A Peek Inside my Camera Bag: Body and lenses

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Lets talk equipment today, and I’ll share with you a little peek inside my camera bag at my camera body and lenses. Photography is an overwhelming hobby in many aspects. First, you have to figure out what camera to buy, then teach yourself how to use said camera, then there is gear and all sorts of other fun stuff to learn to improve your photography. It can make ones’ head spin. I’ve got opinions on cameras and lenses, that I hope will help some of you decide what will help you best.

{Camera bag by Jill-e}


A Peek Inside my Camera Bag: Body and lenses

I remember when I started out in 2002, trying to figure out what camera to buy made me want to poke my eyeballs out, and cry a thousand tears at the same time…I was so overwhelmed with the options! I wanted someone to just do it for me.  Well, I’m  here to offer my tips today. If you remember just one thing from this post, know that:  The camera body is less important than the camera lens. With that said, lets talk bodies.

Canon or Nikon–period. Either brand is an excellent option, but I’d stick to one of the two. There is Olympus and Fugi, and other lines, and they may be less expensive, but it is because (from my understanding) there are few lens options, etc. In my experience with a whole slew of professional photographers, they are  one of two parties: Nikon or Canon. If you truly want to learn photography, you will want an SLR, which allows you to change your lenses.

My husband likes to try to get me all up in arms about being “pro-Canon,” but in reality, I know that Nikons are equally excellent. I’ve seen pro’s hop from Canon to Nikon and Nikon to Canon depending on who came out with the next best thing first. I ALMOST hopped from Canon to Nikon years  ago, because I love the sound  of the shutter on a Nikon–it’s different–music to my ears. Strange, I know.

Once you decide on the brand, you now have to decide on the model. There are varying tiers with camera bodies. I started with a Canon Rebel many years ago because it was the most affordable, basic body. I think it was $600 and comparable to today’s Tii’s and such. I really don’t know a lot of difference in all of the models, but I suggest starting with a lower model if budget is a major factor.

With Canons the beginner tier is the Rebels/Tii’s. Then you have the 50D range, then the more pro bodies are 5D, 5D markIII, etc. I went from a Canon Rebel in 2003 to a Canon 20D in 2005, and have used my Canon 5D since 2008. Now that the Mark III is out, I have been looking into the Mark II, but I’m in no hurry.

I see TWO big reasons to upgrade to a higher level body model: 1)  You plan to shoot professionally–you don’t want to have a lower model than the people you are photographing. 2) You plan to shoot a lot inside in dark rooms (live in gloomy winters with little window light). The ISO capabilities are much more impressive, the more pro you go.

Sidenote about clothing:  Below is my photographer “uniform” that I wear when I shoot portrait sessions. I had a shirt made with my logo, and it’s just easy to put that on, instead of trying to figure out what to wear. I also have a pretty turquoise Jo Totes camera bag. Though my blog is “Capturing Joy” I still refer to my portrait business as “Kristen Duke Photography.”
My camera bodies I’ve owned:

What about lenses?

Those that have read my book, Say NO to Auto, will recall my recommendation of purchasing a 50 mm fixed lens for portraits. It’s all over the photography industry, that a 50 mm lens is a great starting out tool, and you will see a big difference when you shoot with it over the kits lens.

Which brings me to an important point:  What’s up with the kit lens? I used to recommend against getting a “kit” when purchasing your camera, and just ordering the camera BODY and the 50 mm lens. However, beginners might be frustrated with the fixed nature of the lens:  it doesn’t zoom in and out, YOU are the zoom. Though some photographers refer to the kit lens as c.r.a.p., I don’t want to say NOT to get it, then have you frustrated that you can’t take a picture of a building because your 50 mm lens doesn’t zoom out–make sense?

Plus, people weren’t listening to me because purchasing the camera in a kit is a better value–monetarily speaking. I hate to say, “I told you so” but I have heard people tell me, “you told me so, but I didn’t listen” because they got suckered into the marketing plan that involves the kit lens and a zoom or something else. If I had my way, and there was flexibility in the budget, I’d suggest 1) camera body 2) 50 mm lens 3) Tamron 28-75 mm lens. It’s an affordable all purpose lens, comparable to the kit lens–but better glass and make-up.

{When shopping for the 50 mm lens online, you will see 1.8 for around $100 and the 1.4 for $300. I started with the 1.8, then later upgraded to the 1.4. It is a stronger build, but the 1.8 was perfect to start with.}

I wish I could say that there was ONE perfect lens, but there isn’t. At any given photo session, I’ll switch my lenses a few different times for different reasons. Though I shot with my 50 mm lens for 2 years exclusively, my MAIN LENS LOVE is the 85 mm lens, 1.8. I’ll get more depth of field at the same settings as I would with my 50, but it is SUPER zoomed in, and takes some getting used to, that I have to step so far back.  I also recently purchased the 35 mm 2.0, and enjoy how wide it is compared to my 85 mm. In my book, Get Focused, I talk a lot about the difference with these lenses, and show how the focal distances compare. I also have my zoom lens that I love for sports. I used it for portraits for a while (it is my most expensive lens) but found it wasn’t as tack sharp as my fixed lenses, and only use it when I need the distance now. It is a 70-200 mm 4.0 IS lens.  Lastly, I use my Tamron 28-75 mm 2.8 lens as my “all purpose” travel lens. Not as sharp, but gets the job done.

My favorite camera lenses

Anything else?

95% of the time, I shoot with the natural/available light. It’s the most beautiful, the most authentic. However, 5% of the time, I’ll pull out my flash. I have the 580 ex speedlite flash, and it has the ability to bounce it off of the ceiling, which I do often. Frustrating enough, the external light is just as expensive as a lens. I got it when I was shooting weddings, and I needed it for night shots. It can also be used off camera, but I’ve never really done that. There are less expensive models that don’t swivel as much. If I do use my flash, I never point the flash right at my subject unless I have a diffuser. My diffuser of choice is Gary Fong’s Lightsphere.
My professional grade camera body does not even have a pop up flash attached to it. That’s how much the makers of my camera feel about that;) However, for those that DO have a pop up flash, I’ve started recommending the lightscoop to use as a diffuser. I’ve never used it, but heard a lot about it from those that have attended my Say NO to Auto workshops. It is a very inexpensive option ($30) to diffuse the flash light you already have. It is an attachment that helps to bounce the flash light.

That’s about it. I don’t use light meters or pocket wizards or reflectors. I always have extra camera batteries, and my preference is to shoot 1 family session on a 4 gb CF card–it gives me about 250 RAW images. I also like to keep Smarties candy on hand, it’s a great/clean/easy treat for kids of all ages. I also keep a ball or a rattle toy to help get little ones (or dogs) attention.

I’ll end with a pretty picture I took (and watermarked with my old logo) a while ago. The lens and settings I used are below.

Evening light. 85mm lens.  ISO 320 SS 1/1600 @ f1.8

Did I answer questions you had previously? If you need clarifying or have other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments, and I will answer there as well.

If you found this post helpful, check out my other posts with photography tips:
How to start a Photography Business
Say NO to Auto beginner photography book
What to Wear in Family Portraits
How to Shoot a great silhouette
Using the Foreground to Frame your Shot

If you have a fancy camera that you don’t know how to use, check out my books!

Click any Amazon (affiliate) links to see more

If you’d to join the Capturing Joy Photo Club on Facebook, where we have photo challenges, Q&A’s, and image sharing, request to join HERE: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CapturingJoyPhotoClub/

Capturing Joy Photo Club

Join The Discussion



  1. Alathia says:

    Your comment amount the sound of the shutter made me giggle. The “sound of the shutter” was exactly why I wanted the Canon! In the end, I purchased the Nikon D3100 because the body fit into my hands more comfortably.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Isn’t that funny?!?

      • Suzanne says:

        I noticed a difference on the Nikon as well although I am a Canon girl myself.

      • Suzanne says:

        I noticed a difference on the Nikon as well although I am a Canon girl myself. I do have a 50mm lens and I love it. My all purpose zoom is on the fritz and a new lens for Christmas is on my list. Thanks for the tips. I’m due for a refresher course with my Say No To Auto and then I may have to dive deeper and Get Focused. Your suggestions are very helpful.

  2. Kim says:

    Love both of your camera bags! Thanks for the awesome tips, I have learned so much from you. Keep them coming 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you so much, Kim, that makes me happy to hear!

  3. Jacqueline says:

    I would probably consider a camera for the sound of it too! Until better sense would kick in. Thanks for the info. I’ve got other savings goals to meet first, but someday…It’s good to know what I need to be looking for.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yes, well, that was AFTER I had my rebel, and I would have had to hop platforms…meaning sell all my current stuff…didn’t see practical at all!

  4. Nicole says:

    Thanks for the info! I see that you recommend a tamron lens. Can you tell me more about your experience with “off brand” lenses? We are having a debate in our house- I am considering some Tamron or Sigma lenses to reduce cost, but my husband is in the strictly Nikon camp. The price differences can be significant. Any thoughts?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      The main reason I was ok with going with the Tamron vs. spending more money on a brand is because I really prefer a fixed lens for crispness in my images and I figured it would be fore “all purpose” and less for portraits for my business. I do notice that the glass isn’t as clear, but I am only using it for pull-back building type shots, and don’t see the need to invest for images like that. I only notice a difference when they are close up shots, which I rarely use it for. Hope that helps!

  5. Tracy says:

    I love how open you are to “free” tips and recommendations. Some Photographers that I’ve talked to, don’t like to give out so much useful and helpful information? I guess they’re slightly intimidated by me ; ) Anyway, thanks again for letting us peek inside your bag.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yeah, it can be a fine line with local photographers (my assumption), but I’ve learned to embrace my local photogs, and we help each other out and learn from each other! I’m happy to help any time, Tracy;)

      • ericsa says:

        Yes I agree, Im only 2 to 3 years into photography and Ive learned so much from you- I really appreciate it.

  6. Connie says:

    I have a 50mm fixed lens and I take it exclusively with me on vaca. ,I LOVE this lens. Bit it is a little frustrating when you pass off your camera (such as on our Disney cruise when I would hand it off to the photographers and jump in a photo) and they get all confused and say it doesn’t zoom what is wrong with your camera? You try and yell that it’s a non zoom lens but people don’t understand and you stand there like an idiot with a broken camera. Ugh.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Ha, that’s funny, Connie….it’s true that it causes confusion for those that don’t get it. I remember being confused when I first got that lens myself!

    • When people say this, tell them your camera zooms with your feet!

    • Sara says:

      My favorite is when I ask someone to take a pic with my DSLR and they look at the screen and say they can’t see anything. I gently remind them that they actually have to look through the hole. ha.

  7. So, I have a Nikon p510…so no switching lenses for me, and that’s totally fine with where I am in my photography. I actually am wondering if you have any suggestions for tripods? Is there anything I should be looking for really, or are they generally the same? Thanks!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’m not too informed on tripods, but from what I understand, they are pretty universal across all camera types with a little screw opening on the bottom of cameras. I have had a super cheap/lightweight tripod for years, and it’s been great. Found at Ritz/Inkleys camera store.

  8. Suzie says:

    I love your comment about the Nikon shutter sound!! I have a Canon too and I envy that Nikon sound! I totally know what you’re talking about! 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Glad to hear I’m not alone AND crazy!!!

  9. Thanks for the great tips! I too love Canon and as my passion is shooting sports, my favorite lens was a 70-200 2.8 that I accidentally dropped not too long ago and cracked. I’ve had it for years and certainly have gotten a lot of use out of it, but that didn’t lessen the blow! It was great indoors and out. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yes, that lens is a beauty! I rented it once, and it was so darn heavy, I opted for the lighter version in the 4.0:) I hope you can get a new one soon!

  10. kim Jones says:

    Your timing couldn’t have been better!! I’m in the process of purchasing my 1st dslr and yes pulling my hair out at the same time! Trying to figure out what I need and boy the “kits” are just what I was going to go w/ thinking I’ll get what I need in one deal. So glad I held off. I’m doing more research and downloading your ebooks, which I hopefully will be able to read on my kindle fire! Thank you for the putting the information out there in laymen’s terms!

    I’m just looking to take pictures of our life (the kids, dogs, trips, home, etc.). If you weren’t a professional, what would you start out with? My husband was asking about a remote so I could perhaps get in a shot. Right now there are no pics of me.


    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yes, you do NEED to be in pictures!!! I would suggest starting with a Canon Rebel, and if it has video (newer model) that is a bonus.

  11. Stacy says:

    I bought my nikon d3100 and it came with the kit and a basic 55-200 lens. My hubby bought me the 50mm for my anniversary and it rarely ever comes off!! I just recently purchased a d90 body and I want to get another lens. Maybe the 85mm, I would really like that. I do see the difference in the ISO range of both cameras, my d90 has more options. Hopefully I can upgrade to the d300 next year. Searching lenses and camera bodies is equivalent to my kids being in a candy store. I really appreciate all your great tips and I’ve enjoyed both of your books. I recommend it to all of my friends who want to shoot in manual. Once you go to manual mode you can’t go back!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Happy to help!!! I agree, shopping lenses is fun…just a tad more pricey than candy!

  12. Christy says:

    Hi! Just found your blog through Pintrest and love it! Thank you so much for all the information. I’m wondering which lens would be good to use indoors during the holidays when the lighting is not so good?

    Thank you!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Inside, you’ll want something wide and with a low aperture. I love my 35mm 2.0 fixed lens inside.

      • Christy says:

        Do you take most of your outdoor pics with your 50mm?

        • Kristen Duke says:

          I use mostly my 85mm outdoor because I have more space to move back, and it gives more depth of field (blur) to the background.

          • Christy says:

            Hi Kristen!

            So I bought the 35mm 2.0 today and have been testing it out in the house with my kiddos this evening. Should I have my camera setting on Auto or AV? Also, what lens did you use to take the family pics that you post on Nov 7th. I have the 85mm. All I like to take pictures of are my kids…11, 9 and 2. I seem to have a terrible time getting my pics to be very clear/crisp. Maybe that is do to them moving? Any tips/help is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

        • Kristen Duke says:

          I only shoot on manual. You gotta make sure your shutter speed isn’t too slow if your images aren’t clear, and pick a focal point. Have you seen my books? They might be helpful.

          • Christy says:

            Which book would you recommend first?

  13. Thanks Kristen for posting your advice. I’ve been admiring your photos for like, evah – just gorgeous! I have this linked to my post today on blogging and photography for the beginner, for inspiration!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you, Heather, I’ll go check it out!

  14. Renee says:

    Hi Kristen,

    I somehow stumbled across your blog and am loving the info! I’ve been saving for a new camera and am debating between the Canon T3i and the Nikon 5100. I’ve also heard good things about Sony’s newer A57 – different technology doesn’t make it a ‘true’ DSLR though I guess… anyway, i love taking pictures and my goal is to learn more about photography mostly for personal use – family & life. Any thoughts about what to get for starters as far as lens? Canon makes an 18-135 kit lens that is tempting. I’d love to get a 1.8 lens… not sure what size (50, 80, etc…) Any thoughts? tips? ideas? thanks!!


    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Renee! I’d definitely start with a 50mm 1.8 lens. At $125, it’s an amazing lens! Good luck in your journey, I have beginner photo books that will help you if you want to start the right way;)

      • Renee says:

        So you think body only + 50/1.8 or do you think getting the 18-55 kit lens is worth it? Also I’ve read some good reviews on a 35/1.8… Nikon’s is just about $200. What do you think about 35 vs 50?

        Thanks for replying so quick! all this research is making my head spin 🙂 I’m so glad to have the input of someone who takes such beautiful pictures…

        • Kristen Duke says:

          Hmmm, that’s tough. 50mm is a great portrait lens, but it isn’t wide for a room setting. 35mm is wider. I might say to get that, and yes, skip the 18-55 altogether.

          • Renee says:

            Hello again,

            I am officially purchasing today. i can get the 35mm/2.0 AND/ OR the 50/1.8. (canon)
            Do you see an advantage to having both?
            (To get the 50/1.8 and add the 35/2.0 is a very low price difference with a discount I’m using.) But if it’s not worth it to have both, then it’s not worth it even if it is really cheap.


  15. Mary B. says:

    You’re blog is so informative, and I truly appreciate it as a new photographer. I’ve noticed that many photographers take these beautiful pictures of couples running through fields, or standing next to a huge building or even in a cathedral ceiling church and they are able to capture almost all of the surrounding. I think they use an extreme wide angle lens, but I’m not 100% sure. Do you have this type of lens or would you recommend a good lens for capture a lot of the background but still having the client in focus and up close? I have a Nikon D7000. Any feedback is appreciated. Again, thank you for the great posts!

    -Mary B.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you so much, I’m glad this was helpful! A wide lens would definitely help. I have a 35mm fixed lens, but I know that some have 18mm lenses.

  16. Hi Kristen! I shoot with a Canon Rebel T3 and a 5omm/1.8 lens. I find that more often than not that my photos are not crisp. I’m wondering if it’s because of an unsteady hand or the lower level of my camera body…or possibly something else I don’t know about. I’m wanting to upgrade my body (for the reasons you stated above) as I think I could possibly pursue family photography at some point…however, I think I should figure out this issue first. Any ideas why this would be happening?

    One more question…do you think a Canon 7D would be sufficient for my little hopes of deveoping my photography to the next level?

    Thanks so much, Kristen!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi there, Kristen! Not crisp images can be multiple reasons. Do you have my book, Say NO to Auto? I talk about some of these reasons in there, but in a nutshell, too low of a shutter speed with do that. In my second book, Get Focused, I go into detail about getting crisper images with lenses, how you set your focus and such. It can be multiple reasons. Hope that isn’t frustrating! If you’d like to set up a mentoring session, you can send me some images and I’ll discuss them with you. I think the 7D is a great camera body, but lenses are what get good images ( and knowing your camera well).

  17. Hi Kristen,
    I love popping into your site and reading about your life. Loved your holiday family shoot. Anyway…I have a question regarding a lens for shooting video.
    I have a Canon T2i and a 50mm plus the kit lens. I’m starting to shoot close-up video (children working on art) and I’m having a hard time focusing with the 50 mm. I need to shoot quickly and on the fly so set-up time is scarce. The kit lens doesn’t feel sharp or bright enough. I’ve heard videographers say they like the 24 and 35 for shooting video. Any recommendations?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Patty, I don’t play much with video, it’s a goal of mine though! I’d say the 35mm lens will give you more allowance to get closer sharp images. I love my 35 for still!

  18. Terri says:

    I purchased a bag from best buy when I bought my camera, paid 60 dollars for it. After so, I found jo bags. I love the rose teal bag that you have and only twenty or so more dollars. Im so dissappointed.

  19. Christina says:

    Thank you so much for all your tips! I have fond them super helpful! I was just wondering what your opinion was on the 1.8 vs. 1.4 50mm lenses. I’ve had a Canon Rebel t3 (and the kit lens) for about a year now, and just looking to upgrade a little. Do you think the 1.4 is worth the extra $?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      the 1.4 is better glass which will give an overall lovlier images, but I always say to start with the 1.8 for a while, then upgrade and sell once you feel comfortable with it.

    • Canon’s 50mm 1.8 lens is absolutely professional grade, and one of Canon’s sharpest lenses. I would upgrade to the 1.4 ONLY if you need to shoot in low light situations that the 1.8 can’t handle. Check out Ken Rockwell’s web site for the best camera and lens reviews. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/reviews.htm

      • For me, I love the 50mm 1.4! It is a little heavier which for some reason makes me believe it is better quality. There’s a big difference with the color and sharpness.

  20. I have been a professional portrait photographer since the days of film. I used to use a medium format camera (Mamiya RB67) as did all professionals back then. Today, even a good amateur digital camera is better than that. However, I would like to make some recommendations based on my experience.

    You may not be able to afford the best, but do get the best you can afford. Don’t skimp in this area, because you do get what you pay for. Professional equipment lets you take pictures in more challenging situations, which you will run into if you do it full time. Check out this site for the best camera and lens reviews. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/reviews.htm

    YOU NEED MORE THAN A 50MM LENS! 50mm is ideal for full length or group shots, but for ANY head shot or closeup, you NEVER want to use a 50mm lens, as it will cause distortion, and you will have to be uncomfortably close to the subject (like a foot away). You will need a lens between 85 and 135 mm for head and shoulder portraits. I started out shooting weddings 30 years ago with a 35mm film camera and just a 50mm and an 85mm lens (and a top-of-the-line flash). That’s it.

    While it’s true that the lower end zoom lenses are not as good as the fixed lenses, that is not true when you buy the top-of the-line zooms. For example, my Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 L II and 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS lenses are both SHARPER than Canon’s benchmark 50mm f/1.8 lens. Ken Rockwell says it’s them the sharpest zooms in their class of any brand. However, they cost well over $2000 each. Moral of the story: if you can afford it, the top zooms are better. But DON’T get the $300 zooms. The fixed lenses will be better than those.

    Having said all that, don’t get too caught up in the camera, as long as it’s not El Cheapo. The PHOTOGRAPHER creates the image, not the camera. Better equipment just lets you take good pictures in more adverse situations, that’s all.

  21. Hello Kristen! I have to say, reading your tips and info has helped me immensely! Just a little about myself…I have two little girls named Sarah and Ambia. I have been a single mom for the most part. I was a Pre-Med student with a 4.0 and quit because I won’t give up precious time with my daughters for a career. I have always loved photography so I’m starting my own photography business (family photography, outdoors). The Nikon D600 was what I was going to buy, but I’ve seen the reviews about oil spots. Could you recommend any camera bodies? I am completely new to photography. I know you are probably a busy woman, but any advise you could give me would be great! Thanks so much!


    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Samantha! I don’t know anything about oil spots, but I am a Canon Girl! I say to invest in camera lenses over a body, so get a good basic camera body and great lenses!

  22. jen says:

    I wanna say i love your site, and your tips are a great help. I read your tips on how to start your photography buisness. I own my own childcare business but now want to start my own photography business. My question to you is, where did you or how did you develope your pictures in the beginning?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I develop pictures generally at whcc.com, you have to set up an account, they are great!

  23. Keith says:

    I really enjoyed your website. I had a back surgury go bad and I am limited to what I can do now and have taken up photography as a hobby and have been asked by numerous people to do weddings and such. I keep turning them down the thought of screwing up someones wedding scares the dickens out of me. I wouldn’t mind a part time business doing photography, I have taken pics for a few baseball and soccer teams and that really went well. I didn’t charge them and thats where I turn into a softie. There were a few kids that were not going to be able to afford pictures so I gave the coach the disc and they took it to Wal Mart and got what pics they wanted. If I make the investment to do prints at home how do you decide what to charge for them? I really enjoy your website and visit it often to see what your up to. I guess this is chapter 2 in my life. I am on disability and can’t work full time but going crazy sitting home all the time. If I could make a living doing this it would be great. Thanks for all the information you post. Most act like you are trying to steal their children…lol.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I honestly wouldn’t worry about making prints at home. Pro labs are really quite affordable and great quality and quick shipping. Look into whcc.com. It really is tough to get the confidence to get started, but even if you aren’t happy with your work, you need to charge a little for your time. Keep practicing, you will get better. Yes, weddings are scary, offer other photographers to be a second shooter for free to see if you like it enough. So sorry about the disability, do research online, there are lots of great photography forums. Hope that helps!

  24. Michelle Cozbey says:

    I am a newbie i was looking to buy a used camera to start with. I found one online i believe is a great deal i wanted to run it by you to see what you thought. I mainly want this camera to shoot portraits of my kids etc.. and hopefully my hobby could lead to something more. Nikon D70 Body camera, 2 lenses; Nikon DX 18-70mm 1:35-4.5 G & Nikon ED AF 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 Also includes SB-600 speed-light, 2 batteries, battery charger, 3 SD memory cards, card reader, Camera bag. Any input is much appreciated. My head is spinning from searching for the right camera.~thank you Michelle

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It is dizzying doing the research, that’s for sure! I think the Nikon D70 is a great camera body, and with a flash, 2 lenses, and batteries, that sounds great! I can see the lenses are probably kit lenses, one a zoom, and one more wide. For beginner, it’s fine, but once you get photography down, you’ll likely want better lenses.

  25. Jesse says:


    I have to say that I was incredibly happy/over-joyous to see what lenses are in your bag. So many photographers only have “L” series lenses; that reading “whats in my bag” posts can be discouraging for those of us on a limited budget. Seeing which lenses you own (and how nearly identical they are to the ones I own); and seeing the work you produce; made me feel better about my ability to take quality images with mid-grade lenses. It was very inspiring to know that I can “rock” my mid-grade equipment just fine!!!

    Thank you so much!!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Oh good, I’m happy to hear that! Yep, no “L” lenses for me!

  26. I stumbled on your and enjoyed reading it. I have a Canon 7D with of course the kit lens but I also have the 85MM you have and just got the 50MM 1.4. I love my prime lenses. They are both great. One thing I did invest in is a solid Manfretto tripod with rotating ball head to take pictures at different points of view. I have yet to get into the business end. Your blog is simple and very easy to read and a lot of help on what is needed to start a photography business. Thanks so much.

  27. Kristen Colombo says:

    I recently started following your blog and appreciate all your photography info and tips. I am currently trying to build my portfolio and get experience. I was wondering if you had any light metering tips. I recently took family photos of or a friend and feel like I really struggled. It was a very sunny and windy day and I am not happy with the exposure in most of my pics. I noticed in your equipment post you said you do not use light meters. I am not sure if a light meter is the answer for me or maybe I just need to relax and concentrate! Just wondering if you have any advice. Thanks!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi there, Kristen! Sorry for my delay in responding…I still do not use a light meter. I think they are there to help you figure out settings, but I just do without. So I’m not much help there! Practice, practice, or ask another photographer who swears by them–ha!

  28. Hi Kristen!

    I love all your posts. You’re so informative and helpful! I was hoping I could ask you–You said you shoot on a 50D… Am I correct in that being a cropped frame, instead of a full frame? If so, do you see a disadvantage? I have a 60D and was told I need a full frame capability camera eventually and no one shoots professionally on a cropped… And input would be so appreciated!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Heather! I’ve had a 5D for a while as my main body. I think you can be pro with whatever camera you use. Just some lenses function differently on a full frame vs. cropped frame. It’s all just a cropping thing, so people are crazy (in my opinion) when they make statements about that stuff!

  29. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you really realize what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also visit my site =). We could have a link alternate arrangement between us

  30. Emily says:

    I found your blog yesterday and have just about read everyone of your photography tip posts so far. I am Loving it!!! Thank you!!!! I am trying to make the switch from hobbyist to professional as we speak. So question about lenses. . . Do you ever use or find helpful to have 2.5x Telephoto & .45x Wide-Angle Digital Lenses? I am getting ready to purchase a Cannon 70D. Thank You!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks, Emily! I do use a zoom lens, it’s a 70-200mm. I don’t know how much a 2.5x is, so maybe I don’t use it, ha! I’ve also got a 35mm lens, is that .45x wide?

  31. Hokahe
    I have enjoyed reading on your website and agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I do have one
    question to ask you and that concerns what you had to say about camera choices….I have been doing
    photography for about 15 years, started out with a manual film camer an graduated to a nice Pentax
    but now I am a Canon user…..I have a Rebel 450d and a 550d and they give me great results in my sports,
    convention,and landscape photos…I have read the pros and cons about large format an pro cameras….
    and I realy do not see the need to spend the money that it would cost not only for the cameras but the
    lenses…..as has been said many times its not the equipment but the person and knowledge behind it.
    thank you
    Charlie Yellowfeather

  32. Lauryn says:

    Hello! Just recently came across your blog! love your tips! Wondering do you use filters to protect your lenses? If so, what do you recommend! Thanks 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Lauryn! I do not use filters. I’d always heard to never put a piece of plastic over nice glass;)

  33. Great experience. Quick Delivery and item exactly like promised.

  34. Firstly, an awesome website you have here. I am trying to reignite my passion for photography and I am happy that I found your site. Makes me wanna just get out and click some photos!

    Secondly, I am on the Nikon platform. A little embarrassed to mention that I started with a Nikon D40 + 18-55mm kit lens + 55-200mm kit lens. Later on I upgraded to the Nikon D5100 (a little less embarrassed, but still enough).
    Finally, made a wise move and got the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8g prime lens. (Phew!)

    Now that I am trying to get my photography passion going I am looking to post some ads and attract some customers that I can convince to get photographed. Looking for couple, kids and families.
    For obvious reasons, I will be simply using the D5100 + 50mm prime lens.

    But wondering, should I (a) Get a new body? (b) Get the Nikkor 35mm prime lens? (c) Or some other lens for candid shots (I intend to pursue photographing only people and nothing else for this year) (d) Or do nothing, get some clients, try and see if I can earn a little side income and check myself if I am truly passionate to keep doing this, and then revisit (a), (b), (c) :)))

    Again, an awesome site. Inspiring, educative content.


    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you’ve found it helpful. Don’t feel embarrassed, we are start somewhere, I also started with a kit lens! I don’t think you need to get a new body, if you are taking pictures outside in natural light. I think you can do a lot with 50mm lens in getting started, I used mine for portraits for a long time. I’d say stick with what you have, play a bit, and see how you feel before investing too much. Good luck!

  35. Hello,
    I have the Nikon d3200, my first DSLR and I’ve been thinking of switching to Canon when I upgrade? But I’m not sure yet. I have a Canon friend and her photo had more vibrant color. Is it true Canon has better skin tone? For photography of people, would you suggest switching or is it better to stay with what one starts off with? Thank you for all the tips!

  36. Chaitali Shah says:

    Hi Kristen!
    I just want to thank you for all the information you have posted here. I am a budding photographer, a mom, and a wife, and I just want you to know that I deeply appreciate all the tips and help you have laid out on this website. I have learned a lot from you and I want to sincerely thank you for that. I don’t have an official website yet, but my profile is on http://www.facebook.com/rkphotography3227 and you can find me on Instagram at rkphotography3227. I can’t thank you enough for all the valuable information here. Please let me know if I can be of any help to you.

  37. Abi says:

    Hi, I’m a “newer” photographer and I’m trying to decide which lens to get next. I have the Canon Rebel with the kit lens (that I never use) and the 50mm. I mostly shoot portraits with Birthday/events sprinkled in, I also have a backyard wedding that I’m doing in May. I’ve been talking to a few people about which lens would be the best purchase for me right now and for the future, but I keep getting different options. So basically I’m not sure what I should purchase. I’ve been looking at 35mm, 85mm and Tamron 28-75mm.

    What would be your suggestions?

    Thank YOU!!!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Sorry I didn’t see this sooner! For weddings, you’ll want wider to see a group, such as the 35mm or the 28-75. You’ll find more flexibility and versatility with the 28-75, but maybe not the same clarity you’d get with a 35. I personally prefer to change lenses out from 50 to 35 instead of a the zoom in and out. Hope that helps!

  38. Shelly says:

    How do come up with a name, is best just to use your name or come up with something different?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Ah, that’s a tricky one! I personally think that using your own name makes it less confusing for clients.

  39. bytor1125 says:

    I work near the DSW photo studio and all the have are cannons. Then you see the old guy with the Nikon and a huge lense. Obliviously a short coming in one way or another. I have a friend that has all of them, and he is a photographer for the national parks. I was surprised to find his cera of choice was a Pentax. Currently it’s the only one with weather tight lenses and it shoots faster than both of the other two. I know you said they body doesn’t matter, and I u see stand that but I have a matte white camera not black and its three times the camera of the other two. Don’t forget the third player maybe the best on the team.

  40. Sharla says:

    I am new to photography. I am on a budget, so cant get what I WANT (70-200mm 4.0). What would be your recommendation for camera body and lens? I want something that would be good for indoor, low light sporting events….swimming, bball, ect. I have an old canon rebel xt now. Am I better off getting a new lense for that body or new body & lense? Thanks for your input.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      So many options, so hard too choose! Camera body is important, something that works well in low light, for sure. Then grab lenses as you can.

  41. Great write up. I personally enjoy my Sony camera. Lots of options and Sony continues to support a majority of their older models.

  42. Yeah, I like Olympus Fisheye Body cap lens-9mm because It gives me high quality wide angle images with small budget. It suits my interest because of having the following qualities :
    Body cap with built-in fisheye lens
    Ultra-wide 18mm equivalent field of view
    Great discreet street shooting lens
    All-glass lens elements
    Manual focus only with close-up and infinity focus settings



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