have been very happy. Even if we bring this lens along to a shoot and don’t need it, it’s light and small enough that it’s not an inconvenience at all.


Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8

This lens is magical. I have wanted it ever since I saw my first TS photo. When I began shooting, I expected to go into large weddings, seniors, etc. A more “standard” path, I guess you could say. Looking back, if I had this lens in that project base, I wouldn’t have used it. Shooting a majority outside, shooting in gorgeous landscapes (hello Big Sur, you have my heart forever), and having clients who request that artistic influence instead of all traditional portraits, it makes it worth having. When I first got this lens, I didn’t take it off my camera. I shot everything in TS. I got to know it very well. It’s a finicky little thing but I sure love it. The initial lust did wear off a bit, but I still love this for the occasional artistic wide portrait. I’d say if you’re considering buying it, rent it for a few days and see if it has a place in your day-to-day shooting style. If not, it may be worth considering investing elsewhere in your business first.


NEEWER Dimmable DSLR Flood Light

I am really not a fan of un-natural light. But sometimes, it’s necessary. We picked these up for an indoor wedding. I was determined to not only spend hundreds on an OCF setup. I’m also “click happy” and flash needs time to charge. That’s a huge risk for my shooting style- if I have everything set for OCF and my flash is charging while a perfect moment happens, there’s nothing I can do. That’s a risk I didn’t want to take, so we gave these dimmable flood lights (they have filters to diffuse the light too!) a try. They were all of $30 on Amazon, and have the option of using a spare Canon battery, or 6 AA batteries. The light also shows the battery level, so you’re never in the dark. I was immediately happy with them for my shooting needs on the first use, but what really sold these for me was after the wedding, when the Videographers came up to me and profusely thanked me for having these lights. Not only was I (and Austin, second shooting with me – who would otherwise need to work with our OCF setup) able to reliably use a consistent light source, but the videographers didn’t miss a moment of footage the entire day due to a photographer’s flash going off. I know there are some of you that will never leave OCF, but for those of you like me who are anti-OCF (or if it’s intimidating, expensive, or plan annoying to have), give these a try. $30, and you’ll surprise yourself with how much you love them.


Manfrotto VELOCE Backpack

We just picked this bag up before our Hawaii trip, so we could carry both bodies, our laptop, and all lenses in one compact solution that was easy to travel with. Previously, we each had a smaller messenger bag that carried 2-4 other lenses on us while shooting. Not the most efficient, but it worked. I have a “bag problem” but so far, I really love this bag. Austin carries it most of the time, but it can fit as much or as little as we need. I consider it a great buy.

Honorable Mentions

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
This lens was our primary, until switching to prime. This hasn’t been used in a long while but is great for personal photography needs. I’ll likely sell this lens soon, as the 35 and 50 accommodate the focal range with better aperture.

Canon EF 24–105mm f/4L
A great starter lens, and the first lens I ever got (with my Canon 60d nearly 7 years ago!) I’ve sent this lens into Canon for refurbishing, and it hasn’t been used since.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
A great lens all around. I noticed the colors feel a little muddier than the L glass, so eventually I may upgrade this lens to the 85mm L version, but for my personal shooting style, the 85mm focal length is not one I readily grab. It’s great to have around, and I always keep it in my bag just in case, but I hardly ever use it.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8
I thought I’d really love this lens, and it’s great, but I hardly ever grab it. It’s a tad slow, and a little wider than I ended up liking (especially in comparison to the 35mmL) If you’re looking for a wide lens that isn’t hard on the wallet, this is a great option and very useful to have around.

Our Wish List

We still have a wish list as well! Like I said, our gear setup is far from perfect, but we love what we have and have learned the ins and outs as much as we can. In the future, we will likely be looking for…

2018 update

2017 was a huge year for our photography business. We grew in ways we didn’t even know were possible. We expanded our reach and our clientele, and our services immensely. In a lot of ways we took a step back to focus on what we wanted to pursue, and it’s been so valuable to the success of our team. As of January 2018, we hired Dominique to assist in our everyday operations, but also as our first associate photographer! Over the next year+ she will work closely alongside us to gain valuable insight into how we do things so she can eventually offer her services as part of the Barkis + Co. brand.

When I renamed from Nicole Barkis Photography to Barkis + Co. in late 2016, I had envisioned Austin and I being the owners, with a handful of associate photographers working alongside and beneath us to continue offering our services as we become unavailable to many couples due to limited availability, price, and our destination coverage taking us all over the world. We’ll go into this in more detail later, but for now, welcome Dominique to the Barkis + Company team!

In addition to growing the team, we are growing our services as well. We have begun opening our availability to large weddings and worldwide destination coverage as well!

The biggest change to our bags this year is the addition of two sparkling new Canon 5d Mark IV bodies.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

We’ve been shooting with these bad boys for a little over 6 months now, and instead of giving them a brief review here, I decided to wait until I can fully describe the endless features these bodies provide, and how we’re only recently feeling like we understand a majority of the new functionality they’ve added. Something to note – We’ve never owned a 5d Mark iii, so the jump from 6d to 5d Mark IV when they had just come out was a pretty big one for us and there weren’t many resources online yet about unleashing their full potential, especially in regards to wedding photography. Stay tuned for the post regarding these amazing pieces of equipment, you won’t want to miss it, especially if you’re considering upgrading.

Camera Case Evecase DSLR

We picked up this little Evecase DSLR bag with no-frills for our Costa Rica trip so we could take along a dslr and lens (not much else fits aside from maybe a cell phone and an extra battery) while we were adventuring on our personal excursions, to make sure we get quality photos without risking our gear too much. This little inexpensive bag was a great buy because I don’t have to lug around a bunch of gear, it’s really lightweight, but offers substantial protection even during a river tour through the crocodile infested waters of Tamarindo. Highly recommend for a neutral, simple, single body and lens protection that won’t break the bank.

Jo Totes Hanover Camera and Laptop Bag

I spent a long time searching for the perfect camera bag. I have gone with Ona bags in the past, but they were all a little too rigid for my petite frame. I wanted something big enough for two camera bodies with lenses, my laptop, and a few other accessories. The biggest selling points of this bag for me are its versatility – the material is so sturdy and can really last in sand, dirt, a little splash of water, etc. I feel like my gear is really protected for such a lightweight bag. Not only that, but it’s completely neutral, it matches nearly anything I wear to a shoot or wedding, and the best part? The inside camera sections come out and it’s just a purse/bag! It’s so minimal, efficient, and moderately priced for the value. I’m obsessed with this bag and expect to have it for a long time.

RL Handcrafts Clydesdale Pro – Small

RL Handcrafts is a local company to Monterey. After much deliberation, and especially after upgrading to the 5d Mark IV, I really needed a double strap. I was going to buy one of the inexpensive nylon ones but read too many sketchy reviews about them breaking and dropping $5,000+ worth of gear onto concrete mid wedding. Not something I wanted to risk, so I decided to go with a local manufacturer that seemed to stand by their product more than a China made (regardless of the $ savings). I ended up going with the RL over the Holdfast because of the back construction and the reports of pinching with the Holdfast. I’ve never tried on one of the Holdfast ones, so I don’t know for sure, but my RL Handcrafts strap is surprisingly comfortable, has a little extra padding (they also offer even more luxurious options with extra padding!) and multiple sizes. I ordered a Small in Chestnut and it fits me really well. It keeps me upright when shooting, and makes carrying two bodies way easier. Highly recommend. It comes in a nice velvet pouch for storage, so I can fold it up and lay it on top of my camera bodies in my Jo Totes bag without worrying about any of the metal fittings scratching any of my gear. Overall, a very well thought out piece and I’m always happy to support local!


Digiant Camera Bag

We purchased this bag for Austin to primarily carry on destination shoots. It holds SO. MUCH. EQUIPMENT. Especially relative to its size. I could go on and on about how we can fit all 4 bodies and all our lenses in here, but honestly it’s just amazing. Moderately priced, extremely versatile and spacious, while still being somewhat compact. We’re able to consider this bag a “personal item” which allows us to travel with only carry on baggage instead of checking a bag when we travel for photography. SUPER useful if you ask me. It can fit a tripod on the outside with a cool little extension thing (no idea what it’s called) there are a lot of little pockets and organizer areas that keep all your stuff where you want it!

So, there you are. Pretty simple overall for the last yearish as far as gear updates go. I’ll likely be purchasing the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II within the next few weeks, along with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS  to kick off the 2018 shooting season for us right! We’re also considering purchasing the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II for Dom to begin shooting with as a great complimentary focal length for her learning, but we’ll see what she gravitates to!

What are on your must-have equipment list? Share your comments below!

Leave a Reply